yik yak app, anonymous app

The Yik Yak app looks like it is putting more danger to its users than it intends to. A researcher published his findings on how the anonymous app reveals a user’s location.

The scary part? It appears to be too accurate for comfort.

What’s Yik Yak Anyway?

For the casuals out there, Yik Yak is a form of anonymous social media that has gained widespread popularity, particularly on the campuses of educational institutions.

It first appeared on the market in 2013. These allegations have been floating around ever since the app was first released. Due to the allegations of threats of violence and bullying, the business stopped allowing access to students in middle school and high school in the year 2014.

Following allegations that it served as a venue for the harassment and cyberbullying of students and the dissemination of bomb threat messages, the app was taken offline permanently in the year 2017.

The anonymous app made a comeback the year before, although my colleague Gita Jackson pointed out at the time that this was a comeback that no one had really asked for.

Yik Yak’s Location Data

YikYak is an anonymous messaging app that allows users to view posts made by other users within a five-mile radius of their location. Emojis and colors are assigned to each user so that they can be easily distinguished from one another. However, users have the option to reset these attributes at any time.

Furthermore, the app allows users to continue conversations in comment sections, which are places where users can interact with one another. However, it has been reported by David Teather, a computer science student based in Madison, Wisconsin, that the app makes it possible to discover the precise locations of users as well as their individual IDs.

Teather discovered that users’ exact locations and unique IDs could be found with the Yik Yak app. The data gathered from YikYak was able to get GPS coordinates that were accurate to within 10 to 15 feet of where posts and comments came from. He says he told the company about his findings in April.

The Danger of YikYak

In a social app just like YikYak, it is known that location data does not usually cause harm to its users. However, it becomes a problem when the accurate GPS coordinates are made available to the client while user ids are also exposed. Having this too accurate information can de-anonymize users, easily expose their identity, and make their home address or current location available to anyone.

This can be a difficult vulnerability since the loophole can be used by malicious actors to spy on users or break into the residence of a person while they are absent.

Even though a single GPS position can link a user to only one address, the ability to de-anonymize is a significant concern in low-density rural areas with detached single-family homes that are more than 10-15 feet apart.

According to The Verge, Teather stated, “Since user ids are persistent it’s possible to figure out a user’s daily routine of when and where they post YikYaks from, this can be used to find out the daily routine of a particular YikYak user.”

The most recent version of the Yik Yak app does not provide precise locations or user IDs. Teather, on the other hand, says that he can still get this information out by using older versions of the software.

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