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Facebook Eyes App For Anonymous Sharing

Facebook will soon unveil an app that lets you connect with others anonymously, according to reports. Here's what we know about it.
Facebook: 10 New Changes That Matter
Facebook: 10 New Changes That Matter
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Facebook's strict policy on requiring legal names in profiles drew complaints from the drag queen community last month after the social network deleted accounts belonging to several hundred performers. Facebook ultimately offered an apology and amended its real name policy to include "the authentic name they use in real life."

"We believe this is the right policy for Facebook for two reasons," said Facebook VP Chris Cox. "First, it's part of what made Facebook special in the first place, by differentiating the service from the rest of the Internet where pseudonymity, anonymity, or often random names were the social norm. Second, it's the primary mechanism we have to protect millions of people every day, all around the world, from real harm."

But the company appears to be taking a step in another direction with a new app that lets you interact anonymously with others. According to The New York Times, which cited unnamed sources at Facebook, the app has been in development for a year and is expected to be released in the next few weeks.

[Catch up on the latest Facebook updates. Read Facebook: 10 New Changes That Matter.]

The report disclosed few details about the app but said that it would allow people to use multiple pseudonyms to openly discuss matters they may not otherwise be comfortable doing with their real names. It's also possible that the new app could tie into health community discussions, which the social network is also reportedly eyeing.

Apps that support anonymity are increasingly popular. Secret and Whisper are built on sharing and connecting with others anonymously, as is breakout social network Ello. More prominent social networks have contrasting policies on user names, including Twitter, which has always supported pseudonyms, and Google+, which recently ended its ban on fake names.

Facebook, it appears, has recognized users' contracting views on openness and hypersensitivity to privacy, and is willing to explore alternatives. At Facebook's F8 developer conference in May, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook Login, the button that allows third-party apps and websites to use Facebook login credentials, would support anonymous login.

This feature, which some websites support, lets you log into apps so you don't have to remember usernames and passwords, but it doesn't share personal information from Facebook. Traditionally, people using Facebook Login would need to allow the website or app to access certain information in their profiles.

Facebook also has an app in the works reportedly called Moments, which is designed to improve the social network's confusing privacy settings. People familiar with Moments likened the app to Cluster, which lets you create a private space to share photos, videos, and notes with select friends. Facebook employees are said to be testing Moments now.

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Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing