Cover Story: Chatroulette

Crime, Law and JusticeCrimeWGNPeriodicalsScienceFBILouis Kraus

Spin the wheel. Round and round it goes. Where it stops nobody knows. That's the old school version.

But that was yesterday. Welcome now to chatroulette, a twist on the Las Vegas favorite using new technology--your webcam. Play for a few minutes and it's easy to see how you can get hooked.

One draw is Merton, also known as "the piano guy." He's an internet sensation whose specialty is to serenade on Chatroulette.

But chatroulette's so viral a mini documentary's even been made about it.

The super-curious may find it innocent enough, but child experts don't.

"The variety of potential perversion and potential victimization is of tremendous concern," said Dr. Louis Kraus, the Chief of Child Psychiatry at RUSH Hospital.

It's filled with naked people and lewd acts typically reserved for adult eyes only. On chatroulette, there's no registering, no monitoring and virtually no rules. The creator asks that you're at least 16 years old and that you keep your clothes on. And if you don't like what you see, just click on "report."

WGN's Julie Unruh tried it out for herself. "I had some conversations," she confirms, "Most of which turned x-rated even if they didn't start out that way."

As far as privacy, don't kid yourself. Whatever you do, it can be recorded--the technology's out there.

The FBI tells us that even though website's server is overseas, the creator is from Russia, and he's just 17, there's not much that Chicago's FBI cyber squad can do. The feds don't monitor the internet until a criminal case is filed and the site is not illegal. Still, Special Agent Todd Carroll sees the potential for crime.

WGN-TV Newsletter | WGN-TV on Twitter | WGN-TV on YouTube

"Twenty years ago, before the internet, we wouldn't let our kids walk around the mall and talk to complete strangers," Carroll says. "Why are we going to let them do that on the internet when there is no control whatsoever?"

Ana Couri agrees. The suburban mother of five wanted to see for herself what her kids or their friends might be dabbling in.

"It's like we can't even keep up with it as parents as soon as we figure out how to block something out of the internet, here comes this new technology," Couri says.

Couri says her goal is to learn more so she can protect her kids from potential predators.

The bottom line? From the piano guy to pornography, you see it all on chatroulette. The thing to remember is that they also see you.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading