Lock Up Your Daughters (and Related Social Media Privacy Concerns) [Updated]
They say it aint a party until something breaks. Then somebody gets in trouble and there’s buzzkill in the air. Usually, it’s a result of somebody taking it a little too far. The same can be said of markets and social media in particular. Things seem to be going fine and everybody is having a good time. Then wham– there’s an app on the market that let’s guys locate where the babes are in their vicinity. It’s called “GirlsAround.Me” and I first learned of it in this story that ran yesterday.
As a father of a college student daughter, seeing this app was like a punch in the gut. From the http://www.girlsaround.me website:
Girls Around Me combines the best features of Facebook, Google Maps and foursquare! And with millions of chicks checking in daily, there’s never been a better time to be on the hunt…
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…
Browse photos of lovely local ladies and tap their thumbnail to find out more about them…
Girls Around Me is the perfect complement to any pick-up strategy. Send a sultry message via Facebook or turn up at the venue armed with flowers and a winning smile to sweep that special girl off her feet!
From the post, the nightmare scenario:
“So let’s say I’m a bro, looking to go out for a night on the town and pick someone up. Let’s say I’m going to the Independent around the corner, and checking it out ahead of time, I really like the look of this girl Zoe — she looks like a girl I might want to try to get with tonight — so I tap her picture for more information, see what I can find out about here.”
I tapped on Zoe. Girls Around Me quickly loaded up a fullscreen render of her Facebook profile picture. The app then told me where Zoe had last been seen (The Independent) and when (15 minutes ago). A big green button at the bottom reading “Photos & Messaging” just begged to be tapped, and when I did, I was whisked away to Zoe’s Facebook profile.
“Okay, so here’s Zoe. Most of her information is visible, so I now know her full name. I can see at a glance that she’s single, that she is 24, that she went to Stoneham High School and Bunker Hill Community College, that she likes to travel, that her favorite book is Gone With The Wind and her favorite musician is Tori Amos, and that she’s a liberal. I can see the names of her family and friends. I can see her birthday.”
“All of that is visible on Facebook?” one of the other girls in our group asked.
“More, depending on how your privacy settings are configured! For example, I can also look at Zoe’s pictures.”
I tapped on the photo album, and a collection of hundreds of publicly visible photos loaded up. I quickly browsed them.
“Okay, so it looks like Zoe is my kind of girl. From her photo albums, I can see that she likes to party, and given the number of guys she takes photos with at bars and clubs at night, I can deduce that she’s frisky when she’s drunk, and her favorite drink is a frosty margarita. She appears to have recently been in Rome. Also, since her photo album contains pictures she took at the beach, I now know what Zoe looks like in a bikini… which, as it happens, is pretty damn good.”
My girlfriend scowled at me. I assured her Zoe in a bikini was no comparison, and moved on.
“So now I know everything to know about Zoe. I know where she is. I know what she looks like, both clothed and mostly disrobed. I know her full name, her parents’ full names, her brother’s full name. I know what she likes to drink. I know where she went to school. I know what she likes and dislikes. All I need to do now is go down to the Independent, ask her if she remembers me from Stoneham High, ask her how her brother Mike is doing, buy her a frosty margarita, and start waxing eloquently about that beautiful summer I spent in Roma.”
Of course, I immediately contacted my daughter to make sure she was not on Foursquare. Luckily, shortly after this story ran, the location-aware feature that plotted people on a map in your vicinity was pulled by Foursquare. So the stalking element within this app is no more.
As horrible as this app is in the hands of a sick person, we believe it is the first of many that will cascade through the blogosphere and into mainstream media that will serve as a slap in the face to wake us all up. We all share too much. We do not pay enough attention to the fine print when we grant permission to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and a growing list of apps that seek to leverage their ‘social graphs’. As we noted here, we believe this will change in 2012 (as do others).
Back to the party metaphor. Apps like these, and the select bad apples who get out of control, ruin it for the rest of us… both as users who can benefit from location-aware, permission-based sharing and the New Market Entrepreneurs who are looking to solve legitimate problems via these technologies. In fact, LaunchPad is currently working on such an app that (in addition to a boatload of other cool stuff) will assist people who wish to connect before, during, and after events of all kinds (sports, concerts, corporate).
Will there be a backlash against participating in location-based social sharing? Or, rather, will users become smarter and more aware of what, when and where they share– making the market more intentional. Time will tell.
[Update 4/1: While this topic may read like an April Fools prank, it’s not. The good news is that GirlsAround.me was pulled from the Apple App store last night]
[Update 4/2: Here is the response from the Russian developer behind GirlsAround.me – A lame attempt to defend the app’s reason for being, but nonetheless instructive on why we all need to be very careful with what we share.]