Girls Around Me App Yanked Amid Fears It Encouraged Stalking

Apr 3, 2012
Health, Safety & Testing
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A controversial mobile app which allowed users to pinpoint locations of women nearby and access their full name, photos, and send them messages has been taken off the market due to safety concerns.

The Girls Around Me application worked by taking GPS data from Foursquare and searched for women in the immediate area who have also checked in on the location-based mobile service.

The app, made by Russian company iFree Innovations, was previously available on iTunes.

The app’s less-than-careful data sharing had caused considerable concern last week, with many lambasting the app for making stalking easy and taking advantage of those who don’t understand privacy policies of social media.

Girls Around Me required the users permission to link the app to their personal Facebook account.

Once downloaded, the app asked for the user’s Facebook log in, pictures, basic information including gender and age, as well as photos and email addresses.

It also asked permission to run even when the app itself was closed, thus allowing Girls Around Me to collect location data at all times. The app’s website advertised that Girls Around me ‘puts you in control!’

It continued: ‘Reveal the hottest nightspots, who’s in them, and how to reach them…’ It also says that users can easily find ‘love’ or ‘a one-night stand.’

Though the initial app download was free, users had to pay 99 cents for every ‘energy pack,’ to search for nearby women at an accelerated rate.

iFree Innovations made the decision to pull the app. The company told the Wall Street Journal: ‘[W]e believe it is unethical to pick a scapegoat to talk about the privacy concerns.

‘We see this wave of negative as a serious misunderstanding of the apps’ [sic] goals, purpose, abilities and restrictions.’

The app was downloaded more than 70,000 times before it was taken down, according to the creators.

Stanford lecturer Elizabeth Stark told the New York Times’ Bits blog that the application required far too much information.

 ‘This would be a very different application if it didn’t link back to Facebook, which is a treasure trove of information,’ she said. ‘With that link, this app could easily be a “let’s stalk women” app.’

Sophy Tobias, a spokesperson for Facebook, told MailOnline last week that people were responsible for how their information was viewed.

She wrote: ‘People can control the privacy for their posts from Privacy Settings, or can customize the settings for individual posts from Facebook.com or their mobile device.

‘Essentially, if the person posting has set the privacy for their post to anything but ”public”, it will not appear in the app.’

Cult of Mac said the app is, more than anything, a ‘wake-up call about privacy.’

The blog notes that Facebook and Foursquare users who don’t understand the importance of privacy are putting themselves in compromising positions.

It stated: ‘Most privacy settings on social networks default to share everything with everyone, and since most people never change those… well, they end up getting sucked up into apps like this.’

Foursquare spokesperson Laura Covington later released a statement following the original report by Cult of Mac.

‘This is a violation of our API policy, so we’ve reached out to the developer and shut off their API access,’ she said.

Other applications utilize Smartphone’s location services, but allow more privacy.

SinglesAroundMe Inc. has several apps, including city-centric singles apps (SAM NYC and SAM London, for instance) and others attuned to sexual preference (Gays Around Me).

All SinglesAroundME apps promise ’100 per cent’ privacy, saying that users control how information is released.

They say: You can choose when to flirt and when to be anonymous, when to hide your profile or location.’

Source: Daily Mail

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