FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Girl-Finding App Removed From iTunes Store, Still Reveals Extremely Creepy Things About the Internet

By: iCopywriter Senior Editor, Heather Price-Wright

Ever wondered what the downside might be to geo-location social networking platforms like Foursquare and Facebook’s check-in feature?

The recent firestorm over a now-defunct app points to just exactly why you might want to double-check your privacy settings with such services, or stop using them at all.

The app, called “Girls Around Me,” was voluntarily pulled from the Apple iTunes store on Monday, but not before what seemed like the entirety of the tech and social media worlds weighed in on whether or not it was the creepiest thing ever to hit the social networking scene.

Basically, Girls Around Me used public Foursquare and Facebook profiles to find “girls” near the user, and even created a map of the surrounding area pinpointing where people had checked in. Last week, Foursquare disallowed access to its location data from developer SMS Services O.o.o., rendering the app basically useless; SMS Services later got rid of the app altogether, claiming the company would re-launch a different version at a later date.

Much has been made of the creepiness of the app, which, according to its iTunes store description, was a “radar-style” to “SEE WHERE NEARBY GIRLS ARE CHECKING IN” (sic). And sure, it’s gross, not least for its referral to presumably grown women as “girls.”

But regardless of the app’s rise and fall, the real lesson here seems to be in protecting one’s own online privacy. After all, Girls Around Me wouldn’t have been possible if people (men and women alike) weren’t voluntarily providing public information about their whereabouts for anyone to find and, yes, creep on.

And whether or not this particularly icky application still exists, it should probably be a lesson to all of us: Especially when it comes to location-based social networking, those privacy settings should be on lockdown. Because it’s not just skeezy app developers who might want to know where you are; anyone from thieves looking for empty homes to crazy exes to that weird peripheral friend you don’t ever want to hang out with one-on-one can easily find you via such services.

Our advice?

  • Don’t make your Foursquare account public; set it so only friends can see your check-ins
  • Ditto Facebook; only friends should be able to see check-ins and, just to be on the safe side, all your other information, especially things like addresses and phone numbers should be restricted as well
  • Configure Facebook settings so that you have to approve the post anytime someone else tags you somewhere; that way, friends of friends can’t see where you are unless you let them
  • Be careful, and be smart, with your location on social media. Posts like, “Out of the country for 2 weeks!!!!!!,” when public, may as well scream, “No one is home so please rob me!!!!!!!”

How do you keep yourself secure and creep-free on social media? Do you use location-based services, or find that they provide a little TMI? Let us know in the comments!

Have you checked out lately?