A controversial app called Girls Around Me has been withdrawn from the iTunes app store following a report which singled it out as an example of how people can take advantage of Facebook users with weak privacy settings.
Girls Around Me first came to light in a report by Cult Of Mac’s John Brownlee, who explained that the app lets the user find girls (or guys) in their area using check-in information from Foursquare, and then offers links to each subject’s Facebook profile so the user can find out more information about them, and view their pictures.
Shortly after the report was published, Foursquare shut off Girls Around Me’s access to its API, citing a violation of its policy for ‘aggregating information across venues’.
The app’s developers, Russian company i-Free Innovations, were then forced to withdraw Girls Around Me from the app store, as without access to the Foursquare API the app couldn’t perform its function.
After this, i-Free sent a lengthy statement to the Wall Street Journal (but not, for some reason, Cult of Mac) defending Girls Around Me, explaining that the app is only intended to allow users to browse venues nearby, ‘as if you passed by and looked in the window’.
"Girls Around Me shows to the user only the data that is available to him or her through his or her accounts in Foursquare,” the statement reads, "and gives the user nothing more than Foursquare app can provide itself [sic].”
"Girls Around Me does not provide any data that is unavailable to user when he uses his or her social network account, nor does it reveal any data that users did not share with others.”
While the statement reads as a defence, Brownlee never claimed Girls Around Me was doing anything wrong, admitting in his story that the app ‘wasn’t even the real problem’.
"I still don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with what this app is doing,” Brownlee wrote.
"This is an app you 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.”
Of course, no-one can download the app now because it’s been disabled, but the controversy ought to be more than enough to make up for it.
Go here to visit Facebook’s privacy home page and update your settings.