Friday, July 3, 2020
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Colo. students caught trading 100s of nude photos

Hundreds of nude photos, some of young students in school locker rooms, have allegedly been traded among football players and others at a Colorado high school using a smartphone app known as a photo vault, the New York Times reports.

UPDATE Dec. 10 — The Associated Press noted that our quote about the district attorney in this jurisdiction not wanting to prosecute hundreds of students was correct. Thom LeDoux, the district attorney in Fremont County, said his office’s investigation failed to produce any evidence that adults were involved. None of the 351 images were posted to the Internet, and there was no evidence of coercion or bullying.

At a special meeting last night, parents at Cañon City High School learned an anonymous tip had led administrators to discover hundreds of nude photos on students’ smartphones. School officials and parents had students reveal their password to apps that initially look like a calculator but actually hide photos in a “vault” that requires a password to open.

These sext-empowering photo vault apps are becoming common among teens who want to hide the contents of their phones from their parents or other authorities, according to a page on Mashable entitled “7 Secret Apps to Hide Your Sexy Photos.” Here’s what to look for.

On a page written early last month, Common Sense Media writes, “As we all know, cell phone cameras can be misused, and a new crop of photo apps are being used to hide photos instead of share them. So-called secret-camera and hidden-photo-vault apps let you snap pictures or video without anyone knowing and stash them in secret folders.”

Photo vault apps have names like Calculator%, Keep Safe Private Photo Vault, and Best Secret Folder. These provide smartphone users with places to keep photos out of view from a prying parent or friend. They share key features, including:

  • requiring a password for access
  • sounding an alarm or snapping a picture when accessed to catch anyone breaking in
  • hiding their true purpose (Fake calculator apps actually do function as a calculator but double as a way to input a secret code and stash secret pictures.)

Officials believe, even though hundreds of photos have been found, some of which look like they were taken inside the school locker room, there may be more that have yet to be discovered. Police and school authorities are asking parents to find out from their children if any photos were taken illegally so they can be cleaned off.

“It’s hundreds, and I mean it was flooring to us how many photos that we were finding on the phones that we confiscated,” Principal Bret Meuli told Fox-31 News.

Under a strict interpretation of the law, anyone in possession of these pictures is guilty of child pornography, but school officials in Cañon City are planning to deal with the incident on a more case-by-case basis.

“These are a bunch of kids who made stupid mistakes,” the station quoted one parent as saying. “Throwing around the child pornography? It’s life-changing for some of these kids.”

“I don’t think [the district attorney] wants to prosecute 100 kids for a class 3 felony,” the Times quoted George Welsh, the superintendent of the Cañon City School District, as saying. The authorities, he said, would “deal with childhood mistakes as childhood mistakes, and deal with real cruelty as such.”

UPDATE Jan. 26, 2017 — Accidents happen too. An estimated nine out of 10 kids under 12 will accidentally see hardcore pornography while looking for something else, so blocking search results can help. However, it doesn’t go far enough and effectively leaves kids out of the picture. Forcefield has a Safe Search app, which filters out graphic images while delivering comprehensive search results, but it can also offer parents the ability to block mature sites and sleep apps on demand. According to Forcefield’s Rachel Pathak, the company has also “created a library of hundreds of expert-vetted apps and sites, organized by age and subject.”
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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