Science and Tech


Can New Facebook App Overcome Privacy Concerns?

Facebook's new app would allow users to chat anonymously, but it could fail to get off the ground due to privacy concerns and competition.
Posted at 9:19 PM, Oct 07, 2014

Coming fresh off controversy over its so-called "real names policy," Facebook is reportedly producing a standalone app that will let users chat without having to use their legal names. 

The New York Times reports people familiar with plans for the app say its been in the works for the last year and could be released within the coming weeks. 

Anonymous sources told the Times the point of the app "is to allow Facebook users to use multiple pseudonyms to openly discuss the different things they talk about on the Internet; topics of discussion which they may not be comfortable connecting to their real names."

The timing of The New York Times report is interesting considering San Francisco-area drag queens recently held talks with Facebook representatives arguing some people shouldn't have to use their legal names on the social networking site. 

It's uncertain if this app is the answer to problems raised by the LGBTQ community over their Facebook identities — or if it's one of the Facebook "improvements" mentioned by chief product officer Chris Cox in his Oct. 1 mea culpa

But a few writers said Tuesday the anonymous app could be a "tough sell" because of a few things, including — wait for it — privacy concerns. Facebook can't seem to completely shake those trust issues stemming from its controversial emotions study. (Video via Facebook)

And according to Wired, that's not the only thing that could prevent the app from taking off — Facebook is late to the anonymous app game with services like Whisper, Secret and Yik Yak already in use, "meaning many of the conversations people are having online are happening off of the world’s largest social network."

A writer for The Wall Street Journal said Facebook might not be the best at developing apps, but you can't argue with the growth of their acquisitions like Instagram and WhatsApp. 

Still, there is potential for people to use Facebook's new development to anonymously discuss health concerns. A report from Reuters last week said Facebook could be jumping into the health and wellness industry, and this app could give users the privacy they're looking for. 

Much like Facebook's presumed healthcare aspirations, The New York Times says the company declined to comment on rumors about a new app. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images.