When you think "privacy and anonymity," Facebook is likely not the first company to come to mind.

Facebook's entire business  is built on its users sharing, endorsing and putting their personal mark on content. So when the New York Times reported this week that Facebook is working on an app that allows anonymity --  an answer, it seemed, to anonymous-disclosure apps such as Secret -- it raised some eyebrows.  This, from a company that's convinced over a billion people share their relationship statuses online? This, from a company which recently had to apologize for its aggressive policy requiring the use of "real names" online?

Well, yes. For one, anonymity is hot right now. Teens, in particular, have flocked to networks that let them hide, at least in some part, who they really are online behind a Twitter handle or a username on Facebook's own Instagram.

And, sure, Facebook is still collecting just as much data from its users as it ever has.  But over the past year, the company has been changing a lot of its messaging, its actions and its general philosophy toward privacy. But it's also at least making a show of giving users more information how it uses data, how it chooses which ads to show you, and has even given users the option to share less information with its app partners. So some tool to keep your true identity secret -- at least, from the world outside of Facebook -- isn't entirely out of character.

Facebook declined to comment on what it considers rumor or speculation. But that doesn't mean we haven't had any hints from the company. After the Times article, Facebook product manager Josh Miller took to Twitter to outline how he thinks about anonymity in products. Miller joined Facebook earlier this year, but was the co-founder of Branch Media -- the startup behind the conversation service Branch.

In his tweets, Miller didn't disclose what he's working on for Facebook, but did say he wouldn't want to design something that centered around being anonymous, ala Secret and Whisper.

Miller went on to say that any community, even if its anonymous, needs some sort of "recurring identity" option, to keep it together. "It's very hard to build retentive communities without 'regulars,'" he said. His comments also indicated that Facebook could be working on something that gives people have usernames -- like in the forums and chats that have let people make up names since the birth of the Web. Just one that's somehow tied to Facebook.

So is this an actual shift or a shrewd ploy at a time when many companies are marketing strong privacy to breach-fatigued consumers? That's hard to say. Facebook is hardly a privacy champion from the collection standpoint, especially as it works to aggressively expand its advertising network to reach users off of its own site. Still, launching an anonymous app would still be a pretty remarkable move from a company whose chief executive once said that privacy was no longer a "social norm."

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