Secret is a social networking app that allows users to share pictures and text anonymously. It's become the hot new thing in some circles, but not everyone is happy about it. A court case in Brazil has resulted in Judge Paulo Cesar de Carvalho issuing a preliminary injunction requiring Google to remove the app from the Play Store and remotely delete it from users' devices. Apple was hit with the same ruling.

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The case stems from a complaint by a Secret user who says personal and sensitive information was posted on the service by an anonymous party. Brazilian law includes specific prohibitions against anonymous speech, which are intended to ensure people have the ability to refute accusations made against them in the public forum. Some lawyers and judges in Brazil have interpreted it more broadly, claiming there is no legal support for anonymous free expression in the country.

In this case, the judge specifically cited Secret's potential use in bullying and harassment as a reason for banning it. Although, I would venture that same logic applies to the entire internet. De-listing the app across Brazil is simple, if it comes to that. Google also has mechanisms in place to remove apps remotely, which has been employed in the past to pull malicious apps that made it into the Play Store (Android Market at the time). Removing an app that people actually want is going to be much more contentious, though. Note, this only applies in Brazil. You can keep your Secret app elsewhere.

It's not clear if Google will follow the court's ruling, but it will face fines of about $9,000 per day if it fails to do so. That's not actually a huge amount of money for Google. Maybe it's just the cost of doing business.

[9 to 5 Google]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play.

  • Mayoo

    Wow, Brazilian judges need to internet more. This app is nothing compared to all image boards out there.

    • Ryan

      Why does 4chan come to mind when I read that..

      • Paras Sanghavi

        because it's an image board.

        • Ryan

          Its a rhetorical response. I'm quite familiar with some of the *chan's online, just 4chan being the most notorious I've read about.

    • Casin

      It's not just Brazilian judges. It's the whole system. The new era of totalitarianism is beginning. Now the government can force entire apps to be deleted from devices YOU own because of what some other person said using that app. It's the legal justification for basically forcibly destroying any means of free speech the government doesn't like. And the US isn't immune either. In Ferguson, the ACLU had to negotiate "free speech zones" just to create places where journalists wouldn't be tear gassed and arrested.

      • http://dribbble.com/nickchamberlin Nick Chamberlin

        Lol the ACLU is a joke though.

      • Two Fingers

        More of the media needs to be gassed and arrested, some of what they write is criminal

  • DanSan

    just ban the whole internet, problem solved.

    • stewartsoda

      Have you been hanging out on /r/pyongyang again?

      • http://www.about.me/kendallseabury Kendall Seabury

        Glorious leader is pleased.

      • usaff22

        Best Korea knows everything, no need internet for despicable western lies

        • http://www.Mikereviews.co.uk/ Mike Brown

          Damn those Western Lies!

          • http://robert.aitchison.org raitchison

            Western Lying Western Liars who Western Lie?

          • cellabonez

            damn western union, i need to send some money to korea

        • Michael J Carroll

          Best Korea? There is only one true Korea!

      • zao_89

        /u/DanSan has been banned from /r/pyongyang.

  • http://www.google.com/+jordancable Jordan Cable

    Yeah, Brazil. Good luck with that.

  • brbrbr


  • Stoffers

    "but it will face fines of about $9,000 per day if it fails to do so."
    I wonder if they'll just ignore the ruling because this is nothing to them.

  • Igor Arusa

    The problem is not the application, but people who use it the wrong way! For this reason many international companies do not take Brazil seriously. sad

    • Felipe Pimenta


  • Jeff Moreira

    The article here is a bit incomplete, it does not say that Secret App doesn’t
    have a representation in Brazil, therefore, is someone that has been bulled would
    like to take it to the court in order to find out the person that did that, it
    would have to be done through a country where the app has an official representation.

    That is the main reason why the judge came to this decision
    and, not only because of the “anonymous speech” thing.

    Also the app doesn't have a terms and conditions in Portuguese, which again, goes against the local law.

    • Ricardo Brenelli

      Especially with the new internet laws here that dictate the company that hosts content which a user has requested in court to be removed has to comply. With no representation here and no way of pursuing the offenders it makes sense that the app is banned.

  • Adriano Almeida

    I am brazilian and I know what is going on down here...

    The problem is that there are some people that are using personal photos (people naked, having sex, or sensitive information) to defame and expose others just to make gossip or violent actions. We already had cases about naked children photos being posted in Secret, people trying to commit suicide because of the reactions from their friends and colleagues.

    Some people just do not know how to use internet for good.

    • Gabriel Melo

      The main point is the "mainstream-ness" of Secret in Brazil and the capability of fast spread of publications. While you can post all of these things anonymously by other means on the internet, a few are so mainstream that they can reach thousands (or even dozen of thousands) of people in so little time. Therefore, done damage can't be reversed and the potential for spreading harassment over this app is unprecedented. This is the main reason for this decision.

      • Casin

        Someone could say bad things. Therefore, lets shut the whole service down! Better yet, shut the whole internet down as people could say bad things and spread it!

        • Régis Knechtel

          That's not why they are removing the app. It's because the devs won't send the criminals identities to the police when they request them.

        • Fiinger

          Stop defending this bs

  • Martin

    And brazilians wonder why they get nothing from Google.. They can bully in facebook, twitter, all over in internet.. Stupid move from stupid judge! :-)

    • Debadatta Bose

      Contempt of court, baby. Contempt of court. Not right.

  • Vinícius Souza

    I'm from Rio and knowing my country I'm so sure this app won't be removed! Some months ago the issue was about that app where girls rated men, now this one. By the way, just installed to check what's all about this s**t.

  • http://mekakiwi.blogspot.com.br/ ED-Zが現れた!

    As a Brazilian I can say that our Judges think they own the Country, I'm used to some stupid decisions made by Brazilian judges, like that one that decide to block Youtube because someone posted some political speech on the national election sessions, or the other one that though that was a good idea block Facebook to avoid cyberbullying, or that one that ordered the prison of Google executives because someone posted a video of the police beating a disabled man, and this is apology to violence...

    ...Excuse me, I'm shoving my head in a hole...

    • Sigmund

      The countries have the government that their people deserves. No more words than that.

      • http://mekakiwi.blogspot.com.br/ ED-Zが現れた!

        So Sad.... And so True...

    • http://mekakiwi.blogspot.com.br/ ED-Zが現れた!

      Honestly, this is just like ban public toilets because someone graffitied the wall calling you names...
      Let's ban paper also, you know, people can use paper to write anonymous letters... And Pens... Pencils... Paint...

  • Alexandre

    And as always, brazilians screwing things up with their stupidity.

    • http://mekakiwi.blogspot.com.br/ ED-Zが現れた!

      I agree. The major reason for our Country is so f*cked up is US... No... not USA like some say... but US, Brazilian people...

  • C Scott Willy

    If you don't want to be bullied, don't install Secret. Easy no?
    Or select your "friends" better. Less easy, but possible.

    • Ricardo Brenelli

      It goes beyond that. Think with me. You don't have it installed, and you're not friends with people on facebook that are using it. Still someone on your school/work posts something defamatory there, and then gossip about you spreads from the virtual space to the real life corridors. Bullying is real and people are cruel when they think they are protected being anonymous. And it goes beyond from what yo can control virtually.

  • Ricardo Brenelli

    I wouldn't be so confident that Google may pay up the USD 9k per day as the cost of "doing business". Judges can easily rule that as contempt for the court rules and make that fine a whole lot steeper. Or worse, tell google to shut down its operations here if it doesn't comply, just to learn a lesson. Judges do not like being contradicted in that way. Surely the fine was probably standard value, and basically symbolical.

    • http://shanked.me/ Shank

      Remember when Google left China? They'll just do that again.

  • Brad

    How is google responsible for this? Screw 'em.

  • Bruno Marangoni

    Yeah, there's a lot of people cursing this app here xD

  • Alexandre Leites

    Brazil is a country moved by government and lawyers. Do not hate the people, hate the system.

  • Régis Knechtel

    The issue is more complex than that. They want to remove the app because it doesn't have representation in Brazil and brazilian law system can't have access to criminals that are using the app to spread pictures of naked people and children and practicing defamation.

    • bcostin

      That's Brazil's problem. Not Google's problem.

      • Régis Knechtel

        No one said it's a Google problem. But, since Google has representation in Brazil, it has to cooperate with local law. To remove the app from Brazil's Play Store won't cost a penny to Google.

    • flosserelli

      That problem stems from the users (er, some users). Developers should not be held liable or penalized for users' actions.

      • Régis Knechtel

        I agree that it's not developer's fault. But the developer can e should cooperate with the local justice decision to reveal the criminal's identity.

        • Jadephyre

          The whole idea was to give people a zone of free speech, but if there is no such thing as free speech in Brazil anymore, i'd say it's best for the developer to simply quit offering their app to the whole damn country. "Ordem E Progresso" my ass. It's only "Ordem" and nothing else, progress hasn't been made in some 200 years.

          • http://dribbble.com/nickchamberlin Nick Chamberlin

            You should read what these people are saying.

          • Down With Blizz

            Yeah but people that bleet on about a right to free speech ignore the fact that free speech also has responsibilities.... and when they mouth off at the wrong person and get smacked in the face demand that the law is served on the person that smacked them, rather than the person with the smart mouth and no sense provoking someone and hiding behind this 'right' that they have.
            We have a fantastic system where im from. We have no DE JURE right to free speech, which means when some smartarse gets onto a public forum and starts defaming people or being a complete douche, they can be shut down.
            We DO however, have DE FACTO free speech, meaning that you cant be censored if you are not being libellious, inflammatory, etc.

            Most of these debates are 99% anonymous supporters who think that its their right to be complete douchenozzles and cause merry hell for a laugh, vs 1% people who can actually think without resorting to the hive mind and can actually constructively debate the issues.... the 1% rarely appearing in comment sections on sites like this.

          • ari_free

            You can use Secret in a way that's not acting like a douche. Go after the douches, not Secret or Google

      • thelionk

        Ah, the old guns don't kill people, people kill people argument.

    • jjnilton

      Yes, sure, the "representation". Let's make every app developer to have a representation in Brazil.

  • Nevi_me

    Can iOS do a remote wipe?

    • dude

      Hello, Apple, wall garden, control. Yes they can do it and will. They have worked with Chinese govt in the past to censor Tibetan related apps.

  • Octávio Correia

    Well, I'm from Brazil and I think the app is not the problem, the people who are using it is.. And for sure, I think girls that don't want to have pictures of her bodies at internet, DIDN'T HAVE TO TAKE THAT KIND OF PHOTOS. It's not bullying, it's just the truth about the person (in this cases).. And the app has the autority to unveil the truly id of the person who is practicing that bad action, so, why not do this?

    • Régis Knechtel

      Well, it's not a crime to send your naked pictures to your boyfriend/girlfriend, but it is a crime to spread other people's naked pictures without their consent. So, please, do not try to make the victims look guilty, because they're not.

      • Jadephyre

        "Never put on the Internet what you don't want the world to see"
        It's as simple as that. Anything you let on the Internet or on some form of digital medium, you better watch what you're doing with it, because if it winds up on Facebook or on Secret, then it's your own damn fault, doesn't matter if someone stole it or not.

        • Régis Knechtel

          So, are you saying that if you send your son money to pay the university and he uses it to buy drugs to sell, you are the criminal, not him? That's bullshit!

          • Jadephyre

            Thank god that I don't have any kids, nor do I ever plan to, I don't need such a nuisance in my life. But no, that's not what i'm saying. What I am saying however is that you are responsible for your own actions, and posting shit on the net or giving someone your pictures is stupid in the extreme if you can't fully trust that person.

    • Ricardo Ca

      I hope Google doesn't take the app out. People must learn to take better care about its digital life.

  • Matthew Fry

    Stay strong Google.

  • hoosiercub88

    In other news.. nobody really cares, including Google I'm sure.. sounds like a whiney government trying to get their way irrationally. I'm sorry if someone did something "anonymously" online and they now regret it because other people are dicks.. your personal use of the internet is entirely decided by yourself, think before you take action.

  • NinoBr0wn

    "Some lawyers and judges in Brazil have interpreted it more broadly, claiming there is no legal support for anonymous free expression in the country."

    lolwut And people talk about America.

    • Régis Knechtel

      It's brazilian's way to say "if you want to say something, say that to my face. Do not hide behind some anonymous identity".

      • NinoBr0wn

        So are they assuming anything said anonymously is about bullying or with malicious intent?

        • Régis Knechtel

          No, no one is assuming that. Brazil's justice only condemn who uses anonymity to commit crimes. This is the reason they can't ensure anonymous free expression in every situation.
          Our law can only brake anonymity when it is used to do something against the law, and you need a judge's order to do so, anyway.

  • germanolsd

    actually, google has 10 days to comply before the daily fines. And they can still file for a review on a higher court

  • thelionk

    I often feel like some people in comments on here don't fully think things through. Maybe it's because I'm a programmer, and I've learned that nothing is simple and everything has a multitude of possible cases that need all be taken into consideration before passing judgement. But these comments often feels like little kids bitching about toys they like being taken away from them.

    I'm also glad that some commenters are seeing the more complete picture. 4chan and Secret are very different tools that behave very differently. Having a random person anonymously defame you on 4chan, though it can still ruin your life and cause you harm, isn't as harmful as having an acknowledged "friend" defame you to your other acknowledged "friends". I put friends in quote, because this does not mean they are truly your friend, only that the way Secret works, it guarantees that the person posting knows you in real life, and the people who receive the secret also know you in real life. That puts a lot more weight on the defamation.

    As others have mentioned, the court ruled this because Secret also makes it harder for justice to be done to defamers. There are steps that Secret could take to please the court and keep doing business in Brazil.

    Finally, anonymity, really isn't a simple topic. It's never been this easy to be anonymous, and this topic has so many weird cases, unless anyone takes up and over 10 hours to think about the impact of anonymity and all it implies, you just aren't expert enough and haven't thinked about the topic enough to be able to judge it.

    This whole thing also brings out the topic of defamation itself, and is that something that we should allow or not.

    • Régis Knechtel

      Thank you for existing!

    • jjnilton

      That would ruin the app purpose, but I think, maybe in these extreme situations, they could give the information. Probably the "joke" want more than that.

  • http://www.smsnetwork.org/ Mikael Jakobsson

    That people in europa support cencure one internet is a freking jokke. Brazile the new China. Europa gonna be worst of the worst if this keep spreeding arount europa. Is fucking time to make a war in Europa and take over Europa sto the huments and let the stupid brain dead people fucking keep them to thire own rules.

    • enomele

      You're drunk Sweden go home.

  • Renan Lazarotto

    I can resume what'll happen in one word: nothing. It remembers me about Daniella Cicarelli's case a while ago. Some folk filmed her having sex on a beach and posted it on youtube. She demanded to close youtube all over Brazil. Turns out the video was deleted and youtube is still here.

  • primalxconvoy

    I'm sure people can just backup their app and use it that way, sideload it from another site or even just use a (potential) web version?

  • Big Tony

    I mean who really gives a shit if the Brazilian courts don't like it .

    • Régis Knechtel

      198,7 milions brazilians

      • Big Tony

        I get that but they are in no position to tell Google what to do lol. If they don't like it they can pond sand.

        • Régis Knechtel

          They are in position to tell Google what to do in Brazil, since Google is not above their justice system. Google is almost a God, but not yet lol

          • Big Tony

            Google is an American based country. Just how do you think Brazil will enforce a fine on Google?

          • Régis Knechtel

            Google has a brazilian office and it operates under the local law in EVERY country where it has its services. Same goes for any other company in the world.
            Why do you think there's no Google in North Korea? Because the local government has to allow it to settle there, but it doesn't.

          • Big Tony

            Because N. Korea is an oppressive regime...

          • jjnilton

            Brazil is in this way.

  • http://twitter.com/Rodrigost23 Rodrigo Tavares

    Not gonna miss it. The app is never used to tell secrets or make anonymous confessions. In Brazil, people use it only to make sex-related "polls", gossip and offend others anonymously.

  • qc


  • Mike Edwards

    What the courts should be doing is putting the requirements on their own people. Rather than telling Google that they have to remotely wipe it from user's phones, make the users uninstall the app, and fine any Briziallian daily if they do not remove it.

  • AnonymouseVII

    Why are we even discussing here what's going on in Brazil? This is a Brazilian issue, let Brazilians deal with it. IMO, So long as a Brazilian Judge's decision doesn't affect the rights of users in countries other than Brazil, no one but Brazilians should care about something as trivial as this.

  • Roger

    This is Internet censorship!