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Girls Around Me: It was creepy; wait, no it wasn't

April 04, 2012|By Amy Hubbard
  • Girls Around Me asked users whether they were in the mood for love. The app has been pulled.
Girls Around Me asked users whether they were in the mood for love. The app… (Girls Around Me screen grab )

Girls Around Me — the iPhone app that's been called "creepy" and a way to abet stalkers — has been pulled, voluntarily, from the App Store. But it continues to stir debate about privacy and whether the app has been unfairly slammed.

It's the user who's the problem, not the app, right?  Depends on whom you ask.

Girls Around Me uses location data from mobile service Foursquare to view nearby girls or guys, as Mashable explains. The user can "scan" for people (the default is women) who have checked into Foursquare, see preview pictures and then peek in on an individual's Facebook profile.

When the app flap began, Foursquare released a statement saying Girls Around Me violated its API policy. Apple removed the app Saturday night.

App designer i-Free Innovations, of Russia, appears more than a little irritated by all the fuss, telling the Wall Street Journal in a lengthy statement that the app is misunderstood and doesn't access any data that isn't already readily available.

"The app was intended for facilitating discovering of great public venues nearby," i-Free insisted.

But that's a different representation from the Girls Around Me website, which asks: "In the mood for love, or just after a one-night stand? Girls Around Me puts you in control!"

The New York Times wrote that the app went to a "creepy" new level as a user can identify a woman to approach who "has no idea you're snooping on her."

TechCrunch said that before it was pulled "Girls Around Me met your 21st century stalking needs, complete with in-app purchases."

But Sarah Jacobsson Purewal at PCWorld says "it's hard to see this app as a real threat to privacy or women."  Rather, she says, it's "a wake-up call to those who publicly overshare."

In a commentary at Information Week, Thomas Claburn notes that there are many other tools that could be used for stalking and usually aren't. Binoculars, for instance. 

Still, binoculars don't come with a "use to look at women" sticker.

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Girls Around Me: It was creepy; wait, no it wasn't 

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