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The Secret app: But how secret is secret?

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Tired of your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?

In this age of social networking, it can be hard to stay private.

But a mobile app that allows you to speak freely without revealing your identity is changing the game and gaining popularity.

Called “Secret”, it is a new social network that lets you share messages with other users – but anonymously.

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“Secret gives people a safe, well-lit space to talk about what they really think or feel, and for their friends or people in their network to respond,” said David Byttow, co-founder of the app.

Can it really guarantee secrecy, though?

The app requires access to personal data like our location, phone number, and Facebook contacts in order to share our posts anonymously with the people we know.

Not too ‘secret’, after all.

“Anonymous does not mean ‘untraceable.’ Anonymous means ‘without name,’ which is exactly in line with the product,” said Byttow.

Secret, which is available to download free on Android and Apple smartphones, was launched in late January this year.

Although there are no official figures on the current number of users, the creators of the Silicon Valley startup have said it is “fast-growing”.

It raised US$25 million in venture capital two weeks ago, and is expanding internationally – in Russia, the Netherlands and China.

The app is being used to confess a guilt, to rant about a friend or family member, or to simply laugh over an embarrassing moment – without attaching your name to it.

One undergraduate, who wanted to be known only as Chan, is a user of the app. He said Secret helps him to air his girlfriend problems.

“People thought I was in a happy and blissful relationship with my girlfriend, but that wasn’t the case.

“I had all these bottled-up frustrations to share but I did not want my family and friends to worry about me,” he said.

Chan wanted to post his feelings on social media, but feared a potential backlash from the people around him.

“Sometimes I find my girlfriend too demanding. I couldn’t tweet that, or put that on Facebook,” he said.

“But by posting that on Secret, I get to share a confession and get responses from people in my social network. They wouldn’t know I posted it – that’s the best part,” he added.

The app encourages users to express their feelings out loud – sometimes, with hilarious results.

A Secret user wrote: “I secretly rejoice when bus drivers drive away when people are clearly chasing for the bus.”

Another said: “I’m running out of ways to look busy doing absolutely nothing at work.”

Such anonymous apps can be problematic though, when used to spread false rumors, malign and bully people.

“The potential for misuse is there, especially when people start to name and shame.

“There are sometimes inappropriate or hurtful comments. But because there is no identity or social baggage, the app can always be deleted from your phone anyway,” said Chan.

“Facebook and Twitter are getting stale and boring. Secret can be cathartic entertainment: it is new, interesting and addictive,” he added.

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