Girls Around Me: New Social Stalking App Shows Millennials Have a Privacy Problem

I-free, a company based in Moscow, has released a new app called Girls Around Me that may cause an awakening moment for millennials. The app uses public information from social media sites Facebook and Foursquare and combines it with the geopositioning functionality of Foursquare to locate women who are near the user.

Since the app only uses public information, it is not breaking any law. It is time for people to realize the dangers of making information about themselves public.

The app works by aggregating public information and displaying it in a new format that is easy for the user to read. The user’s device will display a map provided by Google Maps, with pinpoints that mark the locations of women who have recently used Foursquare.

Foursquare allows users to “check-in” at places, and marks that location. The idea is that a user of Foursquare can walk into a business, like a hamburger joint that is surprisingly good, and check-in using foursquare. By checking in, Foursquare’s geopositioning functionality marks your location, which is also the location of the burger joint, and shows other users of Foursquare the location along with comments or pictures if the user decides to provide them. Video description here.

Since the check-in marker is set in the same location as the user, the Girls Around Me app can use the marker to provide the location of the person to its users. This requires Girls Around Me users to also be Foursquare users. Now that the location is set, Girls Around Me uses Facebook to provide even more information. How much information depends on the privacy settings of the Facebook page.

The information that can potentially be taken from Facebook includes gender, age, interests, and profile picture which can be displayed next to the location pinpoint on the Google map. Depending on privacy settings, it may not be necessary for the Girls Around Me User and the woman being investigated to be “friends” on Facebook for this information to be acquired.

The overall function acts like this: A Girls Around Me user turns on the app and see a Google map of his/her location with pinpoints designating the locations of nearby women with their profile pictures next to the pinpoint. The user can then select and individual and have further information personal information displayed.

It is not necessary for me to describe how scary this app is or the nefarious ends for which it can be used. Instead, the app should teach millennials an important lesson: Millennials are notorious for carelessly uploading their personal information onto the internet. Companies have only scratched the surface of creating ways to use this information. Their actions are legally protected because the information they use is consentingly provided. Even though you may never have told I-free that it could use your information, you consented that the information is in the public domain when you use Facebook and Foursquare.

I hope that the Girls Around Me app opens our eyes to the dangers of making personal information public. Companies like I-free are not going away, so it is up to us to protect ourselves. Think twice and read privacy policies before signing up for the next social media fad.

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Ian Yamamoto

Ian is a Public Policy major with a minor in Law, Science, and Technology from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He has studied at Oxford in the UK and has interned for the trade and immigration department of a think tank in Washington, DC. He has two years of research experience with open source software and economic freedom. His current focus is on using technology that enhances voluntary exchange, such as the internet, to advance political interests and economic knowledge.

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