Wednesday, April 4, 2012

iPhone App Contributes To Trafficking?

It's been a couple of months since I've written here, & I apologize. Usually when I blog, I have an idea rolling around in my head for a week or so, & God will continually speak to me about something specific for several days on end before I actually sit down to collect my thoughts & compose a post. Lately there hasn't been anything really pressing that I've felt the need to write about, but in wasting time browsing around the internet this evening, I found an article that made my skin crawl & had to write about it right away.

Practically everyone has a smartphone these days, & we all have applications on them. From Angry Birds to Flixster to Key Ring to Facebook, apps are the quickest means of finding the nearest restaurant, movie showtimes, or...girls to hook up with? Enter the creepiest app I've probably ever heard of: "Girls Around Me." Basically, here's how it works: After pinpointing your exact location, Girls Around Me will show you a map, & on that map there are thumbnail pictures of women who, you guessed it, are around you. How does it know this? Facebook & Foursquare users who have publicly visible profiles & "check in" on either of these social networking sites can automatically be seen; they've essentially (often unknowingly) made their phones into GPS tracking devices for any Joe Schmoe looking for a one-night stand. As if it's not bad enough that anyone who has this app can see where you are at any given time, it actually gets worse: by tapping the photo of whatever girl you decide you fancy, the app will actually give you all of her Facebook profile information.

The writer of the article gives an example:
“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 [a bar] 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 her. ... 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. 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. 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. And if that doesn’t work on Zoe, there are — let’s see — nine other girls at the Independent tonight.”

If you are a woman reading this post & you aren't freaked out yet...maybe you should get your head checked. By now, you've probably deduced that if any random guy can get ahold of this information, any predator can too. How many traffickers out there are sitting on their iPhones tracking potential victims? The thing about the app is that it technically isn't doing anything wrong - it's simply pulling public data & consolidating it for your convenience in the same way a movie app can find out where you are, tell you where the closest theater is, tell you what time The Hunger Games is showing there today, & with the tap of your finger you can have tickets waiting for you at the box office. All Girls Around Me is doing is giving you that same access to women based on information they've allowed to be public, whether they realize it's public or not.

Since this article was posted on March 30, the Girls Around Me app has been pulled from the iTunes store. But how long before someone else comes up with something just like it? Whether you're 13 or 30, CHECK YOUR FACEBOOK PRIVACY SETTINGS & make sure that none of your personal information is public. And seriously, stay away from Foursquare. Just don't use it. Why do you need a social networking site to let your friends know where you are? Ladies, please hear me on this & don't advertise what isn't on the menu & become a victim.