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Parents, Look Out for Curious Cat

Here we go again. Another app lying to users. 

There is yet another anonymous question asking/confession social media app floating around the internet claiming they’ve solved the bullying (and suicides) that plague older confessional apps like Ask.fm, this one borrows it’s name from the ever-popular cat movement online: Curious Cat.

It’s not brand new as it launched in April 2016, and I rarely talk about apps this small, in the 1 million user range with what looks like a staff of two, but I’m starting to see this one take off and I’m concerned that it’ll cause damage among early and middle adolescents. (Younger teens, 5th-9th grades especially)

Here’s What It Is

It’s actually not an app as of right now. It’s a very mobile-friendly website, meaning kids could use it without having to go through the process of adding an app from the App Store or Google Play.

The app allows people to create an anonymous account, signed on through Facebook or Twitter (so again, if you’re monitoring their email you’ll never see this account created), that lets them make connections with other anonymous people whom they can ask questions, answer questions, make confessions, comment on, or live chat with– all under the cloud of anonymity.

Curious Cat Login
Here’s the login screen where it all starts. Create an account with Twitter or Facebook and you’re in.
Curious Cat Terms of Service
They try to walk back from accusations of bullying or other abusive possibilities with a strong terms of service. Unfortunately, they simple have no way to scale monitoring abuse or bullying.
Curious Cat Profile
This is your profile page. You’ll notice it pulls in my icon and background from Twitter, but you can easily change that.
Curious Cat Profile with Question
Here’s my public profile with a public, non-anonymous question.
Curious Cat Questions and Replies
Here are the two questions I posted. Notice the anonymous one doesn’t point back to me or show up on my profile.
Curious Cat Anonymous Chat Link
Users can create an anonymous chat room and invite people to that. This is really, really dangerous online behavior.
Curious Cat Anonymous Chat
Users have the option of going into live chat with their profile or anonymously, again this is very dangerous online behavior for children and teenagers, who simply cannot handle this developmentally.
Curious Cat Popular Discussions
This is a feed of the most popular “public” discussions in the United States.
Curious Cat Live Feed By Country
Here’s a list of anonymous posts sorted by newness and country.

Here Are the Lies

Lie #1 – There’s no such thing as anonymity online, only perceived anonymity

This should be obvious. If you create an account with your Facebook or Twitter profile, you’re only feeling anonymous.

You aren’t anonymous to other users. Your Curious Cat profile points directly back to your Twitter or Facebook account. Curious Cat is very sloppy about hiding your social media profiles when a post is marked as “anonymous” as it took me 3 clicks to go from an anonymous posting to someone’s actual Twitter account.

And you aren’t anonymous to the website in a number of ways. There’s obvious ones, like they can link your account directly back to Facebook or Twitter. But, of course, they are also using your session information to track you IP address, hardware MAC address, geolocation, and a whole host of other stuff.

Lie #2 – Perceived anonymity is your friend, in fact it’s destructive

Curious Cat’s questions prompt further questions in turn, like whether trolling and online confession are two sides of the same coin. Sites like Curious Cat let us sabotage our virtual identities in the name of intimacy, as if in a bid to admit they’re a construction. But even this confession might itself be just an act. We might not be comparing ourselves to others: we might be comparing ourselves to ourselves.

Why do “anonymous ask” apps keep coming back?

Over and over again we’ve seen the allure of anonymity devastate people, particularly younger teens who aren’t ready for it developmentally. Whether it’s the spontaneous indiscretion of sending a nude on Snapchat or asking a bunch of strangers what they think about you based only on your profile picture on Curious Cat, the impact of these things hurts. For younger adolescents who are trying to sort out their identity these things have proven over and over again to be destructive.

Adults blow this off, as if someone telling you that they think you are ugly or your genitals aren’t sexy enough for them has no emotional impact. But over and over again I’ve talked to teenagers who just can’t quite shake the negative things that have done or have happened to them online under the veil of anonymity. An anonymous negative comment hurts them as much if not worse than one from a trusted friend.

Here’s What to Do

I’m having a hard time identifying any innocent use or even some function or  utility for Curious Cat. (Unlike Snapchat, whose behavior is now largely benign where the utility often outweighs residual negatives from starting as a sexting app.) Curious Cat just seems to me to be another attempt at an old concept… asking people “anonymously” what they think of you.

The upsides are minimal but the downsides are huge. Again, particularly for younger users.

Parents, ask your kids if they’ve heard of any new anonymous apps. Don’t name this one… you don’t want to make it more popular or create a self-fulfilling prophesy. Rather than introduce the app, talk about some reasons why they wouldn’t want to chat or share photos or ask questions anonymously. Chances are very, very high that people aren’t who they say they are!

If you find out that your child is using Curious Cat, I would encourage you to have a conversation about why they are using it, how they discovered it, what they like about it, etc.

Then decide whether or not to continue using the app together. Nothing will make it popular quite like simply banning it. It’s better to talk about it.

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

5 replies on “Parents, Look Out for Curious Cat”

How did you actually go from an anon comment to their actual profile? Like what were the steps because from what I can see and tried it doesn’t work that way.

It depends. They said that the account you have with them can point back to it, but if the other person never made such an account with them, it has nothing to point back to. Other than that, I have no clue.

Hi as of now my friend got bullied because of curious cat i’d like to ask help how can we identified whose behind of it plsss we dont know what to do ..im searching on how we will track that person until i saw this and i think you can help us plss reply

You’re neglecting that it’s anonymous to people who click on a link and don’t register for an account. When you make an account there, based on registering through the limited options of Facebook and Twitter, that’s where their own users are the ones at risk. You can’t neglect the fact if they use this service through Facebook or Twitter that anyone else can naturally ask mean questions or make other harmful comments and continue any terrible activity behind a VPN or other ways to remain anonymous, meaning people who didn’t bother to make an account won’t likely get caught.

I just don’t trust a service that requires you to login with an account you made through another website, it suggests they have your username (possibly e-mail) and your private password you may use for other services, so their design is to steal personal information based on other websites being popular. It’s very suspicious and borders the concept of asking similar login information (what’s your mother’s maiden name, your pet’s name, street you grew up on, favorite movie, your childhood hero, first car you bought, etc.) and is clearly designed to sell personal information to companies.

The original reason for password security was designed to ask personal information; date of birth, social security number, address and phone number but it changed over the years because it no longer became about you as a person or your private information, it became about what you buy. When they ask about your pet’s name, they sell your information to pet companies and the name might suggest you own a specific animal and you might get strange ads on your browser or get a ton of e-mails from people you never heard of. Even when they ask about the street you grew up on, they find any local businesses near those streets to assume you might buy items from places who have an address similar, it’s the reason why these companies make money.

My honest opinion of this company is that, while I don’t support negative activity where it could be hateful or insulting, this company has no reason to exist based on the obvious fact that through Facebook or Twitter the user can simply make a comment or ask any questions and receive a reply. I think Facebook and Twitter can eliminate it by adding any question feature, or a poll like how Twitter already has, or other features with their service that already exists. This is a company clearly designed to collect information from users of other services and does it for all the wrong reasons (obviously by collecting personal information for the means to sell it) and piggybacks on the concept of Facebook and Twitter being successful, so DO NOT TRUST that website at all.

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