Anonymous messaging app scores big funding

Investors are dumping money into a nascent anonymous messaging app that allows users to post comments to people within a 1.5 mile-radius of their phone.

The app, Yik Yak, revealed Monday it had received $62 million in venture funding, just months after it raised $11.5 million.

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In just one year, Yik Yak has quickly gained popularity on high school and college campuses, but has yet to get a significant foothold in the adult market. It’s been described as a localized, anonymous version of the micro-blogging service Twitter.

But the company has also faced controversy after some have used the app for cyberbullying and anonymous threats.

Last week, one California high school was closed for multiple days and another went into lockdown for a day after violent threats were made through the app.

The scares are part of a burgeoning trend. Numerous high schools and colleges have had to initiate emergency procedures after receiving bomb threats and warnings of school shootings through the app.

Yik Yak officials have tried to use the app’s geolocation feature to limit its use on high school campuses.

Fears about misuse have not scared away investors — or users — from several privacy-oriented messaging apps.

WhatsApp, which rose to prominence as a privacy-focused text messaging service, now has more than 600 million users worldwide.

But privacy groups were appalled when Facebook purchased the app for $22 billion earlier this year, worried the social networking giant would misuse WhatsApp's user data.

Last week, WhatsApp announced it would be rolling out end-to-end encryption for its users, meaning only the sender and receiver can read the message.

Snapchat also rapidly gained a massive following in 2013, promising a way to send self-erasing messages. The company later settled Federal Trade Commission charges that those messages were not necessarily deleted permanently.

Still, Snapchat has been valued at $10 billion, according to multiple media reports.

The Wall Street Journal reported Yik Yak is now valued in the low nine figures.

Other anonymous messaging apps like Secret and Whisper have attracted more limited, yet passionate, audiences.

Desire for secure communications has boomed since former government contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents revealing a number of U.S. spy programs that gathered information on people’s phone calls, emails and Internet activity.

Major tech companies like Apple, Facebook and Google have made public pronouncements about enhanced security measures intended to keep user data safe from government snooping.

But federal law enforcement officials worry the pendulum has swung too far toward “going dark,” as FBI Director James Comey puts it.

Ubiquitous encryption could keep the government from performing legitimate criminal inspections, he has warned.

Privacy advocates contend anonymous services merely help people maintain their basic right to digital privacy.