Blind, the anonymous workplace community app that bills itself as a “real-time Glassdoor” and has taken the tech sector by storm, is releasing a desktop version of its native mobile app this month, Joel Cheesman reported last week, citing an app update. The application, which claims hundreds of thousands of verified users including over 30,000 Microsoft employees and 16,000 at Amazon, allows users to chat, share information, and gossip anonymously with other people at their company, about their company.
Blind started out in South Korea in 2014 and came to Silicon Valley in 2015, where it has ignited a controversy over what anonymous forums mean for both employees and employers: Like Glassdoor, Blind is a place where employees can share information (not necessarily accurate) and express opinions (not necessarily positive) without what they say getting back to their employer, but also without that employer having much opportunity to present their side of the story. It has also raised questions about data privacy and security, though Blind assures users that it takes pains to encrypt and discard user data, so that nothing they write there can ever be traced back to them through digital fingerprints, and so that no personal data will be exposed in the event of a breach.
In any case, with the desktop move, Cheesman predicts Blind “will certainly introduce the app to a lot of people who hadn’t heard of it before.” That’s obviously the idea, anyway, as a fast-growing company like Blind naturally wants to expand its user base. Cheesman is skeptical, however, that Blind’s anonymous forum will survive:
We live in an era where sexism, racism, harassment and bullying are particularly frowned upon. We also live in a time where anonymity has a limited shelf-life. Yik Yak, for example, met its demise in pretty short order. Secret too. Add to the fact that Glassdoor seems to be in court constantly defending itself against orders to reveal the identity of commenters on its site, and you get a pretty volatile environment for Blind to make itself more available to the outside world.
Glassdoor was also required to reveal users’ identities in a recent fraud case, which Cheesman sees as a sign that “employee identities may be protected less-and-less.” And although employers may not be able to tell exactly who is saying what on Blind, they can issue blanket crackdowns and threaten to discipline or fire employees who join, he adds, which could make employees wary of using it. The app verifies users’ identities through both LinkedIn and their work email, which means employers can spot if an employee is a user by checking if they have received an email from Blind’s servers—though Blind says it has found a number of ways to close this gap.