March 30, 2012 at 7:12 PM ET
A shady iPhone app called Girls Around Me has just lost its best asset: The use of Foursquare's location-based services, crucial to the app being effective when it comes to literally finding girls by those on the hunt.
Foursquare said Friday it yanked access to Girls Around Me developer SMS Services O.o.o. because the app violates Foursquare's API (application program interface) policy. Specifically, Foursquare told Cult of Mac, which first wrote about the app Friday:
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.
"Inappropriate" is a diplomatic word for Girls Around Me, whose developers are based in Russia. As The Next Web wrote, it's "an incredibly creepy app that allows anyone to locate nearby girls based on public Foursquare checkins and Facebook data."
The app worked by finding nearby "girls" whose Facebook profiles are publicly visible and who have checked into locations using Foursquare. Facebook, too, is now wary, telling the Cult of Mac late Friday that it's also investigating the app. We've asked Facebook for comment, and will update this post when we hear back.
Girls Around Me, which was released last December, was pretty much an under-the-radar app, one of hundreds of thousands in Apple's App Store, until Friday.
In his piece for Cult of Mac, John Brownlee described showing the app to his friends and their horrified reactions:
"How does it know where these girls are? Do you know all these girls? Is it plucking data from your address book or something?" another friend asked.
“Not at all. These are all girls with publicly visible Facebook profiles who have checked into these locations recently using Foursquare. Girls Around Me then shows you a map where all the girls in your area trackable by Foursquare area. If there’s more than one girl at a location, you see the number of girls there in a red bubble. Click on that, and you can see pictures of all the girls who are at that location at any given time. The pictures you are seeing are their social network profile pictures.”
"As sleazy as this app seemed," he wrote, the app isn't "actually doing anything wrong."
Sure, on the surface, it looks like a hook-up app like Grindr for potential stalkers and date rapists, but all that Girls Around Me is really doing is using public APIs from Google Maps, Facebook and Foursquare and mashing them all up together, so you could see who had checked-in at locations in your area, and learn more about them. Moreover, the girls (and men!) shown in Girls Around Me all had the power to opt out of this information being visible to strangers, but whether out of ignorance, apathy or laziness, they had all neglected to do so. This was all public information. Nothing Girls Around Me does violates any of Apple’s policies.
Indeed, Girls Around Me remains available from the Apple's App Store. We've asked Apple for comment on how it was that the app got approved at all, and will update the story should we hear back. I did try to get the app to work, but that was post-Foursquare rejection, and the app would not download.
Girls Around Me shouldn't be used for pickups, Brownlee says, but rather for education: "I can think of no better way to get a person to realize that they should understand their Facebook privacy settings then pulling out this app," he wrote.