Unmasking “Unseen”

Connor White

There are few markets in the world as saturated as the domain of smartphone apps, with businesses and start-ups clambering over one another to develop the next Angry Birds or Snapchat. Young and old alike hoard these apps like magpies and the next big thing is often a volatile and rapidly-changing idea.

In recent times, Yik Yak has become a popular outlet for anonymous users to voice their opinions and musings to everyone within a certain radius so that discussions are localized and in a way, more intimate. ‘Unseen’ is a new app that seeks to accomplish the same thing via anonymous photo sharing, arguably a more ambitious (and potentially dangerous) approach.

(Note: All questions were directed through spokesperson Amber Leff.)

What is ‘Unseen’?

So what can we expect from this new app? Michael Schramm, CEO of the app’s company, said “Unseen was created with the sole purpose of enabling college students to connect and share with other students in a more genuine, authentic way.”

Getting started is as simple as downloading the app, agreeing to their rules and selecting your school (Unseen’s communities are divided this way). “All images posted to a school’s feed persist indefinitely but usually get pushed down by newer posts and out of view pretty quickly,” Schramm said. “Popular and highly discussed posts are promoted in the popular feed though for each school.”

Another Big Brother?

Interested parties need not worry about their privacy being imposed upon. In fact, Schramm has strong words for other apps that claim to be anonymous:

[With other apps] “It’s not a matter of ‘if’ your data will be exposed. It’s when,” he said. “The only way to truly protect your identity on an anonymous app is to never give it –email, name, phone number, etc.– in the first place. Unseen never has and never will ask for [any] identifiable info and can ensure that a student’s identity is safe. There are no other truly anonymous apps, -not even Unseen knows who a user is-, that allow students to share genuine thoughts, beliefs, and moments instantly and in a safe environment.”

Misuse: Preventing or Relenting?

While privacy and caution are cornerstones of Unseen’s business model, the phrase “no plan survives contact with the enemy” comes to mind. Users can and likely will share photos of recognizable locations/people that others will find inappropriate, and our current understanding is that Unseen has no plans to block or censor these photos. However, companies as big as Facebook maintain a similar “hands-off” approach that absolves them of most liability, so it’s nothing users haven’t dealt with before. It’s assumed you accept this possibility when agreeing to Unseen’s rules.

“Unseen aims to become the anti-Facebook”, Schramm said, “by allowing students to share and connect with others in genuine, authentic ways without fear of repercussions or judgement.” These are certainly lofty goals, but considering the unpredictability of the app market, success may be just on the horizon. For now, it’s up to students to download the app and see for themselves if Unseen is worthy of their attention.