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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 @11:51AM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:00PM (#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 @12:01PM (#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 QuasiSteve (2042606) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:41PM (#39550081)

        I've been reading about this thing ever since the story broke and found plenty of apps that do more or less the same thing - it's only after Cult of Mac reported about it that it seems the outrage really took off... and even then still only for this app.

        The most worrying story I read was that people (they mention girls/women. a lot. pulling at the ol' heartstrings, I suppose, as the app can list men just as well) should indeed be aware of what information they put out there when they go and sign up for facebook, foursquare, etc.
        If you feel a "but" coming, here goes:
        BUT, that doesn't mean that people should be allowed to just take that information and use it for their own purposes.

        They likened it to the "with what she was wearing, she had it coming" adage. Which is a horrible thing, and a horrible comparison as it immediately conjures up images of sexual assault / rape. In reality, the comparison is more akin to "with what she was wearing, she shouldn't complain that somebody was looking". If somebody walks down the street dressed up as Batman, I'm going to look. If somebody walks down the street in shorts that are little more than panties made out of denim, I'm going to look (female or not), because who wouldn't? I'm not going to suggest that if you're wearing that, you want to get sexually assaulted, and perhaps you don't even want to get looked at - but in the latter case you really just have a poor grasp on reality.

        So if somebody puts up information on foursquare about where they are, and I find that information, think the person looks cute, yes - I may just google them, and find their facebook, and then take a closer look. Is that creepy? Well if I look up your favorite movie, drink, etc., walk into the establishment, sit down close to you and order your favorite drink and start yapping away about that movie.. yes. But then I'm a creep - that doesn't make finding that information 'creepy'. It's just human curiosity. Millions of people don't find it one bit creepy when it's a story in the latest tabloid / Cosmo / etc.

        And yet that is exactly the sort of thing that is being argued in these articles. That when you put something on facebook, you're actually only putting it up there for the purposes that you want it to be used for. Even if you've made it public for the world, that you get full control over how that information is used.
        So you want to be found with foursquare because that's how you get your cheaper drink, but you don't want anybody -but- that establishment to know that. Of course the establishment has the exact opposing desire: they want as many people checked in there as possible. Neither of them are likely to 'want' apps like these to exist, but the latter two desires are completely opposite.

        So what is the solution? Why, ban these apps, of course.
        Never mind that the information can still be looked up manually (or by means of other apps), as long as the threat that's on the radar has been eliminated.

        One suggestion that I did find interesting was getting a notification when somebody uses your information. Unfortunately, that would be technically a horrible mess, and with things like foursquare, how quickly would you turn those notifications off when you get dozens per day from random passers-by / people doing web queries / etc?

        There was a great opportunity here to teach people about their privacy settings, but it has gotten completely undermined by simply labeling the app as 'creepy', 'stalker app', etc. and the defense that just because you're telling the world where you are, that doesn't mean the world should actually be listening.

        This includes Cult of Mac, whose latter stories have focused more on the app than on the privacy issues with foursquare/facebook.
        Though I wouldn't expect much different, seeing as Cult of Mac uses a comment syndication service (Vanilla) which, in part, accepts facebook logins. Which in turn yields your facebook profile image. Which in turn yields your facebook profile, no matter what you make your user name in the comment appear to be.
        Doctor, heal thyself.

        • by EdIII (1114411)

          Is that creepy? Well if I look up your favorite movie, drink, etc., walk into the establishment, sit down close to you and order your favorite drink and start yapping away about that movie.. yes.

          Why? Why is it creepy?

          In an increasingly connected society in which there exists a strong trend to share information and collect it in realtime, at some point it becomes normal to see somebody and want to access their public information. If only as a matter of curiosity.

          If I see an attractive woman, and an application on my portable device can identify her right away and collect all the public information and present it to me, how much information is at my fingertips to determine if I would like to get to

      • by StikyPad (445176)

        This app doesn't really facilitate stalking any more than cars or binoculars, and probably less so, since check-ins are made of one's own volition. As for whether it's stupid for women to post that information, I'd say hardly. Women like to be seen, noticed, and approached, though obviously by the men they're interested in, and this is yet another way to be seen. That they have to deal with advances from guys they're not interested in is just the price of being the more passive of the species. I'm not s

    • by Chatterton (228704) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:04PM (#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.

      • you're right, this isn't much different than http://pleaserobme.com/ [pleaserobme.com] -- and it even has a high chance of being effective. any girl stupid enough to make her facebook account public is more likely to sleep with the kind of guy that needs this app. just sayin
      • Heh he could have changed about 5 words and sold it to the government!

        "Terrorists around you" (everybody!)

      • by mikael (484)

        I had to take a database theory class to understand the dangers of "unique identifiers" with web forums and other systems. You might not give out your name, but mentioning the last few employers is enough to identify you. Just one historical local event can be identifiable to a city.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:11PM (#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 Goaway (82658) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:12PM (#39549721) Homepage

      I bet it honestly never occured to the guys who did this thing that someone might use it for creepy stuff.

      Yeah, no, they knew exactly what it was. Just look at the loading screen:

      http://www.cultofmac.com/157641/this-creepy-app-isnt-just-stalking-women-without-their-knowledge-its-a-wake-up-call-about-facebook-privacy/ [cultofmac.com]

    • I bet it honestly never occured to the guys who did this thing that someone might use it for creepy stuff.

      Cutlery shops, anyone? Those must be really creepy as well because you can chop people to pieces with them!

    • by zoloto (586738)
      freedom always had an ugly side. it should be banned - b/c that's not freedom.
    • by Millennium (2451)

      I bet it honestly never occured to the guys who did this thing that someone might use it for creepy stuff.

      More likely, I think, is that they don't consider that stuff to be creepy. A depressing number of people just don't.

    • I'd be willing to file this under "creepy, but inevitable". Given the amount of data these people posted about themselves publicly, it'd only be a matter of time until an app like this was made, and it'll only be a matter of time until one is made again.

      Rather than being creeped out about it, and removing it, someone should just take a lesson from judo, and use the weight of the users against them. Someone should just create a Firesheep-like app that identifies users of the system, and when they accessed your data. Call it "Doucher Alert". If the alert goes off, and five minutes later you get hit on by a guy who "was just passing by, baby", then you can safely cross them off your list. Let the morons self-identify. Don't take away their tools, but just make sure the toolbox contains a long enough length of rope.

    • by pla (258480) on Monday April 02, 2012 @01:03PM (#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.
    • Eh.... the following comments from the developer sort of flies in the face of the "it's all innocent!" argument:

      "In the mood for love, or just after a one-night stand? Girls Around Me puts you in control!" (right in the summary) and "helps you see where nearby girls are checking in, and shows you what they look like and how to get in touch" (press release).

      That doesn't necessarily mean they advocated stalking, or that they were doing anything illegal/dishonest/that-a-clever-person-can't-do-with-twitt
  • by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:54AM (#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 jxander (2605655) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:59AM (#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 firex726 (1188453) <firex726@3.1415926yahoo.com minus pi> on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:02PM (#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.

    • What good does pulling this app serve, exactly? I can already see some bastard in some godforsaken country with big $$$s in his eyes, thinking "that would be a great online service".

      I'm actually quite amazed that such services don't exist yet (otoh, I have not been looking, they may actually exist and nobody bothered to tell me).

      Information you put on the internet can and will be mined. And I really, really, REALLY hope that it happens sooner than later, before the fallout gets even worse.

      • Gaydar? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by xaxa (988988) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:30PM (#39549945)

        A while back I was chatting to a friend in a bar, who suddenly said, "wow, he's hot! I wonder if he's single?" and pulled out his phone to check.

        I think the app on the phone was called Gaydar. It did essentially the same thing -- showed nearby men's pictures, and some basic profile information. However, the big difference is the men had all very clearly opted in to this service.

        (The man was not on Gaydar, so my friend had to do things the old-fashioned way, and go and talk to him.)

        • There's nothing implicitly wrong with being "available" on dating sites. You go there for the explicit reason of trying to find someone suitable. I can well see that, especially in environments where sex is implied. I guess it can add a touch for, e.g., BDSM where you don't have to tell a prospective partner your limits but can still rely fairly well on him knowing them because he checked them online.

          But back on topic. As I said, you signed up on this page to be looking for dates. You KNEW that someone who

    • by SQLGuru (980662)

      It's kind of like Torrent Trackers. It isn't necessarily that the trackers do anything bad -- they just consolidate the information in a fashion that makes it easier to find. That's all this app does. But that's still facilitating the sketchy activity.

    • by vlm (69642) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:06PM (#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 Rogerborg (306625)
        Eh, the thinking seems to be that women are just so ditzy that we can't trust their chosen privacy settings, bless their pretty little heads. Stick to knitting and kittens, girls, leave this complicated intardnets stuff to manly men with manly neckbeards.
    • The problem is that they think that the information they put online is nothing important.... Until their life is destroyed by that same information (Teachers' party picture, tweet with bad words...)

      Should we cripple services and/or internet because of some fools. Or let Darwin do its job?

  • by martas (1439879) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:55AM (#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...
    • This is a good point, but on the other hand engaging in risky behavior cannot and should not make you responsible for the people who unscrupulously take advantage of that risky behavior. The culpability always lies in the hands of those who actually engage in wrongful conduct. Blaming victims is a horrible thing to do, and you should re-examine your position considering that point.

      I agree that it would help a lot if people in general had a greater understanding of the persistence and availability of infor

      • by martas (1439879)
        Hm, good point. I know I was being extreme in my original post. Still, it's not clear whether this is an example of someone taking advantage of risky behavior. I don't know if what happened is legally equivalent to someone stealing a car with its doors wide open and key in the ignition (obviously I mean qualitatively, not in severity), or, say, snapping a picture of someone who walked out into the street naked with a dildo up his ass (in which case I believe the person taking the picture is often morally an
      • by swillden (191260)

        This is a good point, but on the other hand engaging in risky behavior cannot and should not make you responsible for the people who unscrupulously take advantage of that risky behavior. The culpability always lies in the hands of those who actually engage in wrongful conduct.

        No argument... but I also don't see anyone here who engaged in any wrongful conduct. This app is "creepy", yes, but mostly because it makes clear to people who might not have realized it that they're publishing information they might not want others to know. Arguably, that's a good thing... because the absence of the app doesn't mean the information isn't available and easily accessible. Hopefully this will motivate some women to be more circumspect about who they publish their checkins to (does Foursquar

  • Typical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:55AM (#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

    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 @11:58AM (#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 @11:58AM (#39549543)

    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 Thud457 (234763) on Monday April 02, 2012 @11:59AM (#39549561) Homepage Journal
    A " girl " is like "your mom", but younger and not genetically related to you.
    • A " girl " is like "your mom", but younger and not genetically related to you.

      ... unless that girl is your sister. Then you're heading right back into 'creepy' territory.

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      Not exactly. It isn't known if any particular "girl" puts out. It IS know that your mom does.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:00PM (#39549579)

    No, not because I want to stalk women. But maybe it will eventually make people aware that their privacy is something that should be kept, well, private.

    Yes, I'm aware of the implications. Then again, I have zero sympathy for stupid people.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:05PM (#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 @12:06PM (#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 Shavano (2541114) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:06PM (#39549659)

    The bonus is that you can find airheads. Just looking around you will only tell you that they are women, not that they're also careless about their personal safety.

  • To all the people who say you don't need privacy if you've got nothing to hide, fuck you. While this app has no business in the app store anyway, hopefully the masses will wake up and STOP BROADCASTING their entire life on the Internet.

  • Automatic hot nightclub recognition would be fun. Crunch on Facebook data to see who's popular. Use Face Beaury Rank [facebeautyrank.com] (see "Automatic Classification of Chinese Female Facial Beauty using Support Vector Machine" [hcii-lab.net] for the theory) to see who's good looking. Use Foursquare data to see what places fill up with hot women. Compute the male/female ratio for locations. Discard places which are almost all female (those are probably beauty salons, etc.) Display on map.

  • This app actually gives me an idea how to increase awareness of people concerning their privacy. Create a homepage where you can "for fun" see what's available about you on the internet. Of course that entails signing up to a lot of social networking sites (to see "everything").

    Then tell them that you sent this comprehensive collection also to Bob (see picture of naked, fat man) who is desperately looking for a "friend". If you're looking for a "friend" too, just send a pic and the info about the next idiot

  • by DaScribbler (701492) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:09PM (#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.
  • Sounded like a cool app to me. If you do something idiotic like publish your location in real time on the Internet for the whole world to see, you need a nice kick in the pants to help you understand just how much of a fool you are. I actually think we need more apps like this, they help remind people why some of us "crazies" actually value our privacy.

  • by JBv (25001) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:15PM (#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 @12:19PM (#39549805)
    If you share your position with the whole internet then anyone will know where you are. Who would have thought?
  • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Monday April 02, 2012 @12:46PM (#39550167)
    Would it surprise you if the government already uses such "apps" and cops on the street had it in their patrol cars? Sure, tin foil hat alert, but when some creep uses it to smooth talk women and there's public outcry, why let cops, or robbers (burglars can also get all this info on you, including how far from your home you are) get away with it? It's about time people started understanding what privacy is about and this app does just that.

    I'm all for a few more iterations of this, just so the public gets aware of what is really done with all their information.
  • by forkfail (228161) on Monday April 02, 2012 @01:18PM (#39550649)

    ... but not for individuals?

  • by aepervius (535155) on Monday April 02, 2012 @02:06PM (#39551309)
    It is not about showing your status to the bloody whole itnernet, it is about application *aggregating* that data and making it easy to get. It does not matter too much if you show your four square checkin, if it is not searchable. YOu are one among thousands. Nobody can manually search that many profile and pay dirt outside of chanec. But *aggregating* and offering the results is what makes the app creepy.

    That said, in addition to the map being creepy, people do not value their privacy. I do. facebook and associated domain go directely to 127.0.0.1 in my host file. Good luck trying to track me with your "like " button.

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