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Apps Aid Cyberstalkers

January 28, 2013

girls around meSome mobile apps, such as Girls Around Me, could be used by criminals

Most smartphone apps are fun and entertaining but police and technology experts are cautioning unwary women about certain apps that reveal personal information to would-be stalkers.

One such app, Girls Around Me, sparked online outrage recently from critics who say it takes advantage of those who don’t understand privacy policies on sites like Facebook. Girls Around Me is part of a new breed of “social discovery apps” used by people to track the whereabouts of friends and co-workers using mobile devices.

This app allows users to access information from Facebook and Foursquare accounts. This makes it a legitimate access to someone’s personal information. The unsuspecting female, or male, has no idea that their Facebook or Foursquare account is being tapped into.

The Girls Around Me website promoted its iPhone app with a sexy female silhouette and the words: “In the mood for love, or just a one-night stand? Girls Around Me puts you in control!”

It’s not hard to imagine what the app developer had in mind. The Russian developers said it was only designed to make geo-social exploration of popular venues easy and visual. It has opened up a whole new arena to stalkers to glean information of their victims. It is virtually impossible to control the flow of personal information with these apps.

The technology is invasive and in the wrong hands could even be dangerous, said Tom Keenan, a professor in the University’s Calgary’s faculty of environmental design. It’s creepy and it sets people up for opportunistic stalking, there’s no question,” he said. Keenan, who wrote his first computer program at Princeton in 1965, follows technology trends closely and is amazed at the ways men and women unwittingly put themselves in compromising positions online. A big part of the problem is people feel the need to “over share” every detail of their lives — and that, argues Keenan, inadvertently plays into the hands of stalkers and other criminals.

Users need to be more vigilant with password protection and also what information is for the public domain and what information should be kept private.


Filed in: General

About the Author:

Christopher is an IT specialist with 30 years of experience in developing technology working with corporates and SME’s. Chris is a Microsoft Certified System Engineer and holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, as well as numerous certificate based qualifications in technology and application development. Christopher is the CEO of internetSOS - A project to help people learn how to protect themselves online.

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