Sure, there are strange apps, but then there’s apps that are creepy. “Girls Around Me” is an app that can show you ladies who have publicly checked-in, either to Foursquare or Facebook, that are near you.
What other apps have you come across that are questionable? Share your thoughts below.
At this point, Foursquare has pulled the app’s API, so you can’t try this yourself. But you can read John Brownlee’s article in Cult of Mac to learn more about this app. To summarize, the app doesn’t only show your nearby ladies, but also all of the information and photos that are public on Facebook.
What exactly is wrong with Girls Around Me?
You might not agree, but Girls Around Me as an app is perfectly fine. It’s not the first app that aggregates location data from multiple social networks. So why target only girls?
It has everything to do with branding. Everything is wrong, starting from the app’s name and description. The suggestive splash image made the situation so much worse. That’s the cause of the controversy. Nothing else.
Take a look at Banjo. It does everything that Girls Around Me does, except for gender filtering. And seriously, that feature is only useful for the lazy. It’s not that difficult to distinguish genders by looking at their profile photos.
But truly, gender shouldn’t be the focus. It is dangerous to both males and females to have their location data shared publicly and frequently.
Once fired up, Banjo shows me people who are around me, both male and female. Tapping on any of them brings up their mini profile, which is populated by their social network information. There will also be a link to the person’s Facebook profile, if available, and from there, I could see everything that they have made public, similar to Girls Around Me.
I can also see their check-in history across all the social networks they use, including Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. If you think Girls Around Me is creepy, I would say Banjo is even more so. You may be savvy enough to tweak the privacy settings of your location data on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare, but who would have thought that the artsy sushi photo that you took at the sushi bar would put you on the Banjo radar of a stranger just a mile away?
Of course, Banjo is not at all about stalking people. It also acts as a location social network hub, bringing the location data of all your friends across multiple social networks into one single app. And if any of your friends happen to check-in at a place near you, you will be alerted by a push notification.
So the problem doesn’t lie solely with Girls Around Me, since it’s just a stripped down Banjo with gender filtering. The problem is that people are sharing their location data publicly, and then they get freaked out by their own action when they learn about apps like Girls Around Me.
Brownlee made a good point when he said “The settings determining how visible your Facebook and Foursquare data is complicated, and tend to be meaningless to people who don’t really understand issues about privacy.”
The bottom line is people should become educated about privacy. Social networks should do all they can to educate their users on the consequences of making their location data public and make it more simple to tweak their privacy settings.
Location-based services are not going away anytime soon. The trend is now going towards ambient apps like Highlight, which make location sharing even more flawless and automated, which is supposedly a good thing. But if people can’t even understand and handle the privacy impact of location sharing when they have to do it manually, are they ready for the next big thing?