‘Girls Around Me’ pulled from app store after privacy controversy

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An controversial app that let cell phone users scope out the photos and personal information of people in their area has been pulled from the iOS App Store.

“Girls Around Me” used public APIs from Google Maps, Facebook and Foursquare to show app users who is near them and exactly where they were last seen. If someone who has public privacy settings on their Facebook then uses Foursquare to check-in somewhere, they could pop up in “Girls Around Me” without even knowing it. You don’t need to grant permission or even use the app yourself to have your photo and profile information pop up on a map.

An article by Cult of Mac pointed out that most social networking sites have default settings that make a profile public when it is first created. It’s up to the user, whether he or she knows it or not, to change the settings to make their profile private. If a user hasn’t done that, he or she is at risk for popping up in the arguably creepy app “Girls Around Me.”

Following that article, Foursquare cut the app’s API access to its data and the app was pulled from the iOS app store. The app’s developer, i-Free, defended the tool in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.

“We follow the geo-social trend for mobile devices that is supported by numerous location sharing services, networks and apps. Many other mobile apps provide the same or more extended functionality using location data provided by APIs of major social networks, i.e. Ban.jo or Sonar,” the company said.

“Girls Around Me does not allow anonymous usage of the app. It is impossible to search for a particular person in this app, or track his|her location. The app just allows the user to browse the venues nearby, as if you passed by and looked in the window,” it added.

While true, the app still raises questions about online security in a number of popular social networks. Every user has the power the customize privacy settings on profiles, but not everyone realizes how exposed their information can be if precautions are not taken.


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