WALHALLA — The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office is warning parents and residents to be aware of a new app that has potential dangers, especially for children and teens.
The app is called YikYak and it can be downloaded onto any operating system. It gives people ability to express themselves but in an anonymous way. It uses GPS technology to track locations and individuals can connect with others in a chat room and say anything they want.
Based on research into this app, YikYak was launched by college students as a way to post about activities on campus, plus share news and voice complaints.
The app does not require people to give their names and they can post anonymously.
YikYak was introduced initially at college and university campuses in the southeast, but then spread to other colleges and universities around the country and then down to high and middle schools.
There are some concerns that have arisen due to this app, including individuals using YikYak to call in bomb threats in Massachusetts, Georgia, and California. There have also been cases in schools around the country of cyber bulling. That led to some school districts banning the app and even police investigations being initiated.
In Oconee County, the School District has blocked access to this app through the school’s Internet servers, but students can still access YikYak through their own data plans.
The terms and conditions of using YikYak strictly prohibit the use of names and phone numbers, but school officials say that those conditions are being broken by students. The School District has issued a letter to parents expressing their concerns about YikYak and advising parents of any potential dangers.
“Our main concern with this app is the potential misuse of this technology by someone making libelous statements under the assumption that they can remain anonymous,” said Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw. “First, students must understand that nothing is truly anonymous and information can be traced back to the source through the use of GPS technology. Secondly, anyone posting anything libelous against another person can be charged criminally.”
An article on a website called techcrunch.com states the founders of the website are reportedly taking the step of blocking younger users from using YikYak while on the campuses of schools by using a technique called geo-fences around high and middle schools using GPS technology.
This is another example of an Internet based application that serves a legitimate purpose being used unethically and in some cases for illegal purposes.
While social media may have the appearance of privacy, many online accounts can reveal more about someone than they intended according to Sheriff Crenshaw.