GREENWOOD, Ind. - A 9-year-old girl was exposed to a lewd picture on an iPad at a local mall, prompting experts to urge more caution from businesses that are using tablets and other gadgets to draw customers to their stores.
A local mother reported the discovery to police after her girl found the photo in a yogurt shop at the Greenwood Park Mall.
"I like to play … games … where it's like an obstacle course, where you have to jump over things and get coins," said fourth-grader Lycia McQuilkin about her love of iPads and other mobile technology.
"It has a lot of games on it and you can take pictures," she said, explaining an added reason to grab her favorite treat at an area yogurt shop that had been offering iPads at tables for its customers.
She and her mother were eating at Nutriyogurt in November, when they started having fun with the camera on the device.
"I was like, 'Let's just take snapshots and silly pictures of us eating yogurt,'" said her mother, Nicole McQuilkin, who contacted the Call 6 Investigators about what she discovered during that outing.
She said her daughter clicked into the Camera Roll application to view the pictures they had just taken, when a picture that had been left by someone earlier was there waiting for them.
The mother said, "I just screamed."
She told police and mall security that the picture was a close-up of an erect penis from a grown man.
The mother told Call 6 Investigators, "I don't know, she really didn't know what it was, and I think she wondered why I screamed.
"Who would have ever thought that, especially in a family atmosphere," she said.
Mall security put her in touch with the owner of Nutriyogurt, and McQuilkin said she found out this wasn't the first time it had happened.
"She said this has happened multiple times before," said McQuilkin.
The concerned mother said the store owner told her it would be rude to other customers to take away the iPads because of the obscene images.
"I didn't understand that, because I think it's rude just knowing that people, youth have been exposed to these inappropriate pictures," said McQuilkin.
The Call 6 Investigators visited the store and found the iPads had been removed during the recent holidays, with a store worker telling customers they were gone because people kept "putting bad things on them."
Despite those concerns, one iPad had been returned to the customer dining tables by mid-January.
Dozens of selfies and other pictures of children and adults were stored on the device from previous customers.
The owner of that Nutriyogurt sent an email statement to the Call 6 Investigators:
"Recent data breaches at major retailers remind us that no person or business can be absolutely sure that their data is not hacked. Be assured that the management of Nutriyogurt has removed all devices and is conducting an investigation into the matter with the continuing goal of the well being of our customers and neighbors."
With iPads and other picture-taking devices now showing up at restaurants, doctor's offices and all sorts of businesses, one local expert said this discovery serves as a strong warning for businesses that use the technology to draw customers.
"Businesses that put it out there … it's going to be thinking in terms of safety for your patrons, safety for your customers," said David Grosze, manager of CPR Cell Phone Repair in Greenwood.
His business repairs iPads and other mobile devices, requiring him to stay current on the safety features that can prevent obscene material from being accessed on a device. He said customers are often taking pictures of themselves on an iPad installed for the public's use in his waiting room.
Grosze said he checks the device frequently, and he said the recent mall discovery is proof that other businesses need to do the same.
"I think you just have to build that into your standard operating procedure, that it's something that you’re going to have to check. I mean really, in this day and age, it's going to be the same thing as sweeping the floor, making sure that a spill gets mopped up. It's all safety related, issues that you have to deal with with the public," he said.
Grosze said the security settings can be adjusted on tablets to restrict how pictures are taken or what websites can be accessed. Additional passwords can also be required, both to log onto a device and then again to access a picture taking application.
"If it's not built into your device, there are plenty of apps that you can download that will do essentially the same thing," he said.
The owner of Greenwood Park Mall, Simon Property Group of Indianapolis, also issued a statement about the customer's discovery in this case:
"We take seriously all customer comments regarding any device or merchandise on display and personally share the comments with the owner or store manager in question. We take great pride in being a family-friendly environment, and our malls strive to provide an enjoyable shopping experience for all."
The mother wonders
why it took attention from the Call 6 Investigators to have her favorite snack shop clamp down on the devices.
"I just felt like she was more concerned about attracting customers and using that as a device to attract and not thinking about the ethics of what's going on there.
"It really changes my whole opinion about society, business and money," said McQuilkin.
She said the ordeal now has her checking any mobile device before handing it over to her child, and she urged other parents to do the same.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reports 81 percent of children as young as 3-years-old are using the Internet. With mobile technology growing, the center urges parents to understand filters and security settings before turning technology over to children.
Police told the mother in this case that no crime was committed because the child had to push a button on the mobile device to access the obscene material.
Under Indiana law, a Class D felony crime is committed when someone knowingly disseminates sexually explicit material in an area that can be accessed by minors. In this case, police said it would be impossible to prove that the person who snapped the photo intended for it to be seen by a child.