What parents need to know about private photo calculator apps

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What parents need to know about private photo calculator apps

April 21, 2021
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Table of Contents

There are now hundreds of apps that allow students to hide inappropriate photos behind an innocent-looking calculator app. These private photo calculator apps are popular because they help a student hide their behavior from their parents or teachers under the disguise of a useful tool. These apps are often hiding sexting photos and other inappropriate images/videos.

How do calculator vault apps work?

  • The icons of calculator vault apps often look similar to actual calculator apps when they open and adults may not know what the full extent of the app is until they research it for themselves
  • When you open the app it looks like a regular calculator
  • To access secret photos in the calculator vault, you often need to type a secret code such as:  “.” (period) then a 4 digit passcode, and then a “.” (period) again
  • Many of the apps ask for permission to use the phone’s camera to take pictures directly in the app or to access the photos on the phone to “hide” them from the device’s photo folder
  • Many of the apps offer sharing options to text or email from the app

Live Demonstration - How one of the calculator apps works

What should parents know about private photo calculator apps?

  • Calculator secrecy apps are still extremely popular despite many being removed from the Apple Store and Google Play for various reasons
  • Many of these apps help users hide sexting, inappropriate images, or cheating photos
  • When students feel like they can hide their behavior they tend to act negatively
  • Many of the apps will report any attempts to try and access the app, so secretly trying to access your student’s vault won’t be secret from your student for long

Why do students like secret calculator apps?

  • These apps are popular because they help a student to hide their behavior from their parents or teachers
  • Students might justify the app to adults because they need a calculator with scientific or graphing capabilities for their classes; however, these vault calculators do not provide those options

What are some of the calculator vault/secrecy apps?

A search for “calculator” + “secret” or “vault” in the Apple App Store or Google Play results in no shortage of apps designed to look like a calculator to hide photos and information on a phone. Some examples of deceptive calculator apps include: 

Calculator-Photo Vault & Video Vault hide photos

Private Photo Calculator App icons
Example app icons

Calculator Vault: App Hider-Hide Apps

Secret Calculator Vault-Hide Photos

  • Apple App Store: 4+
  • Google Play: Not currently available
  • Developer: Pravin Gondaliya (No location or company information available)
  • Privacy Policy: None provided

Privacy Calculator

  • Apple App Store: Not currently available
  • Google Play: E (Everyone)
  • Developer: iDailyApps4Fun (No company information available) 
  • Privacy Policy

Privault-Hide Private Photo.s HiCalculator

  • Apple App Store: 4+
  • Google Play: Not currently available
  • Developer: Binspir Technologies Co., Ltd. (No company information available)
  • Privacy Policy (Not available, Apple says” the developer will be required to provide privacy details when they submit their next update.”)

Calculator# Hide Photos Videos

  • Apple App Store: 17+
  • Google Play: 
  • Developer: NewSoftwares.net (No company information available)
  • Privacy Policy

Private photo calculator apps in the news:

NBC San Diego headline: 11 Lesser-Known apps that experts say could expose your child to sex trafficking
The fact of the matter is, if parents and others are only looking for suspicious activity on those most popular apps, then they are likely already behind. NBC 11 San Diego
WIVB 4 headline: Local experts warn of fake calculator app, allowing children to hide photos, videos
It usually means if they’re trying to hide something, that there’s something wrong with what they’re trying to hide. WTVB 4
9 to 5 mac headline: Photo-hiding app disguises as calculator disappears from app store following police investigation
[P]olice are investigating an undisclosed case where the [calculator vault] app was used. The app has seemingly disappeared from the App Store, likely pulled by Apple. 9to5Mac

What can parents do?

  • Ask your student if they, or their friends, are using private photo calculator apps and why they feel the need to hide their activity
  • Talk with your student about appropriate photos to take on their devices and what is not appropriate to share with others or what to do if someone sends them an inappropriate photo
  • Remind your student that anything sent via text, email, or social media can be shared beyond the people they think they are sending it to
  • Ensure your student that they can always come to you, or another trusted adult, if they are asked for inappropriate pictures from friends, or strangers, especially if they are being blackmailed or told not to tell anyone
  • If students need upgraded calculator settings, explore the options in the app stores together to pick the best solution and talk with your students’ math teachers about what is needed

How to check if private photo calculator apps are on your student's device:

  • Check your student’s Apple App Store for the history of apps that have been downloaded on the account
  • In the Apple App Store: type in “secret” or “calculator” or “vault”
  • If it says “open” next to the app, your student has this app installed now
  • If it says “get” next to the app, your student has not downloaded this app
  • The cloud logo next to the app means your student downloaded the app at some point, but it is not currently on the device
  • Check your student’s Google Play history to see what apps have been downloaded on the account:
  • Open Google Play, tap the three lines at the top right and select “My apps & games”
  • Tap “Library” to see all the apps that have ever been downloaded from the Google Play Store (Note: students may know they can permanently delete the history of downloads on Google Play, so this is not a tell-all check)
  • If you find calculator vault apps on your student’s device: talk with your student about why they want the app and how they use it and help them delete it
  • Help your student develop an interest in photography by taking positive photos to focus their attention towards shining online

Private photo calculator apps are designed to help users be sneaky and hide photos, videos, messages, or other files on their smart devices. Parents must be aware of apps like these that appear to be useful tools but have mischievous functions.

SmartSocial recommends always starting with a conversation with your students about these types of apps, but sometimes the only way to truly know what an app does is to look it up in the app stores and read the full app descriptions.

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