Rated for users 12+
Offers in-app purchases
Classified as a Virtual Chat app
Over the past month, I have received several messages from parents trying to manage their frightened teens who have been using the app Mydol. The Mydol app has been around for a couple of years, but recently there has been an intense buzz of interest surrounding this app at Orange County, California schools.
Mydol is a chatbot app. It simulates chatting with your favorite k-pop (Korean pop star musician) star. A chatbot is a computer program designed to mimic a conversation with human users. Chatbots are becoming more sophisticated especially with the advent of artificial intelligence. Many businesses are using chatbot programs on their websites to answer basic technical support or customer service questions. They can sometimes be very natural in their responses, fooling people into believing they are talking to a real person.
This all sounds well and good, so why are parents asking for help? Why are so many students sincerely frightened by this app?
Many users have reported Mydol conversations can turn personal and sometimes sexually inappropriate. Ironically, the stories of creepy chats have reached boogieman status among teens and the driving desire to try the app. It is precisely these disturbing chats that are causing all the fear and concern. A casual search on google reveals numerous blog and social media posts about personal experiences of Mydol users that can best be described as disturbing. When you install and open the Mydol app, the app requests access to your camera and microphone. Theoretically, if you grant an app access to your camera, camera roll, and microphone, it can access them when you are using the app, and in some cases, even when you are not using the app. After doing some research, I was not able to find any reliable information regarding the app’s use of these phone systems to collect information about its user. One of the mothers who reached out to me insisted the app was “watching” her daughter based on the content of the text conversation. She and her daughter felt the chatbot made inferences that could only have been known if it was using the phone’s camera. I was not able to substantiate that claim while researching this app.
Free apps exist to collect information about their user and then sell them to other companies or for their own marketing purposes. Mydol is no different. According to Midol’s privacy statement, they collect the following: Email address, nickname, gender, age, interests, date of birth, profile picture, IP Address, date of access, service log, cookie, and access log.
The company uses collected user information for the following purposes:
- to offer an undisturbed and smooth Service to users
- to aggregate statistical data regarding the Service
- to conduct research and analysis aimed at reviewing and improving Service.
- to draw winners for promotional events, courier gifts to those winners, and to deliver purchased products, etc.
- to notify users of any other important information regarding the Service and to contact users when necessary
- to provide information regarding the Service etc., as well as advertising information from our partner businesses
- to process claims related to purchased items and paid service
- to provide new future developments regarding the Service
Due to the amount of drama being created using this app, I recommend parents NOT ALLOW their child to have this app on their device. I am also concerned about the potential privacy issues.
Have a conversation with your teen about privacy and the importance to protect their personal information like their full name, date of birth, and phone number. Personal information, like the kind collected by Mydol, can be used to steal their identity. Companies like Mydol do not a good track record of securing their user’s information. They are often hacked. As far as I know, Mydol has not been hacked, but the fewer sites that have your private information, the better. Remember, when an app is free, it will cost you something – usually your precious personal information.