"Girls Around Me," an app designed for men trying to pick up women, pulls phone location data and personal information from Foursquare, Facebook, and Google Maps to brief users about women in their immediate radius. After viewing a woman's profile picture, users can message women directly or snoop through their profiles. Though the app has been downloaded more than 70,000 times, its developers recently pulled it from Apple's App Store after Foursquare withheld its services. The Girls Around Me creators, I-Free Innovations, say the technology is perfectly legal because it culls information from records that the women have made public themselves, gleaning "likes" from the women's Facebook profiles, for example. Does the app, which I-Free is hoping to launch for Android, deserve the criticism it's receiving, even though it technically hasn't violated any rules?
Yes. It's downright creepy: Girls Around Me "could be dangerous," says Molly McHugh at Digital Trends. True, the app isn't doing anything drastically different from its competitors, including Highlight, which also allows users to see the names, photos, and mutual friends of anyone in the vicinity who also uses the app. But the "creepy name" of Girls Around Me and its "gender-specific focus on finding people" makes it "very clear just how creepy and potentially unsafe this can all get."
"The Girls Around Me app: Creepy, dangerous, and a good reminder to update your privacy settings"
But it actually isn't the appmaker's fault: Yes, it's "easy to imagine" how the Girls Around Me technology could be misused to target people based on race, religion, or sexual orientation, says Charlie Stross at Antipope. That said, the real revelation here is that Facebook's confusing security settings are intentionally "useless." Social networks, including Facebook, work on the premise that if you aren't paying for the product, "you are the product." It simply isn't in Facebook's best interest to promote its privacy settings because it wants to milk as much information from you as it can to sell to potential advertisers.
"Not an April Fool"
Just use the app as a teaching tool: Everyone should download a creepy app like Girls Around Me to show their friends how "social networks like Facebook and Foursquare expose you and the ones you love," says John Brownlee at Cult of Mac. "If you do not know exactly how much you are sharing, you are as easily preyed upon as if you were naked."
"This creepy app isn't huts stalking women without their knowledge, it's a wake-up call about Facebook privacy [Update]"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Why torture doesn't work: A definitive guide
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Hey, bosses: Stop giving bonuses to your employees
- How to make the ultimate grilled cheese
- Could better U.S.-Cuban relations thwart baseball's human smuggling problem?
- Dick Cheney's America is an ugly place
- The liberation of Barack Obama
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
Subscribe to the Week