By Tim Hardiman, American Military University
In January, 13-year-old Nicole Madison Lovell was kidnapped and killed, allegedly by an 18-year-old man she met through an anonymous messaging application, Kik Messenger. Kik allows users to communicate with strangers and does not require a phone number, email address or other identifiable information. According to its website, Kik is used by more than 40 percent of U.S. teens and young adults to exchange text messages, photos and videos.
The app launched in 2009 and was designed to allow users to communicate without using their cellphone data plans. While Kik does maintain some subscriber data, that data is unverified so there is no way to know if it is accurate. Kik retains transcripts of messages for only a very short period of time, which has made it very attractive to predators because police and investigators cannot access conversation records from the company’s servers. Police can only access conversations if they have not been removed from a suspect or victim’s device.
The murder of Lovell is just one example of the dangers of social media and how criminals are using legitimate social media apps for their own nefarious purposes. It is extremely challenging for law enforcement officers to stay up to date with new social media apps and how they’re being used by criminals.
To help law enforcement learn more about Kik, the company’s Law Enforcement Operations Team is hosting a webinar on Thursday, March 17, at 1000 ET. To register for this webinar, send an email to: email@example.com.
Training on the Dangers of Social Media
While training on specific apps is important, law enforcement officers must have a broad understanding of the dangers of social media apps and how they’re being used by young people. Last year, American Military University (AMU) presented a webinar in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). This webinar included information on some of the dangers of social media apps including self-destructing and secret apps like Burn Note, Poof and SnapChat, which allow people to communicate covertly and encourage risky sharing like sexting. The webinar also included information on GPS- and location-based apps, which disclose a person’s location and connect individuals who are geographically close to each other.
To learn more about such apps and techniques for investigating social media accounts, you can visit AMU’s Law Enforcement and Social Media Resource Guide (for access to the Law Enforcement Sensitive tab, please email Jim at JDeater@apus.edu from your agency email account). You can also access AMU’s archived webinar on Advanced Social Media and Cellphone Investigation Techniques. To be notified when AMU announces new law enforcement webinars, please complete the webinar notification form.
About the Author: Timothy Hardiman is a 23-year veteran of the NYPD. He retired as an Inspector, serving as the Commanding Officer of the 47th Precinct in the Bronx. Hardiman has extensive investigative experience having served as the Commanding Officer of the 71 St. Detective Squad in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Special Victims Squad. He continues to write and lecture on sexual assault investigative techniques.