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Why I’m concerned about the NGL messaging app

And not for the reasons why you may expect, either.

But first, for the uninitiated, let’s look at what NGL is before diving into my deeper concerns…

What is NGL?

It’s an increasingly popular phone app that links in with your Instagram account and allows for anonymous messaging. NGL stands for “not gonna lie” and the app lets you share a link easily with your Instagram followers, allowing them to send you anonymous questions. You can then reply to those questions via auto-generated Stories.

NGL is a free app for iPhone and Android, although the presence of a mention of “NGL Pro” on their website suggests that a premium version may be coming along in the future.

What are my concerns?

The obvious thing here would be to talk about the anonymous messaging but, hey, that’s the entire MO of the app.

I’ve not had a chance to try this aspect out but NGL, at least, appear to have this concern covered…

To ensure the safety of our users we use world class AI content moderation. We utilize deep learning and rule-based character pattern-matching algorithms to filter out harmful language and bullying. Our algorithm can also detect the semantic meaning of emojis and our web scraper pulls specific examples of contextual emoji use. This means we stay on trend, we understand lingo, and we know how to filter out harmful messages.

Who are NGL?

Seriously. They talk about being mentioned in California but that’s it.

I think the footer links on a product/company website are always telling and the fact that there is nothing about them here is a concern.

Their contact page is simply an email address, and one that uses the domain that you’re already on. There is no “About us” page or anything that would tell you about who is behind this.

Click on their Privacy Policy and, because you kind of have to, they do mention their full company name here… NGL Labs LLC, in California. However, a business search reveals no such name. The same company exists in Delaware, though 🤔 If they are based in California, then it looks as if someone is taking them to court.

Privacy?

Their Privacy Policy is a cut/paste auto-generated one (indeed, their website as a whole isn’t much better, having been made with Webflow)…

This Privacy Policy has been created with the help of the TermsFeed Privacy Policy Generator.

And it shows, with seemingly little relevance to what the NGL app is all about (for example, it doesn’t differentiate between your profile data and the messages). Personally, if this is about anonymous message sending, I’d want some privacy assurance.

It seems pretty clear, though, that this is all about selling your data…

We may share Your information with Our business partners to offer You certain products, services or promotions.

And with no mention of Instagram at all in the policy, and the tight connections it has with that, I’m guessing that it will include anything they get from there as well.

The app

There are 3 aspects of their app which bothers me…

First, you could loose everything. They only allow to connect to a single Instagram account at a time and if you change phones or sign out of the app at any time you’ll loose any messages that you have.

Second, It’s bothersome. I keep getting messages constantly, nagging me to share the message link, etc. There are no settings within the app to prevent any of this – all I can do is turn off all notifications, but that would include any received messages.

Third, and I hate to use the “L” word but I don’t have a choice, it lies. And, I suspect, it does so to get your attention. Here’s an example notification that I’ve had a few times now…

At no point, when this appeared, did I have a message. Clickbait, anyone?

The anonymity

It seems a great idea to be able to send anonymous messages to an Instagram user, as long as you’re respectful. And anonymous means anonymous, right?

Over the next few weeks we’ll introduce more specific hints that make it easier to figure out who sent the message. Stay tuned!

Which kinda sounds to me like, well, it’s not going to remain that anonymous.

So, what we have here is an app of unknown origin, that looks likely to sell as much data on you as it can get, won’t let you turn off regular app nags and, worst still, will lie to you to get your attention. Oh, and they make the anonymous message senders rather less so.

Needless to say, I’ve now uninstalled it and closed my account.

Talk to me!

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