WhisperText Inc. has been hit with a class action lawsuit after the anonymous message company failed to help after users’ confessions were posted on the internet.
Plaintiffs Naja Ogburn, Amberlyn Johnston and Camille Laurel say that the company, which operates the app Whisper, allowed a security breach where anyone could access the location data and other information that was posted on the popular social media app.
The plaintiffs maintain that the records were posted on a non-password protected database open to the public.
Ogburn says she downloaded the Whisper app and created an account in 2012 when she was 12-years-old. She claims to have provided personal information in return for the company’s reliance on anonymity.
Ogburn states that she did not ask her parents’ permission to use the app and her parents did not provide consent for her to do so.
The plaintiffs assert in the Whisper class action lawsuit that the defendant launched the Whisper app in March 2012 and as of March 2017, the company had a total of 17 billion page views on its mobile and desktop websites, with 250 million users spread across 187 countries.
In March 2020, it was revealed by researchers that the entire database was viewable by anyone on the internet without a need of a password.
“The exposed data included, but was not limited to, the users’ stated age, ethnicity, gender, hometown, nickname, any membership in groups, many of which are devoted to sexual confessions and discussion of sexual orientation and desires, and location coordinates of the users’ last submitted post,” the Whisper class action argues.
The data exposure also allowed anyone to access the location data which were tied to the users’ posts, the plaintiffs allege. In addition, the consumers state that many of the data locations pointed to specific schools, workplaces and residential neighborhoods.
The plaintiffs allege that cybersecurity experts were able to get their hands on 900 million user records since the company released the app in 2012. The ability to download all of the data in bulk is of great risk to users’ privacy, the plaintiffs maintain.
Also, the app users claim that the defendant knew or should have known that a great number of Whisper users were sexual predators and the defendant should have known that they were collecting personal information and geo-location that could be used to target users if their database was compromised or exposed.
As a result of the defendant’s conduct, the plaintiffs and putative Class Members have been placed at an increased risk of harm from blackmail, fraud, and identity theft, the class action goes on to say.
The plaintiffs and potential Class Members have been forced to expend time in dealing with the effects of having their personal information exposed to the public.
The app users note that Whisper users face a risk of being targeted for future blackmail, phishing, data intrusion, and other schemes based on their personal information being subjected in a public internet site.
“Plaintiffs and Class Members also suffered a loss of value of their Personal Information when it was wrongly publicly exposed to the world by Defendant,” the Whisper class action lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs also say that many victims of the data breach have suffered losses in the form of out-of-pocket expenses and the value of their time to remedy the effects of the wrongful exposure of their data.
Also, the consumers claim that they, along with other possible Class Members, have an interest in ensuring that their personal information is protected from further breaches by the implementation of security measures and safeguards.
The plaintiffs state that as a result of the defendant’s conduct, they are forced to live with the anxiety that their personal information may be disclosed to the entire world, subjecting them to embarrassment and depriving them of their privacy.
“As a direct and proximate result of Defendant’s actions and inactions, Plaintiffs and Class Members have suffered anxiety, emotional distress, and loss of privacy, and are at an increased risk of future harm,” the plaintiffs maintain.
The plaintiffs in the Whisper class action lawsuit claim that the defendant has violated the Federal Stored Communications Act, The New York General Business Law, the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, intrusion upon seclusion, negligence and negligence per se, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of implied contract.
Prospective Class Members include: “All persons residing in the United States who registered for the Whisper app.”
Have you used an app and are worried that your personal information has been breached? Let us know in the comments section below.
The plaintiffs are represented by Gary E. Mason, Danielle L. Perry, and Gary M. Klinger of Mason Lietz & Klinger LLP and Christopher L. Rudd of the Rudd Law Firm.
The Whisper Data Breach Class Action Lawsuit is Naja Ogburn, et al. v. WhisperText Inc., Case No. 2:20-cv-4124, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
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