Chief Technology Officer Derek Jackson and CEO Jeff Gottfurcht merged forces to create a safer technological world by founding the Mesa-based app Cyber Dive.
Their app aims to prevent cyberbullying and sex trafficking by using algorithms that show activity, and even a bully or predator’s geographical location, on several popular social media platforms.
Gottfurcht was inspired to work on the app after returning from Mount Everest, where he had become the first person in the world with rheumatoid arthritis to reach the summit.
“I had just returned from summiting Mount Everest to see a story about a young girl who’d been sexually assaulted and her pictures put up all over social media – so essentially, victimized twice,” he recalled.
Gottfurcht had climbed Mount Everest with Special Forces operatives and they connected him with Jackson, who had been a military intelligence officer. The two met online while Jackson was working at a cybersecurity firm in Palo Alto.
“When I was deployed overseas,” said Jackson, “I built the first team for the headquarters that analyzed how ISIS would use social media, who their people of interest were and the activities they would take.”
Jackson had spent six months surveilling ISIS propaganda videos.
He said that as he and Gottfurcht talked, he thought of his 3-year-old son.
“I can’t imagine a world where it’s that easy for my son to get on a phone and get into some deep dark corner where he sees something like this – and I would never know.”
Gottfurcht and Jackson decided to develop an app that allowed parents to view their children’s activity on multiple social media platforms to eliminate the mystery of not knowing.
They wrote the idea on a napkin and got to work.
“We built it from scratch,” said Gottfurcht, who spent 14 years on Wall Street as a senior vice-president for global financial firms like UBS Financial and Salomon Smith Barney. “We worked on every line of code.”
So, how does the app work?
“Any parent can sign up and connect to all of their kid’s social media for free,” said Jackson.
The apps include Tik Tok, Instagram, Snapchat, Google, YouTube, Discord and Vsco.
“They’ll get access to the word cloud, the vibes meter and the alerts widgets.”
Jackson explained that the focus is on word cloud which allows parents to see the most commonly used words their children, or friends, are using on social media.
A vibes meter figures out the general sentiment of their activity within a designated time period and the alerts pull out potentially concerning activity.
For $5 a month, users have the ability to access the location of where posts come from, a history of searched YouTube videos and a list of friends.
Created in 2019, the app launched in 2020 and saw significant growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since Feb. 1 alone, they’ve seen a growth of 181.2 percent.
“We know parents want to have those conversations that bridge the digital divide,” said Gottfurcht. “We didn’t want a product where it was like, aha! I got you for saying a curse word. We want them to have meaningful deep conversations about what they’re doing.”
Cyber Dive’s team includes human trafficking advisor Angela Salomon, the Director of Programs at StreetlightUSA, an organization for trafficked adolescent girls. As of this year, Cyber Dive is working with both StreetlightUSA and Phoenix Dream Center.
“We reached out to CEO Brian Steele,” said Gottfurcht. “We said, ‘We would love for you to try us out. We have the ability for parents to see if their child is being groomed.’”
The app is used by parents of rescue victims of trafficking after they’re able to leave the rehabilitation process and come home.
“They go back to their family,” said Jackson. “And their parents would ask, ‘What can I do to keep up with their social media? I can’t look through everything every day.’ And now, they have an answer.”
However, the app is most commonly used by parents.
Gottfurcht said they often suffer a “screaming pain” in the world of social media.
“We believe not only will it continue to grow and get better,” said Gottfurcht, “But the pain is still there. We’ve never talked to one parent who didn’t have a problem with social media.”
For more information visit the company’s website at cyberdive.co.