New App Makes It Easy to Stalk Friends (or Strangers!) Without Them Really Knowing
Your favorite social networks have asked you to share your location for a while now. They say it’s to bring you closer to the people you love (or might love). But it’s also a way to gather more precious data about you. Now that information is being disseminated and graphed on maps via third-party apps that you haven’t signed up for, the most recent example being Connect.
Connect is an iOS and web app that premiered Tuesday at the Launch Festival in San Francisco. It culls all the geographic data available from your contacts’ various social networks and compiles it into different sets of maps.
Where does Connect get that information? It’s pulled from the data crumbs we willingly drop on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Google, Instagram and LinkedIn. While you might expect a few of these networks to track your whereabouts, it’s actually a little startling to see your friends’ (and your own) basic geographic data carved out from its original data set and exploited in one big, collaborative map — especially one that you haven’t authorized to use your information.
Connect doesn’t actually get data on people that isn’t otherwise available. You can see only your friends’ locations. But seeing it all together is disconcerting at first, especially when you think of how the tables can be turned on you. The address you gave LinkedIn? The location from which you Instagrammed? The last place you were tweeting? Seeing all those moments globbed together into one big feed feels a little stalkerish and brings up bad memories of the privacy issues many people experienced with Apple’s Find My Friends feature.
On the positive side, Connect can also help you, yes, connect with friends when either you or they are traveling. It’s cool to see, when you’re about to leave for a trip to New York, that an old friend is now living there. The app also lets you see more current information, like the minutes-old check-in from a friend on Foursquare.
Although the information Connect can gather all depends on how forthcoming your friends are when it comes to checking in on Facebook or Foursquare, there’s still a lot of stuff that most of us aren’t sharp enough to keep tabs on. Here’s a quick run-through of how the app works, for both aspiring stalkers — sorry, we mean old friends — and those who want to make sure their locational information isn’t so easily exploited.
1. Once you download Connect for iOS, you’ll be asked to allow push notifications so you can see when your friends are nearby or when they post an interesting check-in. (My instinct at this moment is to say no, unless you want to really freak your friends out with your stalker superpowers, although one editor here finds it to be a cool feature.)
2. Then it’ll ask you to sign up via Facebook. Say yes. This is just the first step in a long process of the app’s deep informational dive. If you feel uncomfortable relinquishing this much information, turn back now.