If you, or any woman you know has a their personal Facebook set to “public” tell her to lock that thing down!

This app is gross for so many reasons. Not only is it shady for the girls who unknowingly participate in some sick form of one-sided online dating, but the developers built it off the backs of companies that are understandably unhappy with the association. Their brands have been Brandalized.

For those that haven’t heard about this yet: “Girls Around Me, an iPhone app that allows users to push a button and see the Facebook profiles of every female in walking distance, according to FourSquare and plotted on a Google Map. Cult of Mac blogger John Brownlee used Girls Around Me to check out the bikini pictures and personal histories of strangers in his vicinity on a Saturday night in Boston. If he had wanted to, he could have tracked each woman to the bar or home she was sitting in at that very moment, recognized her by face, and addressed her by name. Or something much scarier.”

In the firestorm that followed, FourSquare has stated that it’s a violation of their policy and shut off their API access. The Girls Around Me developers intend on coming back, and they can. They still want to keep its core functionality intact. It’s my personal opinion that this company’s core functionality is the promotion and enabling of shady behavior. Gamifying the hunting of women. Of course, you wouldn’t expect seedy operators like this to acknowledge the public outcry and maybe …I don’t know …like …come up with a business that’s not creepy and harmful, for instance?  They say it’s about promoting local biz, then why is the imagery and content about meeting sexy women?  They can’t even stand behind their actions.

Just like a classic stalker, they justify and waste so much time and energy on things that are so negative, instead of channeling it into making themselves, or the world better off.

Brand hacking can actually turn out well sometimes and be positive promotion for all parties. A lot of “fandom” projects go viral -and every biz wants creative fun, brand fans. In this case however, it’s leeching off and disrespecting the brands and especially the women. Who, granted,  didn’t make their online info as private as they should.  As far as the law goes, these developers are just aggregating existing public info.

I’m not a big believer in using the old “well if you let yourself be vulnerable then you get whats coming”. That kind of thinking is how elderly people get their life savings swindled, and children & animals get abused. At least we have the internet as our tool to rally together and lend our voice to things we see as wrong.  If they are so “ok” with being evil and can pull out a long list of justifications, we can make these kind of businesses more accountable by spreading awareness and backlash.  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead

We could also choose to see it as a catalyst to make more conscious privacy decisions… That’s something good and overdue. 

Here’s a guide to cutting apps like Foursquare and Facebook off from tracking your data. Read it here.

Commenter Zippity8 on John Brownlee‘s blog that lit the match on this whole thing:

John, thanks for alerting us to the kinds of things that are out there. As for those that have a problem with the app’s demise, ask yourself how you’d feel if your mother/sister/wife/daughter was stalked and hurt because of this app or one like it.

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