Is Talking Angela Dangerous?
Social media is at is again. One person makes a dire claim and it’s passed around like it’s true. The problem is that most of the claims demanding you have to share something on sites like Facebook, are just not true. As a rule of thumb, I always google what they are claiming, first, before passing it around as it demands. If there is truth to the warning, the net will know about it and if it’s a hoax, well the net will know about that too. It’s a shame that people will believe almost anything they see online today and not research it to make sure what it claims is true or it’s a hoax.
So now who who is Talking Angela? Talking Angela is an application which you are able to use on your smarty pants phones. Although it appears to be catered to children, it does have some things which are catered to adults which many parents are finding an issue with. One of the issues is that Angela drinks “giggle juice” while in the child’s mode and appears to become giddy from the juice. There is a child mode to set to reduce some issues which some parents are having. To be safe though, parents should always monitor what their children are doing online and the apps they use as well.
Sam Login, chief executive of Outfit7, the company responsible for the Talking Angela and the larger Talking Tom and Friends series of Apps, addressed the hoax on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014.
“Obviously, it’s a hoax. I don’t know how it got started or how it got tractions. These things just happened,” Login said.
The hoax consisted mostly of messages posted on Facebook, stating that the Talking Angela application takes pictures of children without their knowledge and records private information about them, in theory for child predators. The messages which were written in the voice of a concerned parent, urged others to delete the app from their smart phones.
“So please if your KIDS use this app please shut it down. Because SOME KIDS told them the names of the school they went to and is now on red alert at the school, and please PASS this on to ALL your friends,” reads one viral message.
Other messages are darker and more alarming, suggesting that the Talking Angela app is a front for child predators to gain access to children.
“Do not download the app Talking Angela. It is a hacker that is sitting behind a webcam, able to see you but you can’t see him. ‘Angela’ asks you very personal and perverted questions,” one viral message suggests.
So is the concern real?
It appears the concern is real, and on the surface Talking Angela does appear to be a new brand of invasive apps for children. Angela, a seductive, white cat, speaks to the player using the app, asking many personal questions. The application can take photos and can also use the camera to record facial expressions that Angela then imitates. Today there are over 57 million people who have downloaded the app, with even more use one of the Talking Tom and Friends apps, which include Talking Angela as well as other talking animals apps.
“Even though it could be easily believed that you are talking to a person, if you pay attention, everybody can easily find out that it’s not a person on the other side: it’s only a semi-intelligent conversation that you’re having,” Login told The Guardian.
“We have no communication to our servers: the brains of the engine are in the mobile app, and everything that the engine responds is pre-scripted,” Login added.
Login went on to insist that it is impossible for any human to hack into the app and take over the role of Talking Angela, telling USA Today Network in an interview, “It’s quite easy to get the illusion you are talking to a real person, but it’s physically impossible to have someone behind the app.”
Login went on to explain that the nature of the app is simply artificial intelligence and that the personal questions it asks, such as names, birthdate, hobbies, are run-of-the-mill questions to better inform their software on how to reach their consumers. According to a Q&A section on Outfit7’s website, launched soonafter the hoax took hold, the data is collected in such a way that analysts can see the numbers, but cannot ascribe any age or name to one specific user. So it appears there is no real and current danger to users.
“The reason for this [name and age] is to provide the best possible experience and optimize the app’s content. Although the topics are family-friendly, the Talking Angela app is able to determine the most suitable topics of conversation according to a user’s age,” Outfit7 stated.
So is this app really safe for children or not?
While the hoax is a proven lie, many parents are worried that their children may be at risk when using this application. The problems many parents have is with the character Talking Angela. Angela appears to be flirtatious, drinks “giggle juice” (many think is alcohol) and is very sexualized. Though this app is recommended for all ages, the trailer shows an animated character drinking wine in the background.
When Outfit7 was asked about the content some parents see as mature and not suitable for children, they responded saying Angela’s responses are meant to entertain adults as well as children and that concerned parents can switch the game to Child Mode to ensure that Angela doesn’t say anything some parents may see as inappropriate. In Child Mode, Angela cannot speak on her own and she can only respond to touch and repeat what users tell her, according to Outfit7,.
When Talking Angela is not in Child Mode, she can engage in a two way discussion and talk about many different topics, allegedly including explicit sexual content. At least one reviewer on Amazon, claims that Angela talks about her love life with Tom (Talking Tom, also of Outfit7), and specifically about kissing him, and asks users if they have boyfriends.
The bottom line is parents need to stay vigilant when it comes to the safety of their children online as much, if not more, as offline. If you are going to allow your children to use apps like Talking Angela or any similar, you need to check them to ensure they are suitable and not dangerous. If you have Talking Angela installed and want to change the settings to Child Mode please check your settings.
Some ways for you to protect yourself and your children from hoaxes and scams on Facebook and other social media:
1. If it tugs at your heart strings and claims to gain money for every share it gets on Facebook, it may be a scam. There is no way for a company, cause or person to know how many times their comment was shared. The exception is when it is a legitimate cause like Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign which, when the hashtag “#bellletstalk, donated a nickel for every share which included that hashtag.
2. ALL CAPS – This is meant to get your attention and make the comment seem to be sinister and important enough that you HAVE to share it or something bad will happen. Typing in caps doesn’t make what they are saying true, as you can see in the example above of Talking Angela.
3. NEVER share an image of what you think is an abused child BEFORE checking to see if it’s real or not. You may think you are helping an abused or sick child but chances are there is a very different story to the image you are being asked to share. In the case of one little girl who was being passed around on Facebook with claims that her mother had beaten her and blackened her eye it turned out that the mother saw that image and had it removed. Her child had undergone eye cancer surgery and was never abused. If this was your child, would you want people using them as a poster child for a scam?
4. If you can only share but not comment, it may be a scam. Check the comment section to see if others have claimed this is a scam BEFORE you get suckered into sharing the comemnt.
5. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Scams claiming that Bill Gates will donate money for sharing his smiling face have been passed around and again, no he will not pay anything for the share. He’d be broke if he did wouldn’t he?
Stay safe and thanks to Crystal for the heads up on Talking Angela. Thanks for reading my blog. Have a truly fantabulous day. x