Our Story Got Foursquare To Kill API Access To Creepy Stalking App Girls Around Me [Update: Facebook Responds]

Our Story Got Foursquare To Kill API Access To Creepy Stalking App Girls Around Me [Update: Facebook Responds]

Notorious girl tracking app Girls Around Me had its API cut-off by Facebook in response to Cult of Mac's story earlier today.

In direct response to our story from earlier today about Girls Around Me, an iOS app by Russian-based app developer i-Free that tracks and gives personal information about women without their knowledge, Foursquare has released a statement announcing that they have officially killed Girls Around Me’s access to their public API.

In a statement given exclusively to Cult of Mac, Foursquare‘s Laura Covington said: “This is a violation of our API policy, so we’ve reached out to the developer and shut off their API access.”

Asked to clarify with us the section of their API policy that prohibits apps like Girls Around Me from using their data, Foursquare responded:

We have a policy against aggregating information across venues using our API, to prevent situations like this where someone would present an inappropriate overview of a series of locations.

Still silent on the issue is Facebook. We have written the social networking giant asking for their stance on Girls Around Me and apps like it, but had not received comment as of writing.

Update: Facebook has just released a statement to Cult of Mac, saying that they are currently investigating the app. We hope to have more details shortly.

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  • Michael Bauser

    Foursquare has too many “policy” pages. I checked

    https://foursquare.com/legal/api/platformpolicy
    https://foursquare.com/legal/terms
    https://foursquare.com/legal/api/licenseagreement

    and can’t find the “policy” they’re talking about. Next time, please make them give you a URI and an exact quote when they answer a question about policy, so we can be sure they’re not just telling people what they think people want to hear.

  • Janae Sais Quoi Smith

    What is 4Square going to do? Squash each bug individually as they crop up? Seems pointless…

  • disgruntledgnome

    Your outrage would be more convincing if you weren’t being supported by the “Apps you might like” widget – guess what its first offering is at the moment?

  • oneukguy

    Finally an app that made Four Square usefull. Normal users might not be as creepy as the reviewer.

  • Daniel Giaimo

    Foursquare has too many “policy” pages. I checked

    https://foursquare.com/legal/api/platformpolicy
    https://foursquare.com/legal/terms
    https://foursquare.com/legal/api/licenseagreement

    and can’t find the “policy” they’re talking about. Next time, please make them give you a URI and an exact quote when they answer a question about policy, so we can be sure they’re not just telling people what they think people want to hear.

    The very first page you link to contains the following text under the heading “Authorization”:

    “Foursquare may revoke your authentication credentials at any time, for any reason or no reason, with or without notice, and without liability to you or any other person.”

    The policy that Foursquare’s representative quoted, clearly falls under this. Moreover, given that such an (internal) policy is not legally prohibited, there is absolutely no reason they would need to explicitly call it out given the above wording in their official policy document.

  • Forest Walker

    THANK YOU FOR SAVING US JOHN BROWNLEE

  • Forest Walker

    THANK YOU FOR SAVING US JOHN BROWNLEE

  • curiousGeorgia

    Ermmmm, why is the Android version of “Girls Around Me” (i.e., the app you triumphantly defeated with your article) showing up on this page under “Apps you might like”?

  • nathangibbs

    Your photo caption incorrectly states that Facebook, not Foursquare, revoked their API access.

  • jefreybulla

    Now that Girls Around Me got banned this can be useful: Girls Around Me alternatives http://jefreybulla.tumblr.com/

  • TechShizzle

    Who at Foursquare decides what’s “inappropriate”?

  • Antone Johnson

    As former head of Legal for eHarmony, as well as one of the original lawyers at MySpace when child safety issues exploded around 2005, let me chime in with a couple reasons why killing this app is largely a matter of PR damage control rather than personal safety:

    • The enormous fallacy is that nobody checks in on Foursquare as “By Myself In A Secluded Grove Deep In The Woods [Latitude ___, Longitude ___] With Nobody Within Miles To Hear Me Scream.” In examples like the *exact one given in the article*, it’s almost always the case that it will be a crowded bar, restaurant, party, concert, or other social event or public place packed with people. Those are the *safest* places to be. Isolation is where danger lies. There’s a reason every major online dating site advises its members to meet for the first time in a public place with plenty of other people around.

    Something about our 1-on-1 relationship with mobile devices cultivates an oddly misleading sense that we lead our lives alone. The truth is the radical opposite: Smartphones make us more social and connected than ever. The same absurd assumption underlies the whole “Please Rob Me” flap: The fact that I check in somewhere other than home in no way guarantees that my GF/roommates/housesitter/AirBnB tenants aren’t home right now. The only way to know for sure is to “case the joint,” which was done by burglars for generations before Foursquare came along. Similarly with a Foursquare check-in, “Zoe” could be by herself at this bar, but is more likely with a few friends or a 15-member birthday or bachelorette party.

    • Checking in means you’re also broadcasting your location to friends/family/classmates. Potentially scores or hundreds of people. (Compare with the old-school “Call me to let me know you made it home OK,” which is a 1-to-1 communication.) If anything, that should trouble a would-be stalker because it means others might be coming to meet her any minute. The 250-lb linebacker boyfriend could be standing next to her already, or be right around the corner on his way.

    • Finally, the timing data is notoriously unreliable. How many people do you know who check in while *leaving* a place vs. arriving? How can you tell which it is? So many times I’ve checked in somewhere and been told “Your friend so-and-so is here!” only to be disappointed to find he or she had already left.

    These points collectively explain why we haven’t already seen lurid headlines about “Foursquare Stalkers” despite millions of users checking in all over the place for years now. You can be sure the media would pounce on it, as with the “Craigslist Killer” or the “Match.com Rapist” when the site’s involvement is only peripheral, because of the “sinister technology” angle.

    The important lesson here is the number of people whose Facebook profiles are inexplicably set to be public, which becomes doubly risky when exposed through the API. Even *without* real-time location data, a FB profile (like MySpace before it) is a gold mine for any would-be stalker or con artist. (Any reference to her school, university or company is likely enough for a determined predator to track her down.) Truly effective ways to protect the public would include (1) encouraging everyone with a smartphone to develop a habit of turning location awareness on and off as appropriate in their daily routines, and (2) requiring periodic reminders on FB (and similar sites) stating, in essence, “Currently your [profile/photos/contact information/location data] is viewable by [the whole world]. Is that still OK or would you like to change it?” Then acknowledge that (A) living life itself entails some risk and (B) a certain percentage of people will persist in high-risk behavior, as they have throughout history, and accept that personal responsibility plays a role.

  • TopAgentWebsite

    WoW,

    every perv’s dream App :D

    And every girls nightmare!

    …Why would anyone make such an app in the first place? What kind of sick person would come up with it??

    SMH

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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