OPINION: Omegle website provides dangerous and and inappropriate content for developing minds

Ever since around 2009, Omegle has been something of an internet cockroach: it just won’t die. The site is disturbing and a serious concern.

Omegle is a free website that offers online video or instant message chatting with strangers, but there is no registration or identification stipulation. Despite the minimum age requirement of 13 and the expectation that users under 18 will have parental supervision, these terms are easily avoided.

“Talk to strangers” is the headline for the homepage, and the site expands its description to include the words, “Predators have been known to use Omegle.”

Despite the warnings, some users may be unable to grasp the meaning of “predators” and continue to use the website, posing a threat to the unsuspecting users who visit Omegle for entertainment purposes. Some may experience bullying and be exposed to inappropriate content. Some users hope to spark a friendly conversation, or find a way to pass time but may encounter inappropriate content while using Omegle. Sexual content is dangerous to minors. Further, users can disclose personal information to whom they are talking, unaware of how the recipient may abuse it.

Police have warned users that predators are extorting minors to take explicit pictures, threatening to release the content of conversations they have had online to other social media, or to family members. Investigative officers across America in 2016 have seen multiple cases of this form of sextortion and have discovered child pornography, images of bestiality and live sexual acts in video chats. There are no precautions Omegle can take to prevent this kind of information being exchanged and abused, allowing it to become a danger for all users.

Additionally, younger or more gullible users are easily convinced to reveal their identities. Despite being comfortable with someone on Omegle, there is no true confirmation that any information exchanged will remain confidential.

Security researcher Indrajeet Bhuuan has claimed that Omegle’s servers – which supposedly protects the anonymity of its users – are in fact storing all conversations exchanged through the website. He proved this by writing a very simple piece of software that automatically downloaded all the saved screenshots. He called it “Omegle-Chat-Hack,” showing the site is indeed hackable.

Omegle also records and stores all user data.d. The site states that records are “typically stored for approximately 120 days.” Their use of the word “typically” means that conversations can remain stored indefinitely. Therefore, any personal information revealed in conversations is saved and accessible. Limiting personal information shared through the internet is a vital practice for internet safety.

People may argue that Omegle is a creative outlet for users who like to recreationally chat with strangers while remaining anonymous. If this is the case, they should use much safer websites, like InstaChatrooms and Chatrandom, that decrease the risks of Omegle.

Many consequences accompany the use of Omegle, and users need to be reminded that it is not all fun and games. The reality is that predators use Omegle, personal data and anonymous conversations are not secure, and Omegle is generally unsafe.