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Stalker app Girls Around Me hunts women via Facebook, Foursquare


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Summary: Online outrage increases over sexualized, so-called stalking app Girls Around Me - though it is not the first of its kind.

The app Girls Around Me is being labeled “a wake-up call” for Facebook privacy.

It’s a sexual predator’s wet dream.

Girls Around Me is an app that merges Facebook and Foursquare data and layers it over Google Maps with real-time GPS location data to show the user where the nearest women are.

The app urges users (the default assumption is a male user looking for women) to find in person and message nearby girls using information about them pulled from the girls’ Facebook profiles, including their photo galleries.

The targeted individuals are unaware they are being tracked and do not have the ability to opt-in - or opt-out.

It does what a lot of geo-location and gaming apps do, though it was only a matter of time before an app such as Girls Around Me

(iTunes) framed itself as a stalking tool: the app is explicitly for the user to “find girls” to date.

Sexualizing the target: unknowing women

While users should probably be run through stalking and sex offender databases the free app merely requires the user to use Foursquare and have an iPhone.

Girls Around me is made by the Moscow-based company i-Free.

Users pick a gender (typically user male / target female). A radar-style map opens up to find girls nearby.

Girls Around Me is a revolutionary new city scanner app than turns your town into a dating paradise!

Use it to see where hot girls and guys are hanging out in your area, view their photos and make contact!

The girls have no idea they’re being scanned or that their publicly available Facebook and Foursquare data is being loaded into some dude’s phone app.

The women also don’t know that the user sees their photos layered over their current location (if they have checked in recently).

As many of us know, if you don’t have your Facebook settings nailed down then your friends can check you into locations. Yay.

What the targeted girls would also probably not appreciate is that they are each represented with foxy-lady style icons, like busty strippers set to take a salacious swing on the pole.

That the icons look like female sex worker icons, or any kind of erotic invitation, is beyond problematic.

The app doesn’t expressly say “stalking” on it.

Yet after Cult of Mac’s John Brownlee saw it in action, he had no doubt in his mind that the app was the creepiest, most potentially harmful use of APIs and data he’d seen in the iTunes store to date.

I pressed the button … Girls Around Me went into radar mode, and after just a few seconds, the map around us was filled with pictures of girls who were in the neighborhood.

(…) I tapped on Zoe. Girls Around Me quickly loaded up a fullscreen render of her Facebook profile picture. The app then told me where Zoe had last been seen (The Independent) and when (15 minutes ago).

A big green button at the bottom reading “Photos & Messaging” just begged to be tapped, and when I did, I was whisked away to Zoe’s Facebook profile.

(…) I now know her full name. I can see at a glance that she’s single, that she is 24, that she went to Stoneham High School and Bunker Hill Community College, that she likes to travel, that her favorite book is Gone With The Wind and her favorite musician is Tori Amos, and that she’s a liberal.

I can see the names of her family and friends. I can see her birthday.

The data harvest is not a two-way street; Mr. Brownlee’s information was not being provided to the women he was experimentally app-stalking.

The women don’t get notifications of any kind - let alone equal information about who is tracking them, making the app’s use an undisputed power-over situation.

It’s not hard to imagine this app in the wrong hands.

Girls Around Me calls itself a dating app, yet seems targeted at the “pick up artist” market - guys that read “The Game” and make sport of using unscrupulous methods to get laid.

You made it public in the first place: today’s “she was asking for it”?

It’s easy to make a comparison to Grindr, but that is a mistake.

Gay male app Grindr sells itself as a hookup app - successfully - yet the app is a two-way handshake of informed consent about the exchange of personally identifying information and location. Big difference.

The argument that might make Girls Around Me seem legit relies on the public APIs and the information social networks - their users - are making public.

Unlike us paranoid privacy tech people, most regular people are not aware that this can be done with their online activity; combining it, packaging it for anyone’s use in real time.

Let alone that someone would create an app that exploits personal information as a way of getting an advantage over someone else for sexual conquest.

Needless to say, it’s a terrible idea to use this to meet women. Not simply from an ethical standpoint: no sane girl is going to warm up to a strange man that approaches her knowing way too much about her in the first place.

No matter how this app sells itself, I can promise you that women don’t think stalking is hot.


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No, but seriously, why would you let your settings be anything but private?

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lol, this takes stalking to a whole new level :troll:

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Privacy backlash over Girls Around Me mobile app

An app that allowed users to find nearby women who had "checked in" on a social network has been withdrawn by its developer after complaints.

Russian developer i-Free removed its Girls Around Me app which used publicly available data from Foursquare.

Foursquare, a location-based social network, has already revoked the app's access to its data.

A company representative for i-Free said the reaction to the app was a "serious misunderstanding".

In a statement given via email to the Wall Street Journal, the company said: "We 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' goals, purpose, abilities and restrictions.

"Girls Around Me does not provide any data that is unavailable to user when he uses his or her social network account, nor does it reveal any data that users did not share with others."

'Wake-up call'

The company added that it had removed the app, which has been downloaded over 70,000 times, from the iTunes app store due to a recurring fault.

The app is powered by pulling data from Foursquare, which people use to "check in" to locations such as a shop or a bar. In the US, where the app is most popular, it is common for businesses to offer special deals to those who check in on the site.

In addition to the location data, the app used associated Facebook information to display images of nearby users - allowing people with the Girls Around Me app to view profiles in a map format.

Depending on a user's privacy settings, other information such as relationship status and photographs can be seen.

Popular Apple blog Cult of Mac described the app a "wake-up call about privacy".

Blogger John Brownlee wrote: "Girls Around Me isn't an app you should use to pick up girls, or guys for that matter.

"This is an app you should download to teach the people you care about that privacy issues are real, that social networks like Facebook and Foursquare expose you and the ones you love, and that if you do not know exactly how much you are sharing."

The developer has said it will develop the app further to make sure only check-ins at public venues are displayed to users. It is also working on an Android version of its app.

However, neither versions will currently function while Foursquare prevents i-Free from using its data.


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