PENSACOLA, FL (WKRG) — The Escambia County Sheriff has revealed an app that might have contributed to the disappearance and death of 12-year-old Naomi Jones.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Sheriff Morgan said the app “Marco Polo” was used by Jones to communicate with individuals that might be connected to her death by asphyxiation. The exchanges on Jones’ accounts were said to be sexual in nature.
Morgan cautioned all parents to be wary of apps like Marco Polo, which teens can use to communicate with strangers.
Marco Polo is described as a “video walkie-talkie app” that’s similar to Snapchat. Users can send and receive short videos — called “Polos” — with friends they add online.
TechCrunch noted that downloads of Marco Polo skyrocketed late last year, with young users propelling the app’s popularity.
The app doesn’t appear to have a track record of being used maliciously, but as with any communication-based application, it’s designed intent can often differ from how it’s used by it’s core users. As an example, Snapchat can be a fun, filter-themed messaging service for one person, but a sexting platform for the next.
Marco Polo has been available for several years, but only recently spiked in popularity. It has glowing reviews on the Apple App Store and Google Play, at four-and-a-half stars each.
Here’s the description from the Apple App Store:
Keep your friends close with Marco Polo.
HOW IT WORKS
1. You tap on the button and start talking
2. Your friend listens and responds right away, or waits until it’s convenient
3. You keep going and stay close!
** Feel close to those you love, no matter the distance
** Talk all you want, no limits
** Watch all you want, messages don’t disappear
** Look and feel awesome with fab filters
** Easy to use and easy on your data plan 🙂
KEEP IN TOUCH ON THE GO
** Sing happy birthday to your friend through the movie star filter
** Say “good night” to your bf with the night vision filter
** Send your friends a clip of your awesome vacation
** “Stretch out” a conversation if you’re busy or use it like a walkie-talkie for non-stop fun
** Stay connected wherever you are: in the subway, waiting in line, at a concert…
** Have a group conversation with your besties so everyone is kept in the lop