Locket Photo-Sharing Widget Shows It’s Hard to Mix Social and Privacy

Even when you’re trying to be good

Key Takeaways

  • Locket lets you share photos direct to your friends’ iPhone Home Screens.
  • It’s a fantastic feature—just watch what you send.
  • The app requires access to your entire contacts database.
 Cheerful afro young woman taking selfie with smart phone while standing by wall

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Locket app lets friends share photos straight to the iPhone Home Screen, but is it genius or terrifying?

Locket is a kind of super-private social network, one that lets you share photos direct to your friends' iPhone home screens. It works like this: You add the app's widget to your Home Screen, and then any of your friends can send you a picture, and it shows up right there in the widget. It's a fantastic idea, and one which is, apparently, going totally viral right now. But of course, such easy access to such a public spot on your iPhone could also get you fired or divorced. 

"Any app that allows you to have some kind of access to other's screens offers a security risk," Kristen Bolig, founder of SecurityNerd, told Lifewire via email. "I think this app is a fun idea. However, I am going to stay away from it just to make sure my information stays as protected as possible."

Locket Up

Locket Widget app comes from independent developer Matthew Moss, who built it as a birthday gift for his girlfriend last year. Friends noticed it and wanted to use it. Moss released the app on New Year’s Day, and according to Tech Crunch, it had over two million downloads as of a week ago. 

Any app that allows you to have some kind of access to other's screens offers a security risk.

Privacy-wise, the app requires access to your photos (of course) and your entire contacts database. It also requires a phone number to sign up. These are required to make it easier for new users to find each other, and the app’s privacy policy says that it does not save any contact details or send messages without your permission. Remember, though, any app with access to your contacts can copy them at any time. And also, remember that the data in your contacts app belongs not to you but the people in there. 

When you add a photo to the Locket app, it gets sent to everyone in your group. So, no sending sexy pics to your better half. Or rather, if you do send a sexy pic to your partner, you are also sending it to your parents, your favorite work colleagues, and anyone else you added to the group. 

And that’s where things get risky.

Security

If you read the privacy policy, it’s obvious that Moss is on the level. It’s written by and for humans, not lawyers. But Locket shows the difficulties of providing social network features without compromising privacy. Moss told Tech Crunch’s Sarah Perez that he has considered changing the requirement for contacts access, for example, but that it is there to make the service easier to use. And one wonders if the app would have been such a crazy hit if it wasn’t so easy to get going. 

Convenience often comes at the expense of privacy, even when handled by well-intentioned developers. But that may not be the case if this feature is picked up by one of the big social networks, most likely Facebook. 

Just A Feature

Locket Widget is free, and while it's entirely possible that Facebook makes an offer to buy it, it would be a lot easier for Facebook to add the same feature to its Instagram or WhatsApp apps, for example. You already have the app, and you already have an existing network of friends. All it needs is a widget. 

Locket app screenshots.

Locket

"Copycat features from social media titans like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook are extremely common in situations like this where a new, competing app takes off and finds its way into the mainstream," Justin Kline, co-founder of the influencer marketing agency Markerly, told Lifewire via email. "Copycat features from these platforms don't always spell disaster for the original apps, though. Instagram was quick to develop Reels to compete with TikTok, and while Reels has seen success, it wasn't enough to take down TikTok," 

Now, if we imagine a Facebook-powered widget, things get really scary. For a start, the nightmare scenario of sharing adult photos with the wrong people will be a lot more likely if you're struggling with the hard-to-decipher privacy settings. Locket's strength is that it starts from scratch, so you'll only add people you want to see your photos. Instagram and Facebook are the opposite. You're likely following hundreds of strangers. 

Locket could be a great independent alternative to the big networks, especially if it can do something about the phone number and contact database issues. Social contact via our phones is essential for staying in touch and sharing our lives. But doing that while preserving privacy is a hard job, even if you're actively trying to do the right thing.

Correction 1/19/22: The quote in the third to last paragraph has been changed to reflect the correct attribution, Justin Kline.

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