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New iPhone App Cloak Tells You Where Your Friends Are—So You Can Avoid Them

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
March 17, 2014

Social media has helped unite us. But what about those people you’d rather keep at an arm’s distance? A new app for the iPhone called Cloak has arrived to help you avoid human contact at all costs.  

Cloak gathers the geographic data provided by your friends’ Foursquare and Instagram accounts and determines if anyone is close to you. Photos of those in your immediate vicinity are displayed on a map relative to your location. You can tap on those who are most undesirable and choose to “flag” them and, presumably, avoid them forever. 

The app was designed by Chris Baker, the same guy who created a filtering system to replace his friend’s baby’s photos with images of cats. I appreciate Cloak’s simple interface and one-track purpose, and I’ll admit that I sometimes use Foursquare to avoid certain people around me in New York. Sometimes you just want to move through your neighborhood in no makeup and sweats without running into an ex. And it would be especially disastrous if you ran into your boss when you were out on a “sick day.”

For instance, let’s say I’d mostly like to avoid my editor, Jason. Look, there he is.

Since I’m particularly averse to interacting with him any more than I’m contractually required to, I’ve decided to flag him. To do that, tap on a person’s photo and select Flag.

If you’d like to adjust the distance that dictates when you’re alerted to a person’s presence, you can tap the people icon in the upper-left corner. You’ll be brought to a general search page. From there, choose Settings.

Here you’ll be given a choice of distances ranging from half a mile to 2 miles. You can adjust your alerts to go off for everyone, or only for those you’ve flagged. I don’t want to risk running into Jason, so I set the alert at 2 miles.

Luckily, Jason is addicted to social media. Because this app will only really be helpful if that uncool someone you’re avoiding checks in often. And even then, the app could provide much more comprehensive information if it linked to sources like Facebook, Google+, and Twitter (as apps like Connect do). 

Cloak is not exactly a new concept. Its peers include the Sartre-inspired social media experiment Hell Is Other People and the website Avoid Humans, which was specifically released to offer respite and protection from the South by Southwest festival’s masses. 

Still, Cloak is a big leap forward for those grumbly city hermits whose only method of avoidance is casually looking the other way. There are only so many ways you can ignore a person’s existence once he’s closed in on the half-mile mark.

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