Send to

When everyone is on KakaoTalk and you have a secret to hide

Panic over revelation of secretive profiles shows users’ yearning for privacy, different persona in hyper-connected society

Oct. 28, 2022 - 17:14 By Choi Jae-hee

An error message appears as KakaoTalk services are down for several hours on Oct. 15, 2022. (Yonhap)

When KakaoTalk was down and suffered extended service malfunctions last month, rumors quickly swept through social media platforms that the messenger app’s multi-profile function had gone haywire, exposing users’ profile photos to groups which were not intended to be shown.

People with secrets to keep, such as extramarital affairs, became particularly concerned about the rumor. A blog post on Daum acted as a warning to other adulterers who created a secret relationship profile by saying “my affair is soon likely to be caught. Be careful, guys.”

Launched in January last year, the multi-profile feature allows users to create up to three separate profiles, each to be shown to a few selected in their friends list.

Kakao Corp., the messenger application’s operator, officially confirmed that no such error had occurred during the latest service malfunction.

But the panic over the potential exposure of hidden profiles revealed how much some people have invested in privacy settings of KakaoTalk.

A post in an online group of adulterers warns there has been a malfunction of KakaoTalk's multi-profile settings after the messenger app suffered a server outage. (Daum)

Motives behind multiple profiles

29-year-old office worker, Yoon Chae-won, works in the field of digital content production, said she created a separate profile for communication with her colleagues to draw the line between work and private life.

“A profile picture on KakaoTalk reflects one’s interests and lifestyle. In my case, it’s traveling that is a pretty huge part of my life,” she said.

She decided to create a more stoic work-related profile after her co-workers started enquiring about her profile photos taken during her recent trip.

“I started to feel uncertain about sharing my personal life with people at work," she said.

A kindergarten teacher surname Han, 30, recently uploaded her body profile photo on KakaoTalk’s profile section, which can only be seen by her close friends.

“I’m a sports person. I took the body profile photo to show off my body, but I blocked my students’ parents from accessing the photo of me wearing a bikini because I want to maintain a clean-cut image at work,” she said.

For some young people, multi-profiles are used to block the unwanted attention of judgmental older generations, including parents.

“I’ve made a profile tailored to meet my parents’ expectations, which only reveals pictures I took on Jeju Island. My main profile features a selfie showing my fake wrist tattoo, which they dislike,” Kim Dong-yeon, a 21-year-old college student in Seoul.

Motives behind the sub-character vary, but this private setting is essential for people who want to hide their sexual orientations.

“Just like dating apps for homosexuals, a lot of gays and lesbians use multi-profiles to find their dates or make friends who have the same sexual orientation,” said a tweet uploaded after the rumors about the profile setting mix-up.

Another tweet reads, “only a few homosexuals, including celebrities and social influencers, are open about their sexual orientation. Ordinary people, like me, are usually afraid of coming out due to social prejudice against homosexuality. So I try to hide my identity by making multi-profiles.”