By: Angelica Diaz
Once again, technology has progressed and this time has produced “Invisible apps”. These types of mobile apps are being used by children and often for the purposes of hiding from their parents nude pictures of themselves and their peers. The production of such an app has caused much controversy between parents and their children, but many have overlooked the legal implications this causes. Mobile apps similar to this, make it much simpler for child pornography to be stored and shared, putting in jeopardy the legal and physical safety of those children.
Invisible apps are programs that automatically trigger false functions without fully opening the app. Therefore, the app’s false start is less important than its true underlying function. Many of these apps have been seen to portray a normal calculator or a password manager that would be unsuspecting to a parent, or any technological illiterate person that the app is anything but what it appears to be. Although there are many uses for having a secret app, such as keeping files secret within your phone upon other uses, many minor users are using it mainly to share nude photos of each other.
What makes this app a bigger issue than creating secrecy within a household, it creates a means in which child pornography is more easily stored and shared. Many parents, let alone minors, do not realize that when they share nude photos of themselves, due to the fact that they are under the age of eighteen, they are automatically sharing and in possession of child pornography. In many jurisdictions, the act of taking a nude photo in which it shows a body part and to further share it with another, is a felony.
This issue expands further and endangers more than the individual minors with photos, the app has the ability to make human trafficking easier. In fact, social media has played a large role in more children being abducted for human trafficking. The relationship between social media and human trafficking have emerged due to the false identities and secrecy created when individuals claim to be a friend or a peer of similar age in order to lure children from their homes. Since the launch of a secret app, it has created a new way for criminals to further keep secret their activities and share amongst their accomplices the pictures of the children they are targeting as well as the children already “working” for them.
Both of these issues that have emerged from such a harmless app have caused much distress to police departments and DA’s offices due to the difficulty in their ability to keep up with charges and investigations to ensure the safety of user’s. Such issues are due to the large amount of minors partaking in such illegal activity and also the increasing difficulty in discovering the behavior itself because of its intended secrecy. Potential right to privacy issues will likely arise in the future with these apps. With any advancement in technology, it is almost inevitable that it is used for illegal purposes and push the bounds of established rights, and although that is a shame, the app’s developer must take some initiative and rework their app to perhaps exclude certain users by age, in order to exclude minors, or prevent certain functions, such as the sharing of picture files. Since this technological advancement is so new, there is bound to be more harm to children and its users’ before a remedy will surface. Until then, parents must pay special attention to the acts of their children to ensure they are not partaking in illegal and potentially dangerous acts.
Blogger Bio: Angelica is a Staff Member of the Journal of High Technology Law. She is currently a 2L at Suffolk Law with an area of focus in Juvenile and Family Law. She holds a B.A. in Legal Studies from Bay Path University.