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World's Creepiest iPhone App Pulled After Outcry 459

Posted by samzenpus
from the was-that-inappropriate? dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Ben Grubb reports that an iPhone app that essentially allowed users to stalk women nearby using a location-based social networking service has been pulled from the iTunes app store by its developer after an outcry of criticism including a comment by Gizmodo labelling the 'Girls Around Me' app as the 'world's creepiest' app and a comment in The New York Times Bits blog, which said it 'definitely' won the prize for being 'too creepy'. The 'Girls Around Me' app utilized publicly available data to show a map with women who had checked-in to locations nearby using Foursquare and let users view Facebook information of those ladies if they had tied their Facebook account to their Foursquare account and if their Facebook account privacy settings were lax enough to allow any user to access it. The promotional website used for marketing the app states that the service 'helps you see where nearby girls are checking in, and shows you what they look like and how to get in touch, adding 'In the mood for love, or just after a one-night stand? Girls Around Me puts you in control! Reveal the hottest nightspots, who's in them, and how to reach them.' Foursquare yanked the Girls Around Me app's access to its data, which in turn led to the app's developer removing it from iTunes as it didn't work properly. In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, the company behind the app defended its creation: 'Since the app's launch till last Friday nobody ever raised a privacy concern because, again, it is clearly stated that Girls Around Me cannot show the user more data than [what Foursqure or Facebook] already does.'"
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World's Creepiest iPhone App Pulled After Outcry

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:51AM (#39549441)

    I bet it honestly never occured to the guys who did this thing that someone might use it for creepy stuff. Sometimes you can do something with innocent enough intentions only to realize later "Holy shit, someone could use this for some pretty bad purposes!" So it may be best to cut them some slack and assume that they honestly did just mean this as a way for willing/non-creepy people to meet up in meatspace. I bet there are a lot of similar apps out there being used for stuff that they were never designed for, particularly in an age where way too many young people think nothing of posting every detail of their life and personal musing online for the world to see.

  • by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:54AM (#39549481)
    I was going to make a comment reading halfway through, but the end of the summary hit it perfectly.

    Girls Around Me cannot show the user more data than [what Foursqure or Facebook] already does.

    Seriously, if you're concerned about creepy bastards knowing where you are, don't tell the entire bloody internet

  • by martas (1439879) on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:55AM (#39549499)
    Funny thing is, the "outcry" of the users affected should be either directed at FB/4square, or, more appropriately, at the users themselves. It's your own damn fault that you have made so much data publicly available that this is possible. Get your head out of your ass, you're the only one you have to blame...
  • Typical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:55AM (#39549503)

    Pulling the app is a classic case of denial. It's fairly easy to create an app like this, the information is all publicly available. If people are honestly concerned about their privacy they should either stop posting the details of their lives on-line or they should lobby the companies involved to provide better privacy controls. Pulling the app is a typical case of shooting the messenger.

  • Beautiful (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:57AM (#39549525)

    This is a most beautiful example of what people expose to the social networking services really does.

    What people think they're sharing is not what they are actually sharing and the impact goes way beyond their friends.

  • Unsurprised (Score:4, Insightful)

    by udoschuermann (158146) on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:58AM (#39549541) Homepage

    It was just a matter of time before this kind of stuff (linking publicly available data from multiple sources) moved from the domain of the targeted advertisers into the hands of mobile device market places. Is anyone really surprised by this? I guess the creep-factor comes into play when it's individuals who can stalk you, rather than corporations...

  • Bad marketing. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vellmont (569020) on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:58AM (#39549543) Homepage

    If the app was billed as "Find out who's around you!" instead of "Find the girls around you!", it'd do exactly the same thing, and continue to be sold.

    Of course, anyone could still write this app very easily because people are publicly publishing their location information. (Duh). The story should have been "Look what people can do when you tell literally everyone in the world where you are" instead of "person makes creepy app".

  • by jxander (2605655) on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:59AM (#39549555)

    Bingo. People are so much in love with their social network super-star status. "OMG Mayor of Starbucks! Friend me! LIKE ME!"

    But as soon as people use the information they posted to glean useful data: "WTF STALKER"

    Can't have it both ways, people.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:00AM (#39549567)

    I mean, sure, why the hell should women be able to put out information without it being used by perverts? By the same line of thought, women who wear short skirts should basically *expect* to have men standing underneath stairs looking up at the them. The fact is, yes, putting information out there is a mistake but that doesn't make it *right*.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:00AM (#39549575)
    It seems to me that, if it's showing you people around you, that's the opposite of stalking. You're not tracking any particular person, you're looking at the publicly available info of people near you. Traditional Twitter and Facebook usage is closer to stalking than this is, since they're used for following the activities of specific people.
  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:01AM (#39549589)

    way too many young people think nothing of posting every detail of their life and personal musing online for the world to see.

    Exactly, that is the problem. Not the app itself, it just makes it more convenient to browse the available information.

    If those women find that their personal information is out there on the street, including where they are *right now*, and that people are using that to find dates or for whatever purpose - then they have only themselves to blame for putting it out on the street to begin with! But then maybe that's what they are actually after. You never know.

  • by firex726 (1188453) <firex726@@@yahoo...com> on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:02AM (#39549603)

    Not even that...

    Chicks seem fine with guys knowing everything about them, so long s they are attractive and got money.
    One of my coworkers will regularly have one night stands but throw a fit if a guy she does not like hits on her in a public place.

  • by Chatterton (228704) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:04AM (#39549617) Homepage

    For my part i think we should thank that developer. He show to everyone how data protection laws are too lax or inexistant. He show how some people doesn't understand how a little bit of what seems to them innocuous data can bit them in the ass very hard. And perhaps when a certain number of problem will show up in the news and courtrooms due to the availability of these datas, perhaps then the legislator will do something about it under the pressure of the frightened populace.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:05AM (#39549641)

    Any bets on whether a "guy around me" app would have raised any inkling of similar outcry?

  • That's not creepy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:06AM (#39549653) Homepage Journal
    It's not as if the app is accessing information that isn't already publicly available. Newsflash, ladies: if you're checking in to every shop you visit on foursquare, your stalker (the real one, not the guy in the office building across the street looking for a date) already knows. No app needed.

    Creepy to me would be, say, an app that is secretly installed on your phone, cannot be removed or turned off, that transmits all sorts of private usage data to clandestine third-party servers without the user's permission. [techcrunch.com]
  • by vlm (69642) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:06AM (#39549657)

    Seriously, if you're concerned about creepy bastards knowing where you are, don't tell the entire bloody internet

    I think it follows the long standing female tradition of putting the goods on display and then whining about guys staring at the goods. Drama queen antics.

  • by DaScribbler (701492) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:09AM (#39549689)
    If I recall correctly (as this news isn't exactly new... it's a few days old), the app wasn't pulled because of the outcry. It was pulled because Foursquare revoked the app's access to their APIs because it violated their terms of service which dictated you aren't allowed to use the APIs to aggregate information.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:10AM (#39549695)

    I suppose next you're going to suggest that said women should also be responsible for the unwanted attention they get when they wear certain clothes and have only themselves to blame.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:11AM (#39549701)

    If he really had no idea what that app could be used for, he's by no means any better than the idiots targeted with the app.

    Fuck, does it really take more than two brain cells to figure out what's going to happen with this? Are people really that stupid?

  • by JBv (25001) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:15AM (#39549757) Journal

    The only surprise here is that it took so long to have such an app.

    I expected that the whole metrics of social networking used in data mining and publicity would be used to service the needs of the parents (where did your kids go today? What did they buy? Who are these people on the photo with him?), the spouses (Where is she? Is he really working?), the employers (was he really calling sick from home? Does he have a drinking problem?) and any other legitimate or illegitimate need.

    The potential so grand, so dark and so evil that this simple app listing girls around you seems quite harmless...

  • Surprise! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hentes (2461350) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:19AM (#39549805)
    If you share your position with the whole internet then anyone will know where you are. Who would have thought?
  • by vlm (69642) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:30AM (#39549939)

    By the same line of thought, women who wear short skirts should basically *expect* to have men standing underneath stairs looking up at the them

    Bad analogy. Its more like "women who intentionally decide to wear the shortest skirt in view should basically *expect* to have men staring at their legs". Its one of the oldest games in the book, put the man-magnets on display in the smallest tightest sheerest translucent lacy most revealing way legally possible without getting an indecent exposure ticket (or risking a ticket anyway), then oddly enough men look at her man magnets, but not enough for her, so she draws even more attention to herself being on display by whining about the (small number of) men looking at her man magnets trying to get even more to look...

    This is the same game, played online. "Hey boys ... I'm down at the bar lookin hot and lonely... " she's still not getting enough attention, so try to grab some more with "oh you naughty, naughty boys for noticing I told you I'm at the bar"

    As an old married guy I can just stand back and laugh at this game now, but I see absolutely NOTHING has changed in decades other than some new technology. In my youth it was the miracle fabric spandex (I'd love to buy the inventor of that a beer...), now young women use 4sq to put the goods on display. Eh ... same old game. I'm sure in a couple decades it'll be holographic nude sexting and, again, the girls will be complaining that the guys look at them when they try to get attention.

  • by 228e2 (934443) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:53AM (#39550277)
    This is the first thing that came to mind.

    Guys, really? Stop being so anti-social and awkward. Its a safe bet to assume there are women in a bar/library/Starbucks. A line you can come up with on the spot such as 'I like those shoes/hairdo/etc' will get you a lot further than saying you were also at locations X, Y, and Z as she was. From someone you've never met, that comes off of creepy, regardless if he/she posts it on myspace/fb/G+.
  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:54AM (#39550281)

    "look at what she was wearing, she was asking for it"

    That depends what "it" is. If "it" is physical violence, you're absolutely right, it's horrible. What you're wearing never justifies physical violence. If "it" is being stared at, it's perfectly reasonable.

  • by anyGould (1295481) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:56AM (#39550321)

    It's App to find people who want to be found. It's like posting your address in the White Pages, but not realizing that everyone can see it. I guess some people are just that stupid!

    Well, a step beyond that - it's taking your white pages information, then looking up any references to you in the local papers, then pulling your phone records (if they were publicly available), and compiling a dossier on you.

    The "creepy" factor is that we as a society are still getting used to the fact that it's now trivial to compile that dossier. We still think it's the 50s, where the police (or a private investigator) could build that file of where you go, what you do, who you hang out with, where you were and are, but that it was really time-intensive and a bit expensive. So unless you had a reason to think someone would want to go through that effort, so assumed it wasn't done (and were mostly right).

    Remember, this app was compiling data from multiple sources - GPS for where you are, FourSquare (and it's brethren) for location information on other people, Facebook for the public profiles, etc. It's nothing that a person couldn't do right now. (Google+ will show you "nearby" posts today). It's just a bit time-consuming to do by hand (and so we assume people don't bother). What we forget is that it's trivial to get the computer to do all that research for us, and display it in easy-to-use formats. It's now inexpensive, both in time and money to build those dossiers - which means we need to change our assumptions to "everyone knows everything I put online".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:57AM (#39550337)

    No. No one EVER deserves to be raped.

  • by datavirtue (1104259) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:03PM (#39550419)

    Our society is truly fucked up if you can't send a stranger a text message without being labeled a creep. Seriously. Having come across this conversation, a lot of this is not making sense once I think about it. When I was a teenager I used to search female profiles on AOL and send text messages to strangers. No one thought it was creepy, and I even met one of my girlfriends like that (nice girl). We didn't even have profile pics back then. WTF! Now there is a total fucked up paranoia about everything. Why have all this social media crap if we cannot meet new people for fuck's sake!!! Boring. Let's wall everyone off into our own little corner of the world where we only talk to the people we know. It just seems to be the opposite of ideal and makes no sense that the technology is going to prevent us from forming new relationships or breaking the boundary of our isolated regions or locales. No wonder I hate Facebook--the reasons are becoming apparent. Instead of FB bombarding us with people we might know, why don't they facilitate connections with people we do not know who are interested in the same things that we are? The people I know are that simply because we were born in the same area and ran in to each other. I guess it makes sense that the technology continues to model this lame reality.

  • by pla (258480) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:03PM (#39550429) Journal
    I bet it honestly never occured to the guys who did this thing that someone might use it for creepy stuff.

    I bet it honestly never occurred to all the narcissists posting their current fucking location to a publicly accessible social networking site that maybe, just maybe, someone with less honorable intentions than their BFF-of-the-week might end up seeing that information.

    Wake up call, folks - This app came down because the dev needed to obey Apple's policies (ie, use a semi-legitimate means of getting to Foursquare and Facebook rather than just scraping them without permission). Some less legitimate dev could quietly recreate this exact app outside the Apple food-chain, and no one would even know about it.
  • by forkfail (228161) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:18PM (#39550649)

    ... but not for individuals?

  • by geminidomino (614729) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:22PM (#39550707) Journal

    You're the one who brought up rape, GP never mentioned it

    By "getting what she deserves" and "taught a lesson," I parsed that as being treated like a sex toy/arm candy and tossed out when she gets boring, not treated with respect, etc. And why not?

    You want to act like Snookie, you've got no business bitching about being treated like Snookie.

  • by 228e2 (934443) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:22PM (#39550711)
    And?

    Does the fact that you used to do this when you were younger automatically mean its ok? We've all done our fair share of things as a teenager I'm sure we dont anymore.

    I would also like to point out that the onus of what is "creepy" is not decided by one side of the fence. A medium such as AOL back in the days advocated to that exact method of meeting strangers. Some people didn't use AOL that way. The same applies for Facebook, Myspace, etc.

    tr;dr - If I feel creeped out that JohnDoe2 keeps messaging me about concerts about my favorite band regardless of if I have NSYNC pictures all over my public profile, its still creepy.
    The issue with a lot of people isnt that their info is unknowingly public, its that someone is has sought you out and knows some things about you and you're wondering from where and what else does this person know.
  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:26PM (#39550757)

    I wouldn't say you deserve the negative attention. I have no problem with public nudity. Just don't be surprised if someone looks.

    I don't see anything wrong with nudity, honestly.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:35PM (#39550873) Homepage

    Our society is truly fucked up if you can't send a stranger a text message without being labeled a creep.

    Well, that's one opinion. Do you think this would be somehow different than knocking on a strangers door to ask if she'd like to go out with you? Sounds a little creepy to me. And a lot pathetic.

    I sure as hell wouldn't respond to a text message from some random person who thought we could be friends. I'd probably tell them to fuck off or not even reply.

    When I was a teenager I used to search female profiles on AOL and send text messages to strangers. No one thought it was creepy

    Maybe nobody ever told you that, but it's creepy nonetheless. It sounds like the years of "a/s/l" which everyone got bombarded with on chat rooms -- bunch of lonely pathetic guys thinking they'd put their swerve on and assume and try to hit on every suspected female in the vicinity.

    No wonder I hate Facebook--the reasons are becoming apparent. Instead of FB bombarding us with people we might know, why don't they facilitate connections with people we do not know who are interested in the same things that we are?

    If you want match.com, go there. I don't give FB enough information to try to infer people I might like to know. I sure as hell don't want random internet losers to think we should be friends.

    I'm sorry, but as a guy even I can see how some random guy going "mmmm .... girl ... will you be my friend" would be somewhat creepy.

    Most especially since this app is mining through other services to get this information. If the women had signed up for a "introduce me to random guys" kind of thing, sure. But they're most likely wondering who the hell you are and WTF you're texting them for.

    This is kind of like standing at the door of the mall and asking every pretty girl who walks in if she'd like to go out with you. In real life, that would likely lead to security or the police having a little chat with you.

  • by Zinho (17895) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:56PM (#39551187) Journal

    Our society is truly fucked up if you can't send a stranger a text message without being labeled a creep.

    Well, that's one opinion. Do you think this would be somehow different than knocking on a strangers door to ask if she'd like to go out with you? Sounds a little creepy to me. And a lot pathetic.

    No, it's not a lot different from knocking on a stranger's door and introducing yourself. The reason why datavirtue may think it acceptable is that before he knocked he was invited by the girl onto her porch so he could read her diary which she left there with the intent that strangers read it. People tend to forget what their open privacy policies on FB really mean; either that or they truly don't understand the implications. All this app does is bridge that gap from a virtual front porch to the actual one, and only for people openly publishing where that IRL front porch is. Creeped out? Stop sharing your location with strangers.

  • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Monday April 02, 2012 @01:05PM (#39551289)

    The issue with a lot of people isnt that their info is unknowingly public, its that someone is has sought you out and knows some things about you and you're wondering from where and what else does this person know.

    Why is that an issue? Here are the answers - they got the information from Facebook, and they know whatever else you say about your daily life or post in your profile.

    Here's an example - I'm friends with a girl on Facebook that I haven't seen in about 15 years, and I know her middle name, birthday, son's name, school history, current work situation, relationship status, where she ate last week, etc. Not because I actively seek it out, but because she posts an update when she does goddamn anything. If she's creeped out that I know all those things then she's probably pretty stupid. It would be pretty funny to run into her on the street and start spouting off all these facts about her life though, I would like to see the look on her face. If narcissistic people like that are surprised that other people know all the stuff that they constantly post about themselves then they have no one to blame but themselves.

    I also don't really see anything creepy about my behavior there. I think it's a little creepy and suspect that she feels compelled to tell the world that she ate at Firehouse Subs last weekend, not the fact that I remember odd bits of information.

  • by jythie (914043) on Monday April 02, 2012 @01:27PM (#39551589)
    True, there is that varient. Perhaps I should have been more specific.. females stalking males who are currently capable (as in not already attached) of returning their interest. Females trying to break up another relationship which they feel entitled too... though even then, outside extreme cases, I encounter the attitude that he must have done something insensitive to her like ditching her (under the idea that women are fragile emotional beings not responsible for their own lives, thus if she is that upset he MUST have done something to injure her). So bullshit all around ^_^
  • by lgw (121541) on Monday April 02, 2012 @02:48PM (#39552445) Journal

    Why is it creepy to have all the same information you'd have if you asked a friend of hers?

    The "creepy" math is simple: woman finds man attractive, then all advances are "romantic"; woman finds man unattractive, then all advances are "creepy". There's no deeper meaning.

  • by anyGould (1295481) on Monday April 02, 2012 @03:27PM (#39552967)

    It is expected that individuals in certain jobs (primarily dealing with children) show standards of behaviour different from the norm.

    In some cases there is a good reason for it...I think it would be difficult for a 18 year old boy to keep their minds on schoolwork if the students were passing around links to pictures of their 22-year old teacher in clubwear at a rave.

    Not to burst your sexism, but it's safe to assume that if the 18-year-old kid wishes to ogle his 22-year-old teacher (of whatever gender), what they're wearing at that moment will probably suit the kid just fine.

    (Not to mention that at 18, it's entirely possible the kid was at the same club - they're legal, after all.)

    I'll agree with you in that I don't think newly-minted teachers should be in high schools. Not for any salacious reason, but simply the fact that four years isn't really enough distance to enforce the student/teacher distinction (in either direction). Let them do a couple years in junior high first to age up a bit.

  • by spire3661 (1038968) on Monday April 02, 2012 @03:35PM (#39553079) Journal
    You do realize that you are using the term wholly out of context, correct? Are you wasting our time or trying to make an unfunny joke? He did use an absolute, EVER. No one should EVER be raped, EVER, in the entirety of the Cosmos. No human should inflict that type of harm on another for any reason, even in retribution for an equally heinous act. It is an impossible position to condone and why i will always call out people who think 'pound in the as prison' is an acceptable term to use in the 21st century.
  • by guises (2423402) on Monday April 02, 2012 @07:10PM (#39555225)

    it's making sweeping (and frequently incorrect) remarks about 50% of the population

    Also frequently correct. When you really look at sexual attraction, what motivates it is often unflattering. Being attracted to "confidence" is just socially acceptable code for power or dominance. This is often related to wealth, another thing to which you're not supposed to admit to being attracted. Men have a simpler drive, but we're usually told to be ashamed to look at a woman's body - this is objectification, etc.

    On the one hand, it's easy to see why stigmas like these exist: looking no further than a woman's body is an easy path to misery, men who are the most dominant are often also the most abusive. Our biology is what it is, however, and it does us no good to just deny it. These sorts of comments are just people venting their frustration, don't make too much out of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2012 @10:13PM (#39556315)

    "The "creepy" math is simple: woman finds man attractive, then all advances are "romantic"; woman finds man unattractive, then all advances are "creepy". There's no deeper meaning."

    In high school, if not before, you would have seen this behavior in detail quite often. It and the women who espouse it just get worse from there.

    "'Why does this shit get so frequently modded up on slashdot?""

    This is slashdot, users are well aquainted with the above behavior. Take your Politically Correct BullShit somewhere else!

    Posting anonymously as i'm currently using IE on Vista, Uh!

  • by jwhitener (198343) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @06:30PM (#39566851)

    I think it would be more accurate to say that women find advances creepy if they haven't given any signals that it is welcome.

    If you walk up to a strange woman, introduce yourself, and she responds with a smile and her eyes dilate, you are probably OK asking something slightly more personal. How you interact is based on how she's interacting back.

    If you walk up to a strange woman, introduce yourself, and she's all business. Just shakes your hand, doesn't smile. Remains neutral, eyes don't dilate, face doesn't flush, etc.. You'd best keep things business-like and if your only intent was flirting or asking her out, probably give up at that point.

    You make it sound like if you are an attractive person, you can just go up to a strange woman and give her a hug (or more). No, you have to begin with the basic social conventions of getting to know someone, and following normal social cues as to whether the path you are on is welcome.

    I can see how some people who are socially awkward might reach your conclusion, but really, it is just exactly as I described.

    You could make the case the the 'get to know you' period can take longer if the person is socially awkward or not very attractive, but it is the same 'get to know you' period that any person faces when working up to deciding to flirt or not.

    And attraction itself is a very big tent to most women. Lets say you go to a conference. You aren't very physically attractive but you want to meet (note: meet is the first step, not 'advances' or flirting) a woman. You'll have to find something to begin the 'get to know her' period. Notice a book she's read and you've read it too, make a comment about it. Make a joke about something happening at the conference. Give up your spot in a line if she looks in a hurry, etc... rinse repeat continue. And perhaps by the end of the conference you'll notice her smiling more, eyes dilating, etc.. now, and not before, you can start 'making advances' as you put it.

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