UPDATE: the app has now been pulled from the App Store. More about it in this video. Makes you wonder what kind of moral compass Apple has, that it need other people to point these things out. I mean, they ban pornography, but apparently stalking women is okay.
Here’s a good read, with a couple of follow-ups, about the iPhone app Girls Around Me, which enables anyone with a FourSquare account to log in and
stalk women see at a glance where the girls are. For those of us who have been hammering on about how young people don’t care enough about their privacy, this is just one more example of why they should. I can imagine a few people might not care that the guy who approaches you in a bar with your favourite drink, and who seems so perfect because he likes the same things you do, actually got all that information by geolocating you and checking your (open) Facebook page. But I also think that it’s fairly predatory behaviour, crossing the line from chasing into stalking.
Where is that line? It’s the line between a situation in which people wanting to chat each other up do their best to make a connection based on face-to-face communication; and one in which one party has inside information and knows which buttons to push. The article is worth a read, if only because it enumerates all the things it’s possible to learn from somebody’s Facebook account, if they choose to leave it open to the public (even down to pictures of what she looks like in a bikini):
In answer to the first question, I replied that as sleazy as this app seemed, Girls Around Me wasn’t actually doing anything wrong. Sure, on the surface, it looks like a hook-up app like Grindr for potential stalkers and date rapists, but all that Girls Around Me is really doing is using public APIs from Google Maps, Facebook and Foursquare and mashing them all up together, so you could see who had checked-in at locations in your area, and learn more about them. Moreover, the girls (and men!) shown in Girls Around Me all had the power to opt out of this information being visible to strangers, but whether out of ignorance, apathy or laziness, they had all neglected to do so. This was all public information. Nothing Girls Around Me does violates any of Apple’s policies.
Here’s the first follow-up: because of the above article Foursquare revoked access to its API, so Girls Around Me can no longer use it.
But as I said earlier, the app is not the problem. The problem is the deployment by profit-oriented corporations of behavioural psychology techniques to induce people to over-share information which can then be aggregated and disclosed to third parties for targeted marketing purposes.
- Facebook and the Creep Factor (motherjones.com)
- ‘Girls Around Me’ Developer Defends App After Foursquare Dismissal (blogs.wsj.com)
- Creepy Girl-Stalking App Girls Around Me Has Been Yanked From The App Store (cultofmac.com)