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Special Report: Police warn parents to be wary of app marketed to teens

Police are warning parents of teens to be wary of apps that might make the users vulnerable to predators. (WWMT)

There’s growing concern by some members of law enforcement in Michigan about an app used by millions of teens.

The app, Yellow, is marketed heavily toward teens, as a way for them to find friends who might live in similar locations, but critics of the app said it lacks security features that could leave teenagers vulnerable to those who are deceptive about their age.

Bath Township Police Officer Avery Lyon recently sent out a warning to parents about Yellow.

“Yellow brings many concerns from a law enforcement standpoint due to its ability to put predators in contact with our kids,” Lyon wrote.

In an interview with Newschannel 3, Lyon said the app lacks proper age-verification tools, and that, combined with the fact that it’s advertised to teenagers, raises red flags.

“A 13-year-old could be using the app and it could be a 60-year-old man talking to her,” he said.

Lyon said because of what he described as poor age-vetting, the app could be used by sexual predators to deceive and possibly hurt teens. He added that parents need to be aware of what they’re children are downloading, to best protect them.

“We want people to be vigilant about the apps they’re using,” he said. “There are some people out there that don’t have the best intentions.”

A spokesperson representing the app responded to Newschannel 3’s questions concerning age verification and other safety concerns.

“In order to sign up to the service, users are asked to upload a real photograph of themselves,” wrote Lesley Sillaman, a spokesperson representing the Yellow app. “We use an algorithm to monitor for fake pictures in profiles.”

The company also said it has safety features built in to the app, and it encourages parents to use its safety center.

However, the Newschannel 3 I-Team was able to use a fake profile picture while trying to sign up for the app as a 16-year-old. During the few hours when the account was active, the photo was never flagged as fake.

The spokesperson representing Yellow also addressed law enforcement concerns to some extent.

“Our first priority is safety,” she wrote. “As a young company we’re constantly looking for ways to improve safety. We built Yellow to be a fun and engaging place for people to make new friends.”

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