Why is the Marco Polo app dangerous?
The Marco Polo app is a video instant messaging app that encourages users to find their friends who already use the app by requesting access to the user’s phone contacts.
Watch this app guide as a video
Listen to our recent podcast episode about the Marco Polo App (and learn why it’s dangerous for your kids)
What is the Marco Polo app?
- Marco Polo is a video instant messaging app
- Users sign up with their name, phone number, and email address
- Marco Polo encourages users to find their friends who already use the app by requesting access to the user’s phone contacts
- The homepage is populated with rows of squares. Each square is a different contact or group of contacts that users can click and start a video chat
- When video chatting on the Marco Polo app, users can see their chat history and tap on old videos to rewatch them
- Any user in a group can watch any of the videos in the chat history, even if they weren’t the the person that created the video
- Users can filter their videos and filter their voice to a lower pitch, sound like a robot, or as if they inhaled helium
- Other features include drawing and adding text to videos
- Users can respond to messages right away, like a walkie talkie, or send a video reply when it’s convenient
Our main issue with the Marco Polo App:
- The Marco Polo App requires (at the time of this blog) access to all of your phone’s contacts.
- Once you upload your contacts to an app/company, then you can never get them back
- If you share your location with an app, you can revoke that later (and probably be safe). But with contacts, you can never get them back
- Some people say that it doesn’t actually share YOUR information when you share contacts, but actually it shares all of your friends and family’s info
- Once you have shared their info, an app can triangulate who you are by running it through systems to see what kind of a buyer you are, how affluent you are (and understand what city you live in)
- This is why we don’t like this app
The Marco Polo app in the news
Apps such as Kik Messenger and the Marco Polo Walkie Talkie apps, are popular and common avenues predators use to befriend their victims. –Daily Republic
[Sheriff] Morgan cautioned all parents to be wary of apps like Marco Polo, which teens can use to communicate with strangers. –CBS affiliate WKRG
Some users complain about Marco Polo spamming their contacts — the app does ask to access your contacts during the set up, but it apparently has texted some users contacts in the past. –Business Insider
One Reddit user pointed out that the app sent a bunch of text messages to all of their contacts. It also looks like there are some complaints on Twitter. And there are negative reviews in the App Store referring to spamming contacts. –TechCrunch
What users say about the Marco Polo app:
HORRIBLE APP – SPAMS YOUR CONTACTS MULTIPLE TIMES!
BEWARE! App will spam all of your contacts! –Dave P. on Common Sense Media
SPAMMED MY CONTACTS and SPOOFS PHONE #s
Even the ‘invite’ that used my granddaughter’s name to entice me to sign up, I realized too late, did not come from her phone number! Only after I downloaded the app, and it spammed my contacts with the same invite, did I notice this. I don’t like this at all! WHO is doing this? and WHY? –Faith B. on Common Sense Media
The app has an email bot that sends a message to those in your contacts (and without letting you know!) Now, I have to send a text to all my work colleagues to explain why I sent them a message with a link to a video. Very intrusive app! And highly unprofessional! –Esther L. on Common Sense Media
Why should parents care about the Marco Polo App?
- Private messaging apps can sometimes bring out the worst in teens because it feels more private than social media and doesn’t show up on their parents’ phone bills
- Please make sure you are on ALL of the apps that your students are using. Otherwise you will not know what they are encountering online
- Using the Marco Polo app can drain your student’s battery, make sure your student plans ahead and has a fully charged phone before leaving the house
- WARNING: Upon registration: To add users on the app, Marco Polo encourages users to: “Send your contacts to the server to connect you with friends.”
- Also to find friends it asks you to “Upload your address book to know which of your friends already have Marco Polo”
What can parents do to protect their kids from the dangers of the Marco Polo App?
- Ensure that your children have a firm understanding of what is appropriate to send in a video or chat message, even if it’s with their friends
- Remind your teen that their friends can screenshot their videos and post them to other social media channels
- If your teen is looking for a place to be silly with their friends, read our Parent App Guides to learn how your family can use Snapchat or Instagram in a safe and positive way
- Consider joining Parent University to get a digital road map for your family online. This strategy will protect your kids today (and protect their online identity for tomorrow)