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AVG Signal Blog Privacy Social Media Monkey Video Chat App: How Does It Work and Is It Safe?
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What is the Monkey app?

The Monkey app is a video chat and social networking app that randomly matches strangers for a 15-second face-to-face video call. A bit like FaceTime roulette with Snapchat-like features, users can also text chat with other users, add “moments” and songs to their profile, describe their mood, and create group conversations.

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    Created by teens, for teens, Monkey video chat describes itself as being like speed dating for friends. After pairing you with another user at random, the video chat starts as a 15-second face-to-face call to see if they “vibe with you.” If both users tap the Time button on the screen, the video chat will continue. Otherwise, they’re automatically reconnected to a new user for a new 15-second chat.

    Apps similar to Monkey include Omegle and Chatroulette, but Monkey differs in that it's specifically targeted at Gen Z users. Developed and launched by five Californian teens, Monkey combines social media features that teens know and love — such as filters, stories, and card swiping — alongside profile data including your username, age, gender, and location.

    The Monkey app video chat desktop interface where you can meet strangers face-to-face.

    How does the Monkey app work?

    To start using the Monkey app immediately, you can create a profile based on your Google or Facebook account. Monkey will automatically pull data such as your name, date of birth, gender, and location directly from your linked account. The video chat pairings are randomized, but Monkey’s algorithm connects people of a similar age and location and with similar interests.

    If you're familiar with social media apps and online chat platforms like Snapchat or FaceTime, you’ll instinctively know how to use the Monkey app, which is based on user profiles, a matching algorithm, and common chat features like direct messaging.

    After launching the Monkey app and hitting the Start Chat button, you’ll be automatically added to a video call with a complete stranger. The only info you’ll see is their gender, profile pic, username, age, and location.

    Monkey displays basic information about users for about 3 seconds before connecting webcams.

    Once the video chat begins, you have 15 seconds to decide what to do next. You can either request more time to chat, or you can tap the Next button to immediately end the chat and match with another person. If the 15 seconds expire without both users hitting the Time button, the call will end automatically.

    Participants can also add each other as a connection by tapping the Friend button. But to video call again, or move things to a text chat, you have to subscribe to Monkey Plus, which currently costs $13.99 a month or $6.99 a week. In addition to the direct message feature, Monkey Plus offers other perks such as letting you sort matches exclusively by your preferred gender or apply an LGBTQ filter.

    Some of the premium features available to Monkey subscription users, including gender and LGBTQ filters and direct text messaging.Monkey Plus enables gender or LGBTQ match filtering and direct message chats.

    Profiles and moments

    The free version of the Monkey app makes all the basic features like setting up a profile and posting “moments” available to all users. Like other social media apps, you can follow people to view their shared content and see how many other followers a person has.

    Profiles look similar to Instagram and include a bio under a profile picture, alongside sections noting interests and hobbies. By default, a profile will show the user's zodiac sign based on their date of birth, which cannot be changed once set. Users can also set a “mood,” and even choose a song that plays automatically when visiting their profile.

    The Monkey app's so-called “moments” are a Monkey app free feature that work like Instagram or TikTok stories where users can take a picture or video, edit it, and post it. But users’ moments are visible not only on their profiles but also in the search feature of the Monkey app, making this a potentially dangerous feature for people who overshare online.

    Duo video chat

    “Duo” is another Monkey video app feature, where pairs of friends or existing connections are matched with other pairs also using “duo.” These live, face-to-face calls come with all the pros and cons of video chatting with strangers, but they may be a less intimidating way to explore Monkey and meet new people.

    Knock Knocks: Text-based chatting

    The Monkey app’s “Knock Knock” feature offers text chat as an alternative to a monkey video call — but only with a premium subscription. You can see the details of the person you want to chat with, including their name, profile picture, location, and moments they have posted before sending a “Knock Knock” request to chat.

    “Knock Knock” chats expire after 24 hours unless each person adds the other as a friend before the time elapses. Even so, Monkey should not be considered a secure messaging app.

    Cards: User matching

    Cards are pictures of people in the surrounding area that users can swipe right or left on. If two users swipe right on each other’s cards, they will match. There is also a Super Like option that notifies the person that you want to talk. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it works just like the matching feature on dating apps like Tinder.

    So, is the Monkey app a dating app? Officially, the Monkey app is not classified as a dating app. But it has pulled common features from the dating app playbook such as swipe matching and finding local users. Other aspects make Monkey feel even more like a dating app, such as the fact that Monkey Plus users can specify the gender preference of profiles shown and can see who has liked them without having to run a match.

    Is the Monkey app monitored?

    The Monkey app claims to use AI machine learning to monitor and detect sexual content or activity that otherwise violates its policies. And Monkey also employs a 24/7 moderation team to review reports submitted by users and offer support via email.

    But the app also openly states in its Safety Center that "people are given the power" and that, to a large extent, Monkey is "self-governing." If a user is exposed to sexually explicit or inappropriate content, they are asked to tap or click the police emoji located in the top right corner of the person's screen to send a report for review by the moderation team.

    Users on the Monkey app can click a police icon to flag inappropriate content to the moderation team.The police emoji icon on the Monkey app.

    Despite Monkey’s safety policies, sexually explicit content on the app is commonplace. And unlike some iPhone and Android apps where you can optimize app permissions to help stay safe, with the Monkey app you have to take it or leave it.

    Is the Monkey app safe for kids?

    No, the Monkey app is not safe for kids. Due to lax age verification policies, privacy concerns, and persistent issues with harmful and sexual content, using the Monkey app will not keep your children safe online. The broad consensus among authoritative bodies around the globe is that kids should not use the Monkey app.

    • The UK-based Safer Schools safeguarding app released an alert calling Monkey “extremely dangerous.”

    • The US internet safety advocacy group Protect Young Eyes concluded that Monkey “is not safe for kids and should be avoided.”

    • The Washington Post reported that the Monkey app was inappropriate for teens due to sexual content targeting minors.

    We tested the app ourselves and were exposed to highly inappropriate sexual content within the first 30 seconds. Here’s a closer look at some of the foundational flaws that make Monkey’s online app so dangerous for kids:

    No age verification

    Monkey officially requires users to be at least 18 years old to use the app, but there is no age verification process in place. Although people are required to input their date of birth when signing up, there is nothing stopping a young child from entering a fake birthdate in order to access Monkey video chat.

    This lack of verification means that adults can also manipulate their profiles to make themselves appear much younger than they really are, and game the algorithm into matching them with young — potentially underage — users.

    Similar video apps that risk exposure to mature content can be filtered. For example, parents can let kids watch YouTube safely by adjusting parental controls either on the device or within the app itself. Monkey, however, has no such controls, and users cannot know what or who they will see when connecting.

    Limited privacy

    Monkey is a social network app centered around the sharing of personal information and the lowering of privacy barriers. Quite apart from the fact that you can’t use the app without giving it access to your camera and microphone, it also involves sharing other types of potentially sensitive information, including:

    • Personal information: Registering an account on Monkey requires you to give your name and date of birth, and provide a profile picture — although this can be an anonymous avatar.

    • Automatic information: Both the app and browser version of Monkey automatically pull information about your browser, IP address, and usage data.

    • User-generated content: Although not required, users are encouraged to share personal photos, videos, and screenshots with other users in the form of “moments.”

    Social media saturation has most people comfortable with sharing basic personal information online. But the automatic data collection of your IP address is used to display your location to other users. Listing your location as a large city, perhaps for anonymity or privacy reasons, is not possible, as Monkey pulls data from your internet connection and reveals your actual current physical location.

    The app further compromises user privacy because it cannot guarantee the protection of information against loss, misuse, or alteration. This lax approach to privacy and security exposes users to the risk of data breaches, and it could give hackers easy access to spy on you via a hacked webcam or infect your device with spyware.

    Harmful content

    The most shocking aspect of the Monkey app is the extremely high risk of being exposed to sexual and other inappropriate content. Despite Monkey’s content moderation claims, reviewers have found the platform awash with adverts for sex, as well as pornography, masturbation, and bestiality. Such harmful content often flashes up for a few seconds before disappearing, meaning in many cases there’s not even time to report the content violation.

    Does the Monkey app still exist?

    Monkey, the app, still exists, but only on Android and desktop platforms after the Monkey app for iOS was removed from the Apple App Store due to safety concerns. However, iPhone users can still access Monkey via their mobile web browser, meaning that the Monkey app remains available in the US and most other countries, and it can be used by essentially anyone, and on any device.

    Safeguard your personal data with a secure and private browser

    While you should be free to monkey around online as you please, you should never compromise your sensitive data when doing so. Whenever you’re online, use a secure, private browser.

    AVG Secure Browser establishes secure, encrypted connections to every website you visit, prevents browser fingerprinting and other tracking techniques, and automatically blocks phishing attempts and other security threats. Get free browser protection today.

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    Social Media
    Privacy
    Carly Burdova
    13-01-2023
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