Saturday, March 31, 2012

Girls Around Me: following in real life is called stalking

A new app Girls Around Me does one thing.  It alerts you women who are near you by combining Facebook and Foursquare check-in data and lay them on top of Google Maps.  It lets you know their name, photos and you can send them messages according to The Daily Mail.  Fortunately folks at Foursquare and Apple took a notice, and pulled the Foursquare API access and took the app down from iTunes.

Girls Around Me is a socially awkward Google Latitude
with Foursquare and Facebook integration
It's interesting to see how people have been reacting to this socially awkward app.  The app is not much different from recent SXSW darling Highlight.  Just like Highlight, you get to discover people around you.  One difference is that Highlight alerts you of people you might share something in common while Girls Around Me alerts any woman who might be around you.  Technically both provide similar functions.  But most people will agree that one sounds interesting and the other creepy. Why?

It's because of privacy.  Idea of revealing information about where you are to strangers without your knowing is a very unsettling one.  It is especially true when subscriber to my information is someone who intends to follow me in real life.  Subscriber knows who I am, but I do not.  This is uneven playing field sure to create some fear on part of being followed.
When I read about now defunct Girls Around Me app, it was not surprising that it drew immediate public backlash on Apple, Facebook and Foursquare to take down the app.  It strikes me as odd, however, that there is very little conversation about how each one of us should control our own data on social media.  After all, Girls Around Me was not hacking into Facebook and Foursquare to get these data.  It was able to register as third party application and using available API to access user's public data.  There is nothing that prevents copy-cat app to start providing discovery of people around you.

Lesson of Girls Around Me is not the silliness of mobile apps these days.  Real lesson should be re-examination of how we share information on social media.  The fact is that no one has end-to-end control over data that they post on social media.  Because social media is built on the premise of open sharing, practically all social network makes it extremely easy to share information.  Before we shift our blame to creepy apps, we have to take a look at how we share what kind of data.

No comments:

Post a Comment