Last year a gang of half smart Russian developers built an App called Girls Around Me , which got them cyber smashed by just about everyone in the tech and the mainstream media from The New York Times and Wall Street down.
That’s because they effectively released a stalking app. It allowed men to see the location of women who had used any variety of check-in services in apps like Facebook, Foursquare and all the rest, neatly overlaid on maps and in real time. The women didn’t give permission to Girls Around Me, who instead simply exploited a gap in the T&Cs of other services.
All that was missing was the balaclava and the duct tape. The blogosphere went into meltdown, Apple and Facebook promptly zipped Girls Around Me out of their respective existences and by extension, out of hours.
Now, Facebook has launched ‘Friendshake’, which, according to Techcrunch, lets users “find friends and potential friends nearby. Currently called ‘Friendshake’ and also accessible through a URL that is the abbreviation of ‘find friends nearby’ (http://fb.com/ffn), it’s another step in Facebook furthering its reach into mobile, and creating services to meet new people — rather than building up more connectivity with the ones you already know.” (That’s my emphasis, not Techcrunch’s but you get the picture.)
A few clarifying remarks. It’s opt in — which overcomes one of the most egregious element of Girls Around Me — is not designed to specifically allow men to anonymously hunt for women. And it probably won’t use the outlined image of a naked woman in the crosshairs of a rifle scope as its logo. And it only shows people who are nearby and have deliberately loaded the specifically designed Friendshake service — which is currently just about no one in my part of the world. And from what I can tell, Facebook hasn’t spliced it with mapping tools, yet. But still…
The folks at Techcrunch are too polite to draw any kind of analogy to Girls Around Me, (or maybe they have a shorter attention span than an old Dinosaur like Grok), but they did make this point, “... as with so many of these kinds of features, you have to wonder how and if it will be abused — random people you would like to shake off suddenly start asking you to friend them on Facebook, for example.”
There’s a simple law that all developers from Facebook down need to remember, particularly as consumers become more aware of what’s actually at stake, that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Here we go again
Google is about to have its very own Steve Jobs moment — and not a good one. For the last few years of Jobs’ life, there were bouts of speculation — of differing intensity, but sadly well founded — about the CEO’s health.
Google CEO Larry Page is on the receiving end after what Business Insider described as “a mysterious ailment” that caused him to miss last week’s shareholder meeting and will also keep him away from a major developer meeting this week.
It might be something as simple as the flu. Or maybe Page, not unreasonably, takes the view that it’s his health and everyone else can get stuffed. Google hasn’t helped by saying the reason is that Larry has lost his voice. Sure, for two weeks.
The health of the CEO of a very significant business such as Google is a legitimate topic for journalistic endeavour — so no qualms at all about BI and others reporting it.
But Page has told staff it’s nothing to worry about and that “nothing is seriously wrong”. And on that basis, let’s all cut the guy some slack and assume it’s none of our business... until it is.
Andrew Birmingham is the CEO of Silicon Gully Investments. Follow him on Twitter @ag_birmingham.