Over at Crime Classified I recently posted a story about a man who was caught allegedly looking for kids for sex on craigslist. Thankfully, police were able to apprehend him, hopefully before any child could have been abused. The reason I bring up this story was because while talking with police, who posed as a guardian of a 12-year-old girl, the suspect instructed police to download the app Wickr to continue communicating. I had never heard of Wickr before so I decided to some research on it.
Wickr is a mobile messaging app which prides itself on privacy and anonymity. You don’t need an email address to sign up and all the messages on Wickr are encrypted. That means, in theory, the messages can only be read by the people involved in the conversation. Wickr even says they don’t keep any records of the messages on their own servers. How true that is remains to be seen, but I digress.
There are some certain places and circumstances where an app like this can be a literal lifesaver. For example, people who live under oppressive governmental regimes could potentially rely on this app to communicate, hopefully without reprisal. Corporate or governmental whistleblowers could use this app to anonymously report their findings to the media. I could also see this being a lifesaving app for victims of domestic violence needing to hide communications from their abuser. However, like any tool, it can also be abused.
I could potentially see predators making contact with kids on one app, like Kik or Snapchat, then instruct their potential victims to use Wickr to try to keep their conversations from prying eyes. I also see it as a potential avenue of the trading of child porn as well.
My advice to parents is to keep an eye out for this app on your kids’ devices.