Creepy woman-stalking app exploited geolocation

At Cult of Mac, John Brownlee writes about Girls Around Me, a creepy app that exploited geolocation APIs to make it easy to stalk women.

These are all girls with publicly visible Facebook profiles who have checked into these locations recently using Foursquare. Girls Around Me then shows you a map where all the girls in your area trackable by Foursquare area. If there’s more than one girl at a location, you see the number of girls there in a red bubble. Click on that, and you can see pictures of all the girls who are at that location at any given time. The pictures you are seeing are their social network profile pictures.

See also Charlie Sorrel's guide to kill the Facebook and FourSquare features that enable apps like this.


  1. If you want to find women in the area, isn’t it easier to just, I dunno, look around?
    I guess if you want to stalk a particular person, this makes being creepy a cinch. You could post on their Facebook:

    Sally checked into Starbucks.
    Creep: You shouldn’t order the grande. It’ll go straight to your hips. Also, I love your red shoes.

    Sally walks over and punches each male that is staring into a phone.

    That’s a lot of people to punch. Sally’s hand will get bruised. That alone makes this app a bad idea. Protect Sally’s knuckles, don’t download this rubbish.

  2. That’s not what I would call “exploiting” anything. It’s just aggregating public data.

    I can also see what girls are at a coffee shop by walking in the front door, or :gasp: tapping around in Foursquare, where they chose to check into wherever they are. 

  3. gary shteyngart bullseye again
    this from interview at
    (Q): Let’s start with the technology in Super Sad True Love Story, which is both very familiar and very surprising. You’ve taken social media to a logical extreme, to a point at which it becomes antisocial media. Can you describe the devices? What’s … an apparat, for example?
    Gary Shteyngart: … The apparat is worn around the neck as a pendant, and it has what’s called RateMe Plus technology. Let’s say you walk into a bar; it says, “OK, you’re the third-ugliest man in here, but you have the fifth-best credit rating,” things like that. Everyone is constantly ranked and constantly assessing everyone else’s ranking, which is similar to the society we already live in.

  4. It’s not a bug….

    ‘OMG the social network I plug my entire life into is using it for things I consider nefarious!’

  5. Yes, it’s super creepy.  But so what, they banned an app.  The creator will just turn it into a web page and now you don’t need to download an app to be creepy.  The solution, unfortunately, is not to try and control the a-holes, but to not have your information be so public for creeps to creep on you with.  Not blaming the victim, but offering a solution.

    1. “Not blaming the victim,”

      Is it really a “victim?” I see a person who voluntarily broadcasts information about herself to the entire internet, and someone else who reads it. It’s not like there was some implied privacy being violated: telling everyone who and where you are is precisely the point, isn’t it?

      1. If she was snooped by a creep, then at that point I would say it had then crossed the line from being “public information on her whereabouts” (A) to a stalker/victim situation (B).  To most people looking up who’s around, that would be situation A.  But if a creep does it, then it’s situation B.

      2. Except you assume they know. Then you get to “well if she’s too stupid to know then she’s still not a victim” 

        And then you can keep going until you get to the person you think deserves to feel victimized and you can tell them that you allow them to feel that way.

        Or, you could stop blaming the victims.

  6. Yes, it’s creepy.

    On one side, maybe people should have an expectation/right that whatever their privacy settings are should hold more generally (eg, if only approved friends on that social network can see their check-in it shouldn’t be accessible to anyone outside that group on our off that social network).

    On the other hand, if you don’t want information about you to be publicly available, don’t announce it publicly.  In this case, it sounds as if it only uses data from people who indeed have their privacy settings set to allow the information to be publicly available.  The only information being released is the information they’ve agreed to have released.

    While the app is creepy, you can’t really get mad at someone using information that people have set to be publicly available.  When you have things set to “allow everyone to see” you have to expect that some of the people included in that “everyone” may be people who don’t want knowing that information.  “Everyone” includes everyone, whether you know or like them or not.

    One could argue that the privacy settings are often hard to find and confusing to change and thus, many are unaware that they’re information has been set to be viewable by everyone.  That’s a critique that should probably be leveled at Facebook and other social networking sites though, not the makers of the app.  They’re just using information that people have voluntarily made publicly available.

  7. Uh yeah, don’t stalkers usually stalk women they know?

    And the advantage Over just opening your eyes and looking around is just that you know their name before you hit on them.

    It strikes me as more of a d-bag app.

  8. I talked to a few people about this over the weekend and every man thought it was creepy, while every woman didn’t see a problem since it was public data. While I understand that latter position, I thought the packaging and presentation put it pretty solidly in the creepy category. Still, I was surprised by how my friends and others perceived it.

  9. Oh, and, btw, as of today, law enforcement  can strip search you for traffic violations.  Happy Birthday!

  10. Isn’t this basically what Facebook was created for? Seems like a logical extension of broadcasting your social status to the world. Would it be “creepy” if it was women seeking men, or men seeking men or women seeking women all of which are possible with this app.

    IMO, no more creepy than Google or Apple detecting my location and sending me targeted ads for nearby crap.

    1. Because of course it’s the fault of the women if they’re stalked. Right.

      Though I agree with you on some part. I grew up being told “never display your real name on the net! Never give your address or phone number!!!1!” so it’s very strange to me to see that kind of stuff. I still find it creepy, not because of the displaying of information that’s been made public, but because of the smarmy name of the app. “People Around Me”? Ok, I guess, if a bit weird. “Girls Around Me”? Um. A bit more dubious.

      (As a side note: Girls. Not women. It’s never women.)

  11. Rob, go back and read the last couple paragraphs of the article.  It says that, while the app is creepy, the inherent evil here is elsewhere.

    It’s not that Girls Around Me was  “exploiting geolocation data” — but that Facebook and Foresquare make the data available, in such a way as to make it difficult for the average user to realise they are doing anything potentially dangerous.

    That’s not my conclusion: that’s the conclusion of the article.

  12. Exploited!!!!!!  Blargle!!!
    He made use of APIs that were publicly available.  They provided publicly available data.

    He did not use leet hacks to find your Facebook info and provide it to people.  You published where you were to the whole freaking world.  You linked all of these accounts together, and are surprised that someone can get all of that information about you.

    Next moral panic, type your name into Google and see what happens…

    1. He made use of APIs that were publicly available.

      Apparently FourSquare was sufficiently creeped out/freaked out* to trot out a reason for blocking Girls Around Me from accessing that API any more — aggregating data from multiple venues is a no-no. As a result the 70,000 installed apps no longer function, and iFree has pulled the app from the App Store. Here’s the CoM follow-up article.

      Anyone bothered by this app would, of course, be best served by maintaining constant vigilance over their “privacy” settings in FB and FS, such as controlling their location-based inputs to FB… oh, wait; apparently you can’t do that. (From the companion article on how to “Stop Apps From Tracking You Without Your Knowledge Using Foursquare And Facebook”: “In fact, I just spent the last half hour digging around in the [Facebook] privacy settings to find the location-based settings. And it turns out you can’t turn them off.”) So there, iggerant users — simply accept that constantly shifting opt-out “control” of FB outputs is all you need, and be on your merry ways.

      * “Creeped out” by the potential for abuse, or freaked out at the prospect of users learning/yearning to restrict the personal info FourSquare is willing to spew? I’m thinking it’s the latter.

      1. “such as controlling their location-based inputs to FB…”

        …which I have done by not having a FB account.

  13. Next Up: “Creepy” Google Reader Shut Down For Aggregating Publicly Available RSS Feeds

  14.  It’s mainly creepy and predatory-sounding because of the name. If it were called ‘people around me’, I bet it would be seen as a friendly (albeit very misguided) way to meetup with people as easily and  spontaneously IRL as on social networks.

    Why not go to the source and point out that Foursquare is a great tool for stalkers? It is after all the technology behind the app, minus the douchebag name. Anyone who feels like stalking random ‘girls’ can easily use Facebook/Foursquare as is, without needing this app. If your info is public, it’s all right there.

  15. Also creepy – desperate men topping up a fictitious ‘energy bar’ in the app with in-app purchases so it would even work or downloading the free app to do some stalkin’ then realizing they have to pay to use it. Read the app review page on iTunes – it’s great (in a sad way).

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