Information that is placed online can be accessed from a variety of sources -- perhaps more than you realize. With the popularity of mobile applications and devices exploding, some companies are using this information exchange to develop software which some may view as dubious or privacy-infringing.
Others just make people simply feel uncomfortable. In particular, the Girls Around Me app recently became a spotlight topic in the press for allowing a 'search and connect' of women in a location -- pulling information from social media profiles and through this, creating a means of contact.
Whether the app was truly intentioned for simple venue searches or to meet new people is debatable. However, it is far from the only application that has caused this kind of controversy.
What other apps and software potentially nip too close to the skin in term of individual privacy?
The 'Girls Around Me' application, enjoying over 70,000 downloads, allowed a user to view the location of women on a map and their publicly available data and photographs -- pulled from Facebook and Foursquare. Users were also able to then contact the girls based on this information.
The website states:
Do you ever wonder where to go for a night out, where the coolest place is, where there are lots of pretty girls, or how to meet someone new and interesting? Girls Around Me scans your surroundings and helps you find out where girls or guys are hanging out. You can also see the ratio of girls to guys in different places around you.
In the mood for love, or just after a one-night stand? Girls Around Me puts you in control! Reveal the hottest nightspots, who's in them, and how to reach them...
Due to subsequent privacy concerns, the application has now been pulled from the app store after Foursquare chose not to support it further -- rendering the app useless.
2. Want to see your Facebook friends in their birthday suits?
Facebook, especially with its new Timeline feature, is considered a stalker's paradise by some -- and that has now been raised to a new level.
For the photo-flipping stalker types, if you fancy fantasizing about your crush (or obsession) without their kit on, then 'False Flesh' software can provide the means to do so.
The software allows you to save photos from social networking sites and edit out the clothing -- to show the body parts underneath. Of course, the body underneath will not be the actual natural body -- but users can substitute with a stockpile of 'prefabricated images'.
Not enough? You can customize the body how you like -- including size and type.
The software's advertising is obviously geared for men (considering the images of women), but the developers have said that the software has also been used by vengeful, female ex-partners.
3. Have a crush? Be notified the moment they break up with their other half
For the guy or girl pining after their crush, or perhaps someone who wants to become a shoulder to cry on in the hope of converting that into a a rebound roll in the hay, the Breakup Notifier is a tool of choice.
You visit the site, and log in to Facebook. After choosing the friends you want to recieve relationship notifications for, you will get an email every time a change is submitted.
The app checks status updates every ten minutes, so you can be quick off the mark to anything you'd like to twist to your advantage.
4. Creepy by name, creepy by nature
Aptly named, desktop application Creepy is software that calls itself a 'geolocation information aggregator'.
After downloading and installing the open-source software, you can stalk a user via Twitter and Flickr accounts.
If the user has posted any location data, then the software tracks it -- helping you to pin them down.
I was surprised at just how data can be aggregated from seemingly innocuous updates -- although as it compiles and analyzes a lot of data, it can take a few attempts before Twitter accounts are connected successfully.
Map providers : Google Maps, Virtual Maps, Open Street Maps.
Location information retrieval from :
Twitter's tweet location
Coordinates when tweet was posted from mobile device
Place (geographical name) derived from users ip when posting on twitter's web interface.
Geolocation information is accessible through image hosting services API EXIF tags from the photos posted.
5. Understanding Alzheimer's
How does it actually feel to have an illness which takes away your identity, bit by bit?
It isn't something most people can truly imagine. However, a past campaign used social media in order to try and give individuals a glimpse into how damaging and painful it can be.
The app, called 'Sort me Out', gradually deleted all of your Facebook information -- as a digital replica of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Information including your friends and photos slowly vanished, in order for you to understand how it feels to feel and see your connections to the world evaporate.
The campaign to raise awareness of these diseases has now finished.