Is the Ten Ten “walkie-talkie” app as dangerous as many say? What it is, how it works and the risks

Several French (and also Italian) media are raising major concerns towards Ten Tenan app that “transforms” your smartphone into a walkie-talkiedeveloped by someone of the same name French startup over a year ago, allowing you to receive audio messages in real time, even at night and even when your phone is locked. Among the reasons that have fomented the fears of parents and institutions towards this application, in addition to the fact that it is becoming very popular among very young people in France, there is the fact that it also works in the background and consequently requires providing many permissions to be used, with potential risks to users' privacy and security. Jule Comarco-founder and CEO of Ten Ten, in a written interview with TechCrunch said there is nothing dangerous about the app. Let's analyze the situation better and try to clarify the matter.

What is the Ten Ten “walkie-talkie” app and how does it work

Ten Ten is an app for Android and iOS that allows you to send audio to contacts whose identification number (ID) you know and receive audio from people to whom you have given your ID. The peculiarity is that the voice messages arrive – even with the phone locked – directly as audio reproduced by the smartphone speakers, as if the latter were a walkie-talkie. After registering by providing your phone number and granting the necessary permissions (mainly access to the microphone and contact book, sending notifications and use in the background), the app will identify the people who own the app among the contacts in the phone book , with which you can exchange audio messages. Just press and hold an on-screen button and your phone will capture the audio, sending it to the recipient. The app has gone viral, especially on TikTokbecause its “invasiveness” lends itself to playing pranks on friends and family.

Because many are worried about kids using the Ten Ten app

Let's start from this point: why are many concerned about the Ten Ten app? Basically the problems that many raise concern the fact that the app works in the background (therefore even when it is not running in the foreground and even when the device is blocked) and requires various permissions to be used (including personal informations, device ID, contacts And Photo and video), as visible in the following screenshot.

Permissions requested by Ten Ten. Credit: Google Play Store.

In light of all this, then, why has Ten Ten caused so much concern and why now, considering the fact that it has been around for more than a year? One of the reasons is probably to be found in the fact that in recent weeks the app has “exploded” in terms of downloads and, in some cases, reports have been harassment problems for some users they had released the ID of their Ten Ten account on social media (a special code needed to contact another person via the app). According to data communicated by Ten Ten to the French newspaper Le Mondeas things stand now the app matters 6 million active users per month and, for several days, it has been in France the most downloaded app on Google's Play Store and Apple's App Store. This popularity has catalyzed the attention of the French media on Ten Ten, also attracting the attention of people within the ranks of the government, such as the spokesperson of the Ministry of the Interior Camille Chaizewho wrote the following about the use of Ten Ten on X:

A new application that is very popular in #colleges and #high schools: #TenTen. By transforming #phones into walkie-talkies, it allows #teenagers to communicate live via audio messages, even when the phone is blocked. Behind the fun, there are serious dangers to online privacy and security.

Is the Ten Ten app really unsafe?

Are these elements enough to argue that the app is unsafe? Not necessarily, given that most of the apps that many of us use every day – such as those of the main social networks, instant messaging platforms or many weather forecast apps – require equally important permissions to function (access to the microphone and camera, location of the device and so on), as well as operation in the background (at least in certain cases).

Another consideration concerns the intended use of Ten Ten. Since the app's declared aim is to transform the mobile phone into a walkie-talkie, it is practically a must that it runs in the background and requires access to certain permissions. The matter would be decidedly different if we were talking about a “Calculator” app that required access to the location or contact list to carry out its task.

Regarding the question regarding what data Ten Ten collects Jule Comarco-founder of the startup that develops the app, explained:

The application does not collect more data than other apps and even less location data. Like most applications, the only data collected is usage data, with the aim of continuously improving the application.

Furthermore, on the page dedicated to Ten Ten's privacy policy, we read:

We automatically collect certain information when you visit, use or browse the App. This information they do not reveal your specific identity (such as your name or contact information), but may include device and usage information, such asIP addressthe browser and device characteristicsThe operating systemthe linguistic preferencesThe Referral URLThe device nameThe villagethe positionthe information about how and when you use our App And other technical information. This information is primarily needed to maintain the security and operation of our App and for our internal analysis and reporting purposes.

The collection of information such as username, telephone number, IP address or technical characteristics of the device represents rather “standard” data for applications of this kind (for the record, Ten Ten is not the first app in the world that promises to transform the telephone in a walkie-talkie, given that there are many conceptually similar ones on the stores, such as Zello). Furthermore, having landed on the Play Store and the App Store, the app has demonstrated that it has passed the approval process to which all apps available on the Google and Apple stores are subjected, which have rather stringent standards in made of privacy and security. If these standards were not met, the app would simply not be downloadable.

What are the risks for those who download and use Ten Ten

Based on what has been said so far, therefore, can we conclude that Ten Ten is totally harmless? Not exactly. The dangers to online privacy and security mentioned by Chaize can actually arise, provided that certain conditions are met. What do we mean? According to the information currently available, Ten Ten appears to have a degree of “dangerousness” comparable to that of other apps much more popular. If you don't make conscious use of it (for example by releasing your ID on social media or, in any case, sharing it with untrustworthy people) you could receive harassing messages from complete strangers. Especially considering that the app's target is very young people, this however remains a extremely delicate point which cannot be ignored and must be addressed with the utmost seriousness.