Facebook is a persuasive medium: a lot of people pay a lot of attention to what they read there.
That’s not surprising, because a lot of what you read on Facebook is shared or liked by your friends.
Unfortunately, that sometimes means that hoaxes spread extensively on Facebook, and are hard to extinguish when they get going.
A good example is the Talking Angela hoax, a security warning about a game for Android and iOS devices – a game that is probably best described as “mostly harmless,” but that has acquired a sinister, dangerous reputation on Facebook.
Simply put, the game features a cartoon cat called Angela, sitting at a pavement cafe in Paris.
She responds amusingly, if somewhat unconvincingly, to what you say.
If you turn on your camera, Angela will also use basic facial recognition to react to your gestures.
The game is obviously intended to appeal to children, and features a “child mode,” which is supposed to limit the sort of questions that the cat will ask.
About a year ago, this led to a widely-circulated Facebook hoax that claimed the game was deliberately (and secretively) acquiring information about your children, as good as implying that the game put your family at risk from child abusers:
WARNING FOR TO ALL PARENTS WITH CHILDREN THAT HAVE ANY ELECTRONIC DEVICES , EX : IPOD,TABLETS ETC .... THERE IS A SITE CALLED TALKING ANGELA , THIS SITE ASKS KIDS QUESTIONS LIKE : THERE NAMES , WHERE THEY GO TO SCHOOL AND ALSO TAKE PICTURES OF THEIR FACES BY PUSHING A HEART ON THE BOTTOM LEFT CORNER WITHOUT ANY NOTICES . PLEASE CHECK YOUR CHILDREN'S IPODS AND ALL TO MAKE SURE THEY DO NOT HAVE THIS APP !!! PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON TO YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS THAT HAVE KIDS !!!!
Lots of things about this warning scream, “Bogus!”
The use of ALL CAPS, the mis-spellings, the illiterate punctuation, and the almost casual inaccuracies – it talks about a “site” in one sentence and an “app” in the next – ought to have been enough to condemn this warning to the dustbin of history at once.
But there was just enough truth for people to pass it on anyway.
For example, the app used to have a heart-shaped button for taking pictures, though it was no more sinister than your phone’s regular camera app. (The bit about taking pictures “without any notices” was untrue, by the way.)
So this hoax reached a critical mass, as more and more people endorsed it, and their friends endorsed it in turn.
We wrote about this hoax almost exactly a year ago, in February 2013.
Well, the Talking Angela hoax is back, this time going well beyond merely implying that the game puts your family at risk:
I cant even in words say what I just found out.. I am SHOCKED and want to tell and let my friends and family be made aware so they can make sure their children are safe!!! Angelica stayed home from school today and thank GOD she did. Because she was on her ipod playing a game called talking angela, which is similar to talking tom, anyway as she is sitting next to me this interactive cat says to her hi angelica where is your brother?...
...So please if your KIDS use this app please shut it down. Because SOME KIDS told them the name of the school they went to and is now on red alert at the school, and please PASS this on to ALL your friends.
We’ve left out the bulk of the rant – it’s close to 600 rambling, repetitous words, despite claiming at the start that it didn’t have words to describe the situation.
It’s ill-written, and borders on being illiterate and incomprehensible.
Indeed, you ought to be able to see from the parts we’ve quoted above that this is not the sort of posting you should be using to inform yourself about online privacy.
Here’s why, in the form of three tips.
1. Stop. Think. Apply some critical reasoning.
Hoaxes can be well-written, and truth can be written badly.
But when everything about a written article screams, “Why would I believe this?” then, to ask an obvious question, why would you believe it?
Importantly, when an article makes very specific claims on behalf of other people, it should at least provide credible links that back the story up.
For example, in the 2014 version of this hoax, the author writes, “The police are saying take it off of your phone,” without backing up that claim at all – so if you pass on the hoax uncritically, you too are putting words in the mouths of the police.
In particular, be suspicious of endorsing computer security articles that make specific technical claims without giving technical specifics.
Even if the article turns out to be correct, you were taught at school to “show your working” for good reasons.
Reaching the right conclusion for the wrong reason is unhelpful, and gives you a false sense of your ability to solve similar security problems in future.
And reaching the wrong conclusion is, plainly and simply, wrong, and means you are likely to waste time trying to fix security problems that don’t exist at all.
2. Don’t forward hoaxes “just in case”.
Even when you know, or strongly suspect, that a story is untrue, it’s tempting to pass it on anyway, and to rely on the recipient making his or her mind up:
Whether or not it's a hoax it's good to share so people can be looking at what their kids are on all for a good cause right people.
But that’s simply not true.
Remember the boy who cried, “Wolf!” unnecessarily, until his fellow villagers simply wouldn’t believe him any more?
When a real wolf showed up, they ignored him.
3. Remember that security is a journey, not a destination.
The attractive thing about the Talking Angela hoax is that it promises an easy fix, at least to the millions of people who have the app installed: simply remove it.
But the hoax doesn’t offer any additional advice, or call for any general sort of vigilance to protect your children online.
For example, the makers of the Talking Angela app have numerous similar apps featuring other characters such as Santa, Pierre the Parrot and Ben the Dog – yet the hoax fails to mention them at all.
And if you’re worried about your children being exposed to apps that can take photos, or upload personal information to Facebook, shouldn’t you be worrying about what your children get up to with the regular Camera app, or the built-in browser?
There’s a great comment, posted on our previous article about this hoax, that we thought worth repeating here:
Check out the app for yourself and if anything doesn't sit well, don't let the kids at it. It's called parenting and more people need to try it.
For further information
- Join us on our Naked Security from Sophos Facebook page, where more than 200,000 people regularly share information on the latest security issues.
- Sign up for the daily Naked Security email newsletter. (Just the newsletter – we won’t spam you!)
- Read our Top Ten Tips to keep children safer online.
61 comments on “The “Talking Angela” chain letter: Three tips to help you avoid Facebook hoaxes”
The better question is, why do you even let kids have these devices? I mean if you’re worried about apps doing that why even give them a device like that in the first place?
LOL I SAID THE SAME THING!!!
scary for kids
They are correct. Talking Angela does kidnap kids. They have been kidnapped after playing this game. I got this app when I was 9 she asked me my name and what school I go to. I looked it up to make sure it was true and when I looked it up, it was true. After looking, I deleted it. For you child’s safety delete this app now!!! Everyone was killed, please if you have this app, please shut it down. Angela is asking kids personal questions. She takes pictures of you. Make sure you block your camera. In her eyes, you can see a office with a man in there taking photos of you with a camera. Delete this app!!!! If anyone have kids tell them not to download to this app if you don’t delete it you’ll be next. Be careful!!!! Take this app off your phone. It will find out where you live and your name. Take off all talking apps. Parents tell your child to take it off. Your child can get kidnapped. He has kidnapped many kids who have played this app. Bye!!!!
what is this shitstorm of a comment
So taking into consideration of all that, Outfit 7 just slaps a hideous colored dress on her and then calls it a day? Her not wearing clothes was not the issue, yet the camera feature still exists?
I know this is a five year old article, but take notice that point one calls out rant posts for being poorly written, then points two and three contradict each other. Whoever (poorly) wrote this also never gets into the actual app very much. And I thought I was done with transparencies in high school.
Points two and three don’t contradict each other at all. (‘Don’t forward hoaxes’ doesn’t contradict ‘security requires ongoing effort’, and I’m stating that as a simple fact, not an opinion.)
Anyway, as I’m sure you’re aware, what we mean (OK, what *I* mean, because I wrote the article) by saying the rant is “poorly written” is that it is a grammatical mess, improperly littered with capital letters, makes no effort to spell words correctly, makes claims that are obviously untrue, and more. When I described it as “ill-written, and border[ing] on being illiterate and incomprehensible,” I was, once again, making a statement rather than stating an opinion.
First of all, it sounds like you get a cut of the money and are butt hurt because people won’t play these games. Second, its up to the parents what games they do and don’t play. Yes after talking to a cop this could happen and does all the time. Why do you care if it is a hoax or not is the better question. Why mislead people? Why do you care if kids stop playing these games? why no point out some more obvious hoaxes than bring this one up on your list. I think this is a scam to exploit facebook. good luck with that!
I agree that it is the parent’s job to know what the kid is playing and all of that junk, but is it also a parent’s job, hell a kid’s job to just randomly post something saying stuff that’s completed made up in general? Also a hoax is a hoax, if the hoax is obvious, then no point in exploiting it, people may be stupid at times, but they aren’t so stupid that they would believe in something that’s obviously a hoax that needs no explanation
why don’t the creators just shut down the app and never put it on the App Store again
If I started a dishonest rumour that you were actually an evil hacker, and a big fuss broke out as a result, would YOU volunteer to stay off the internet forever (even if it meant losing your job), just to make the rumour go away?
this is not a fake! the only reason why i am on this website is because, the talking angela we deleted is, to find. why does talking Angela keep re downloading itself. we have not found anything about this so far, and we are still looking. But we are 100% this app is trying to track this child down. maybe this person should mention some other apps, but this is certainly not a fake.
Please provide the legitimate, non satyrical articles that support your claims of this happening ‘all the time’. There are millions of users, yet not a single true legitimate report of your claims exist.
I’m a mom, and my daughter plays ‘My Talking Tom’, a similar app made by the people that did ‘Talking Angela’. If you actually knew and played the apps, you’d realize what an idiot you’re being.
Why it matters? Oh, just the reputation of a company, and their jobs getting put at stake comes to mind.
The article never claims they “care if you remove the app”, and are only explaining the hoax and why it’s obvious. There would be a massive investigation if even one of these claims were true. No news on that either?!?!
Your ignorance is showing. Anyone with even the smallest amount of logic and problem solving would do some research before spreading crap, spewing crap, and to allow it to be passed as fact? Ugh….
Actually, a question like that could be considered an attempt to bias people towards your own beliefs, in this scenario the idea that children should not have electronic devices. The better version of this question would be “If the parents are suspicious of the apps their children install and use on electronic devices, why do they allow their children to have those devices?” Even then, the logic behind the question is obviously impaired, solely because parents and guardians have the ability to restrict the amount of time children use these devices, and can have devices set up to where you must have a password to install apps. Which would mean that in order to install said app, the child must have parental permission, making the installation the parents fault. Of course, you would have already figured this out if you had payed attention to the article.
The law needs to arrest them there lowering are kids in to negative things I’m talking about talking Angela and talking Tom and she a low life and him there belifs is unsafe to are kids and the world
Safest way to avoid getting caught out is – Don’t be on Facebook! Or Twitter. Or Flickr. Or …. Use your time better by talking to your friends face to face. Especially if they are in the same room!
Secondly, engage brain before using your device. Think first and be highly sceptical of everything you read on any web site or any web page as enough of it is untrue or downright dangerously wrong to be a serious risk in several ways.
If you don’t know the sender it is probably at least spam but could easily be malicious. If you do know the sender but it’s come indirectly from them, through Facebook for example, be sceptical again. Was it really sent by them?
Now what’s wrong about Flickr???
The problem with talking to my friends face to face is that I can’t afford the airfare! 😛
Besides, the 18 hour flights really blow!
You need to use Facebook or Twitter to communicate online? Get educated fool!
I thing the best solution is not to make your children ignorant to these types of situations but rather educate them on how to deal with them when they occur. I’m not saying you should tell your children about all the bad things in the world but just that unless your children are so young that they never leave your side it’s very hard to police when and where they can gain access to the net e.g. school, the local library, a friends house etc. At least if they are online at home you can monitor the types of sites they visit and teach them how to react if they are approached. Just my thoughts 🙂
This is the most freakiest, unappropriate, spookiest and alarming app i have ever used. I takes videos of u, ur surrounding in. Order to build a coversation. This app is dangerous.
its so scary my kid nearly gave our address away
When you say, “It’s scary,” do you mean were scared by the app, or by the fact that your child nearly revealed your address online?
As far as we can tell, revealing your address to this app does not result it in going any further, whatever you may have read elsewhere.
But lots of other sites and apps *do* ask your address so they can collect it for commercial purposes, so you should be teaching your child about revealing personal information: he or she won’t be protected just by blaming this app. (See point three above.)
I urge you to read the last link in the article above, our Top Ten Tips to keep children safer online:
THIS WAS NOT IN ALL CAPS when I saw it so what have you to say???
“I cant even in words say what I just found out.. I am SHOCKED and want to tell and let my friends and family be made aware so they can make sure their children are safe!!! Angelica stayed home from school today and thank GOD she did. Because she was on her ipod playing a game called talking angela, …[comment shortened; continues with the same text that is shown and quoted in the article above]…”
I have this to say: I think you need to read the article more carefully.
Thank you! At least we have one person with a brain here.
My friends at school say say it’s real but I’m just really scared I don’t know who to believe is it true or a hoax my friends say it is true but I looked all over the internet and it says its a hoax- confused
I think this probably states why this is a dangerous app when you download the app this is what your agreeing to when you install it on your phone
1-WHY? DO THEY NEED TO MONITOR RECORD AND PROCESS YOUR PHONE CALLS
2-WHY? DO THEY WANT TO MONITOR YOUR PHYSICAL LOCATION
3 :WHY? DO THEY NEED ACCESS TO HARDWARE ON YOUR PHONE SET
1. The app has a mode where it repeats what it hears so it needs microphone access. And most mobile apps need to access your phone ID for analytics and ads.
2. They do not monitor your physical location.
3. I’ll let you figure it out yourself – hint: a phone is a piece of hardware and an app needs access to it in order to work 😉
When the phone asks for permissions you CAN deny them. While I haven’t personally used this app, most apps like it ask for hardware permissions to use your microphone (because it mimics you)
Did you install Talking Angela from the Play Store, or did you get it from an “off-market” site?
As far as I can see, the version I installed from the Play Store did not acquire permission to monitor and record phone calls, and it did not acquire access to my location data.
The app *did* acquire access to the microphone and the camera, but the reason why is obvious from the app’s own description: if you aren’t willing to accept apps that can record or take pictures…don’t install it.
(I’m not judging whether it’s good or bad to allow an app to access to your microphone and camera, I’m just pointing out that this app makes it pretty clear in advance that it will use both of those pieces of hardware, so it’s not exactly a sneaky surprise when it does, and the answer to your question “WHY DO THEY NEED ACCESS TO HARDWARE ON YOUR PHONE” ought to be obvious.)
What’s scary is that your child almost gave the address away. Not the app.
its not true, look on app store reviews
I feel sorry for you
Do you let your children use Facebook? It actively encourages you to upload and share photos in order to build a permanent social network with people around the world.
The problem with blindly saying “this app is dangerous” with no evidence is that you might be focusing your security and privacy concerns on something specific that won’t do you any harm, thus wasting valuable time, instead of dealing with security and privacy in general.
(The age limit for Facebook and Talking Angela are the same, 13, a limit that is surely more honoured in the breach than in the observance – in both the original and the modern meaning of that saying 🙂
It does not… research!!!
I agree! I do not like this app and who knows, maybe the weirdos creating this articles are from the company! Just so the parents still allow their children to use it!! If I hear one bad thing especially when it comes to pedophiles I delete it! I will not take the chance and wait until I see something bad happen and then it be to late. All they need is one picture and there happy! I deleted all of the talking apps, even talking tom I will not take the chance!!!!
There are pedophiles in the internet!!!!!!!! Sorry, but now you have to delete the internet.
Inappropriate, you, your, surroundings, conversation.
Seeing as you have used the app, you’re probably about 10, and you should probably read the article before commenting.
Now that I’ve said about spelling, there’s a 100% chance I did something wrong.
You people are so gullable.
I know right? Talking Angela bit my head off. Now I’m scared…& headless.
“”But that’s simply not true.
Remember the boy who cried, “Wolf!” unnecessarily, until his fellow villagers simply wouldn’t believe him any more?
When a real wolf showed up, they ignored him.”
Who said anyone was trying to make up a story? Because of people freaking out you think they’re delirious and are making it up themselves? If there’s anything to ask about this app it should be ‘How did this so-called story come about in the first place?’ Not everyone posts random alerts just for the hell of it. (Though the ones who do needs a life)
I honestly feel nuetral about the situation because children are using these devices when they should be doing other things accrodingly to their time such as schoolwork or they’re doing something inappropiate themselves to let it get to a point like this.
And if I was a parent I know for sure I would be concerened about what is being said between Talking Angela, Tom or whoever
But then again you guys should really do your research, like you were taught in school. I know majority of you that have tried this game may not have read the full terms and conditions of the app itself explaining what it does and does not do.
And unless you are the accurate founder of the app, then I’ll believe.
Why are people giving kids unfettered access to phones?
Tell me: do kids really need a “smartphone”? Should young children have a live ‘net connection in their room, unsupervised? Should children be let on the net unsupervised or uneducated?
You wont get my business anymore…. i would say this is a hoax to sell more crap.
You would call yourself a pedophile to sell more? Are you sure?
Why is The App Still In The App Store Then?
People it is a hoax and that is y it is in the App Store but if u think it is unsafe then don’t download it
I guess we are all just looking at a little bit of a Frankenstein complex here …
Everyone on instagram and twitter says this so I posted every article i could find. Jeez people are STUPID!
Everyone is wrong who thinks it is hacked. The creators said it’s physically impossible because there are a ton of other talking friends apps and the creators said they’re not hacked. STUPID PEOPLE!!!!!
Im sorry but that crazy cat said that my head would fit nicely above its fireplace. so um yea I think ill be reporting it. oh and if you have the app type in “illumante” and your flash will go off…. do you wanna know what it did? it takes a photo of you.
It’s as if you didn’t read the blog post by Sophos at all.
you just need common sense and critical thinking for this. which most people obviously don’t have
“Common sense is not so common” – Voltaire
I think it was a fake warning.
This is all correct,,, anyone who said is wrong wants to get killed, go ahead and install it because it’s creepy talking Angela kidnaps and kills kids.
Thank you Paul. My 8 year old son came across this hoax recently, discussed it with a clasdmate who’d also heard it and then scared himself watching a youtube video on it.
I used your article, and another naked security article on the hoax, to discuss with him hoaxes in general, how to identify them, the need to avoid passing them on, etc. Obviously he asked about the meaning of many of your words and phrases but that’s just additional education. Your article gave a good logical framework to discuss all this with him, I just hope he apples it in future.
Whether Lincoln said it or not “You Can fool all of the people Some of the time and Some of the people All of the time, but you cannot fool All of the people All of the time” not that it will prevent Some of the people from trying.
Best couple ever