Hey, wanna see an app to set your skin crawling?
So begins the much linked article at Cult of Mac that set off a mini-firestorm about the disgustingly creepy app “Girls Around Me,” a handy iPhone app built by the Russian developer iFree that utilized the publicly available APIs of Facebook, foursquare, and Google maps to provide a radar screen that informs the user of the location, photo, and profile of every girl who’s used a location-based service to check in nearby.
Perfectly designed to aid any wannabee pickup artist in finding an attractive woman in the vicinity and figuring out what band to say you like when hitting on a stranger, the app immediately raised hackles across the tech world. Foursquare swiftly revoked the app’s access to its API once word of it hit the tech sphere, and with good reason — it’s creepy enough to scare anyone away from social networking.
The response to “Girls Around Me” is nearly as creepy as the actual app, however, albeit far more subtly so.
Cult of Mac writer John Brownlee waxes eloquently about the app, exhorting it as something everyone should “download to teach the people you care about that privacy issues are real, that social networks like Facebook and Foursquare expose you and the ones you love, and that if you do not know exactly how much you are sharing, you are as easily preyed upon as if you were naked.”
That’s right ladies, going out with your Facebook settings not fully locked down is a lot like wandering outside with too short a skirt. You’re practically begging for all of that delicious data to be harvested and abused. Statements like these clearly suggest that the fault lies with the girls who childishly don’t realize what they’re getting into by using a social network like — gasp — Facebook. It certainly doesn’t lie with the folks over at iFree who made the app. They are, according to Brownlee, “nice guys.”
Never mind that the menfolk are allowed to use Facebook with wild abandon or post pictures of their face on reddit without being immediately sexualized. No, the ladies need educating. Just like we need to be educated to wear our skirts below the knee, never leave our drinks unattended, and always use the buddy system when we go to a party. Apparently, educating boys to not be creepy rapists is just too hard.
TechCrunch neatly rips apart this disgusting, but thoroughly unsurprising, attitude. The ones at blame for this abuse are the men that download the app, iFree, Foursquare, and Facebook, not the girls that agreed to Facebook’s terms and conditions. Excerpt below:
There is a discussion to be had about the default privacy settings of Facebook. But when I hear people proclaim the importance of educating these presumably ignorant young women about the dangers of Facebook, it is just a little too close to comfort to those seeking to educate women about the dangers of hemlines that end above the knee.
[...] Why is it reasonable to not blame gun manufacturers, or cigarette companies, or McDonald’s, but Girls Around Me? Because these developers are treating others as objects they have the right to use and manipulate without their permission or their knowledge. I’m sure it’s all very legal according to the terms of service we accepted when we created accounts on Facebook or Twitter or Foursquare. That does not excuse the clear moral failing that the makers of Girls Around Me demonstrated.
But, you may argue, the women signed up to be a part of this when they signed up to be on Facebook. No. What they signed up for was to be on Facebook.
How much blame do the creators of Girls Around Me deserve?
Header image via Cult of Mac.