The world of smartphone applications is a veritable Wild West of possibilities. Applications help you find a lot of things: directions, restaurants and what song is playing at the party you’re at. In a seemingly endless world of apps and social media, you can also share different information about yourself: where you went to school, what you ate for lunch, and even where you’re eating lunch at right now. Apps like Four Square and Facebook’s Check In option allow you to share where you are with your friends, but those who are social media savvy will tell you that your friends are the only ones who should know that information. So we’ll preface this article with the warning: know your social media ABC’s and learn the importance of taking control of your own online privacy.
That being said, we’ve collected a list of applications that allow you to find friends and information in ways that range from delightfully offbeat to horrifyingly invasive. This is not your mother’s Google. You have been warned.
Girls Around Me
Facebook stalking and cruising for chicks combine in the controversial application “Girls Around Me.” Users simply plug in their current location to the application, and Girls Around Me will tell you the names and locations of girls who are currently in the area. How does GAM know? Because these girls have already told them, that’s why.
Girls Around Me sources any information that female social media users have already made public on Facebook updates and Four Square check ins. Most important to the application is Four Square, because it allows users to check into bars, cafes, etc., and if their profile is public, GAM can tell other users where they are. Likewise, if their Facebook profile is public, all of the information they’ve listed online will appear on their Girls Around Me profile. Now, a complete stranger knows where you went to high school, what you look like, and where you like to get an iced latte after you’ve gone to yoga class.
Needless to say, the application horrified many female users who were unaware that their information, despite being public, was being used to help strangers find them and potentially try to contact them. Techinically, the application was not breaking any laws because the information they were sourcing was public, albeit their presentation was downright creepy. Alarmed readers can breath easy, though, as the outrage from concerned users caused iTunes to pull Girls Around Me from the App Store.
The verdict: technology advances, but the advice remains that if you wouldn’t want it splashed across a billboard, then don’t post it on the internet. If you must post, then be sure to adjust your privacy settings accordingly.
Creep factor: 12 out of 10
Now available in San Francisco, the application “SideCar” is the “fast, reliable, community rideshare concept” that connects people in need of a ride with drivers who are willing to take them. Drivers can sign up to become a SideCar driver, and then users in need can contact them for a ride. Users can then rate their experience with drivers, so better rated drivers can get more business.
The service works on a “pay as you want” system, and drivers can use the application as a way to pick up some extra money and help people get where they need to go. No cash changes hands, as you enter in you card information on your smartphone for an online transfer. You can’t reserve a car for very far in advance. As far as space, you and up to three other friends can fit in the average SideCar driver vehicle.
If the idea of buckling up with a stranger alarms you, SideCar assures users that all drivers must have proper license and insurance, as well as pass a background check and driving tests. To ensure further security, a GPS lets SideCar know where all drivers are at all times.
The verdict: SideCar, when used properly, seems like a simple solution to whenever you’re in a hurry and need a ride in a pinch. It’s worth suggesting that you entertain this option after you’ve exhausted friends, family, co-workers, and maybe even that ex you haven’t spoken to in a while before you jump into the passenger seat with a stranger. Then again, you never know what kind of friends you can make while riding in their car!
Creep factor: 7 out of 10
The application is only a concept and has yet to be developed into a real application, but the idea behind CLOO’ is to provide a clean and safe alternative to public restrooms. Designed specifically for urban city environments, CLOO’ users can register their own bathrooms to an online community. When nature calls, you can browse the registry and CLOO’ will take your information to see who you know that might also be a friend of a registered user. You can then contact that person, introducing yourself as a friend of a friend, and ask to come up and use their bathroom. For about “the price of a latte,” you get to use a clean bathroom and they get to turn a profit. Just as LinkedIn allows you to find professional connections through a chain of connected users, CLOO’ finds people who know the people you know to provide for a need just as important as professional networking, if not more.
Just like SideCar, users must be comfortable with the idea of entering a stranger’s home or letting a stranger into their home. However, CLOO’ makes sure that the two parties have mutual connections in order to proceed. Anyone who’s been desperate to find a restroom will tell you, there comes a certain point where the circumstances surrounding the bathroom are not important, only that there is a bathroom!
The verdict: Sometimes, when you gotta go, you just gotta go. Just be sure to leave the bathroom the way you found it. They know a friend of yours, after all!
Creep factor: 2 out of 10
You’ll notice that Location Data is essential to all three of these applications, so that is why it is so important to know how to adjust the privacy settings on your social media accounts, like in Girls Around Me. For CLOO and SideCar, you’ve already registered for the application, so know what you’re getting into and take all the right precautions. When used properly and with an openness to the kindness of strangers, the internet can bring people together for dates, rides to the airport, and even a quick trip to the loo. It can be a little creepy, though.