The “Talking Angela” app has been the subject of a number of fake viral rumors this week, with some saying that “pedophiles” are behind the app.
Security firm Sophos did a write-up on the game, saying that it has a “child mode” that’s hard to tell if it’s on or not
“Users are given the option to play the Talking Angela app in child mode, a function specifically designed to safeguard young players. Within child mode, the chat bot feature is disabled so Angela can respond only to touch and repeat what she hears over the microphone. Child mode can be selected at any point within the app’s settings,” reads a statement by the game’s maker, OutFit7.
“Talking Angela” features a talking cartoon cat that converses with players. Writers with Sophos attempted to engage in “dirty” talk with the app, but nothing happened.
“There is no explicit Adult mode so just who this cartoon cat is aimed at when it’s not in Child mode is unclear. Whoever they are, they need to be able to type because the app answers to written questions,” Sophos says.
The game is widely available for Google Play and iOS–with hundreds of thousands of downloads and a four- out of five-star rating. This week, the game’s popularity surged over the e-mail hoaxes.
Some of the fake viral messages said the game is collecting children’s personal information.
But, OutFit7, the makers of the game said that “no personal data whatsoever is being collected from the users of our app Talking Angela, which is available as an iOS, Android and Facebook app.”
“The description clearly informs the user that one of the core functionalities of the app is chat, which requires two-way communication, where Angela (a chat bot, not a real person) answers with text and voice in English and talks to the user about a variety of subjects,” OutFit7 said. “The data collected by the app from the user is not shared with anyone and is actually sent to Out Fit7 only in the form of an anonymized data log (no names, no numbers, no personal data). This fact is clearly disclosed within the description of the app.”
As Sophos notes, it’s unclear why there’s a “child mode” option when the game is clearly for children. It’s also impossible to keep children away from toggling out of “child mode.”
According to The Guardian, Angela won’t ask for the children’s names or engaging in talk about clothes-swapping if “Child Mode” is on.
“Children aren’t meant to be using Talking Angela’s text-chat feature, yet the app’s developer hasn’t taken any meaningful measures to prevent them from simply toggling the child mode off. There’s not even the “swipe down with two fingers” or “write this sequence of numbers as figures” parental gate that’s become common in children’s apps in recent months,” reads the Guardian report.
The warning messages about “Talking Angela” appeared more than a year ago, but there were no accusations about pedophilia at the time.
An earlier one reads: “WARNING FOR TO ALL PARENTS WITH CHILDREN THAT HAVE ANY ELECTRONIC DEVICES , EX : IPOD,TABLETS ETC …. THERE IS A SITE CALLED TALKING ANGELA , THIS SITE ASKS KIDS QUESTIONS LIKE : THERE NAMES , WHERE THEY GO TO SCHOOL AND ALSO TAKE PICTURES OF THEIR FACES BY PUSHING A HEART ON THE BOTTOM LEFT CORNER WITHOUT ANY NOTICES . PLEASE CHECK YOUR CHILDREN’S IPODS AND ALL TO MAKE SURE THEY DO NOT HAVE THIS APP !!! PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON TO YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS THAT HAVE KIDS !!!!”
But in the past week, there’s been a spate of new shared messages, with some getting more and more dramatic.
One says: “DO NOT DOWNLOAD THIS APP I AM WARNING YOU DO NOT DOWNLOAD THIS APP. IT IS TOTALY DANGEROUS AND DONT LISTEN TO WHAT THE MAKERS OF THE APP TELL YOU… IF U ZOOM IN HER EYES U WILL SEE A ROOM WITH A GUY IN IT, AND IT TAKES RANDOM PICTURES…. IF U WISH TO DOWNLOAD MAKE SURE U COVER UR CAMERA WITH UR FINGERS.”
In short, it’s best not to spread such Facebook hoax messages. And if you’re not sure about “Talking Angela,” just delete it.