About a month ago there was a bit of a to-do on the web over a particular iOS app. The app is called Girls Around Me. Yep. Now, at this point I think it’s been pulled from the app store (for various reasons relating to technology, not the content). It may be back, I honestly haven’t kept up with it the past few weeks. A lot has been written about the app and what it does. I’ll let you read up on that if you’re interested. Basically, what the app did is mash together publicly available information of users on Facebook and Foursquare (an app that lets you “check in” to a location or venue). It then compiled that data together and geo located it for you on map centered on you. “These are the girls around you right now and the details we can glean from their public profiles.”
Creepy? Sure. Illegal? Nah. All it did was do the hard work of gathering that information for you. There has been plenty of debate on whether or not what the app does is ethical or moral. A lot of people cried foul at the developers of the app.
Then there’s a great article by one of the girl’s who was randomly pictured in a screen shot of the app on one of the write-ups. Go read it, I’ll wait. It’s basically what nudged me to write this little post.
Because along with all the outcry against what seems so creepy, there has been plenty of people saying “You put that information out there, ladies. You checked in, you posted your picture. So you must be okay with people stalking you and hitting on you.”
In that article you just read, Marie ends with this winning conclusion:
I don’t believe that having a public persona online needs to be a risky enterprise, and it seems like plenty of people are able to manage that without being attacked, stalked, or otherwise targeted. If we’re saying that’s only true for one half of the population, then I don’t think this is really a conversation about internet privacy as much as it’s a conversation about whether it’s safe to be a woman and live in public.
If the answer to that is “no”, then I think we’ve got bigger problems than ‘Girls Around Me.’
And that’s exactly the issue here. A big conclusion of this thing has been that it’s risky to be a woman and live publicly. And that should never be true. There’s an issue at the root of this that is much, much bigger than an app for a smartphone. Culturally, we have some problems to address. Some deep problems about how we respect and act around each other. Privacy isn’t the issue, the issue is humanity not being able to treat well those who choose not to be private.
I know I’m rambling and am not really making a point. I’m sorry, I usually try to be a bit more focused when I write. Honestly though, I’m not really sure how to start this conversation or what to do to help. I just don’t think the right of life is shutting up women in a house with no windows or internet for their own safety is a good option. I’m also confused because there is a weird balance between chivalrous protection and pandering over-protection. Not that I know where that balance is…
I guess the point of writing all of this is I just needed to say something, and add my little voice in support of Marie’s ending point, and to hopefully spark some thought and conversation with you.