Facebook, Foursquare Used by App to Stalk Women

Dennis Faas's picture

Imagine you could walk into any bar, cafe or club and immediately identify which women were single, learn their names, and instantly send them a message via smartphone.

For many of us, that might seem a dream come true. But a surprising number of people find the idea at least a little creepy.

No Hacking Required To Uncover Personal Data

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the new "Girls Around You" tool is that it doesn't involve any hacking, snooping, or other illegal behavior.

The software works entirely by mining information that women have made publicly available, although in many cases they may not know they have done so.

"Girls Around You" pages through data freely available on Facebook, which everyone knows, and FourSquare, a service allowing people to announce online when they visit a location, winning rewards and making it easy to meet up with friends.

The software uses the existing Application Programming Interface (API) on both of those networking sites. It's a standardized method for making data readily available for easy and automated use by third parties.

The "Girls Around You" app first looks at the proportion of men and women who have "checked in" at a particular location, and alerts the user to places where men are relatively scarce, in hopes they will face less competition talking to women.

Cross Referencing "Single" and "Women" with "Here" and "Now"

The app next cross-references the FourSquare "check ins" with the matching Facebook accounts, in cases where a person has chosen to link their two accounts together.

It's then a simple matter for "Girls Around You" to highlight the names and photographs of any women at the location who have listed themselves as single. (Source: cultofmac.com)

Sounds creepy, but in actuality all this information is readily available to anyone willing to do the online investigations. All that's really new here is that "Girls Around You" simplifies, automates, and speeds up the process.

Women can easily avoid being targeted in this way by changing their privacy settings and unlinking their Facebook and FourSquare accounts.

However, many people don't realize just how accessible their personal data has become, particularly because social network sites often don't educate their users about default settings that publish a great deal of information.

Update: FourSquare has recently blocked "Girls Around You" from using its API, effectively rendering the app useless. The developers say they've removed it from the iTunes app store, although Apple may have forced it out.

But the threat is still alive. The developers of "Girls Around You" say they are looking at other ways to revive the service regardless of FourSquare's uncooperative stance. (Source: nytimes.com)

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