Geo-located Apps: yik-Yak & Whisper
Yik-Yak works by combining the technologies of GPS and instant messaging, allowing users to anonymously microblog to other nearby users. Before loading messages, the Yik Yak app determines the user's location and groups them into pockets of 1.5 mile (2.4 kilometre) radius zones. Within these zones, anyone inside the radius can post and read other people's “yaks”. Yik-Yak is effectively an anonymous bulletin board, and one without a filter.
One of the biggest criticisms of social media sites and applications is their inherent potential to feed the growing amount of cyber-bullying. To remedy the cases of bullying in middle and high schools around the country, Yik-Yak amended the application to include geo-fences that work in the background. These unseen fences disable the application within their defined borders, notably when the user is inside, or near to, schools. If the app is opened within one of these areas the user is displayed a message along the lines of: “it looks like you’re trying to use Yik Yak on a middle school or high school grounds. Yik Yak is intended for people college-aged and above. The app is disabled in this area.”
The images below illustrate a threaded anonymous message board and a map that allows Yik-Yak users to 'peek' into other conversations by geographic location.
Terms and conditions specify that users must be 17 years of age or older to use Whisper. The app is exclusive to Android and Apple platforms. There is a desktop version of Whisper but it has limited functionality and it doesn’t allow you to post any Whispers.
What makes Whisper different from other social networking apps is the fact that users don’t have an identity when using the service. There are no followers, friends or profiles. The app does use people’s locations and allows users to add a school or group but it doesn’t ask for photos or email addresses. Users cannot use the search function to search for other users.
Hidden Vaults & Fake Calculators
Calculator + The App Store clearly describes the purpose of the “Calculator +” app as a way to “hide photos and videos so that no one else can see them but you.” This application looks like a calculator but entering a pass code opens a private area to store pictures, text messages, movies and other files. All files are securely stored in the app and cannot be viewed in the default iPhone camera roll. There are many different types of hidden photo vaults and the New York Times ran an article about a year ago about various calculator apps that can be used to hide files.