Kik Messenger app has been heavily criticised for its safety, after it was reportedly involved in a number of incidents of child exploitation.
The app commonly known as Kik is a free instant messaging mobile app available on iOS and Android.
It sends and receives messages, photos, videos, sketches or other content over the internet connection of a users registered account.
Kik’s special feature is the fact that it preserves the person’s anonymity, as users register using a name and username without registering a telephone number.
The app instead logs IP addresses which the company use to determine location.
Kik has around 300 million registered users, and is used by 40% of the teenagers in the US.
It was branded an unsafe when it received 1 out of 7 points on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s secure messaging scorecard.
It gained a point for some of its encryption but lost point for the fact that the encryption is not accessible, users cannot verify their contacts’ identities, past messages are not secure, the code is not open to independent review, the security design is not properly documented and there had not been a recent independent security audit.
Law enforcement has raised concerns about the app after it was found that child exploitation is prominent on the app.
In 2016, Kik was linked to the murder of a 13 year-old girl in the US, it was found she was talking to an 18-year-old boy on the Kik app, who later kidnapped and murdered her.
It was found that Kik was used by paedophiles to groom young children.
Users of Kik also reported that they received sexually-explicit automated messages over the app, as automated spam bots have been created to distribute these explicit images and texts over Kik.
‘It is the problem app of the moment’ according to law enforcement officials in the US.
There is no parental control over this app, although Kik says that users should have parental permission to use the app, there is no way to ensure this, and no way to prevent the user putting in a false birth date.
The app is age restricted to only 12 year-olds and above, so parental controls are non-existent for 12 -18 year-olds.
The company has made an effort to make its service safer for younger users, but it still fails to combat real time online child abuse.
The reason Kik is such a problematic app for safety of minors is that it allows users to search by age, and it allows users to send photos that aren’t stored on phones.
The next problem with Kik is that law enforcement agencies can get little to no information from them, so if a child is found to be exploited over Kik, it is extremely difficult for law enforcement to track down the perpetrator.
Kik allows absolute strangers gain access to a Kik user’s inbox.
Any of the information provided on the app, is not verified and can be completely false, and give absolutely no lead to who that person behind the app is.