Girls Around Me Shows Why Privacy Shouldn’t be an Option

Earlier this week I wrote that privacy shouldn’t be an option. Privacy – like security – should be expected, not something that users have to enable.

Need proof? Just read about Girls Around Me, an incredibly ill-conceived app that takes advantage of women who don’t know they need to configure the privacy settings in the social software they use.

Software that isn’t private by default assumes users know how to make it private, which is an unrealistic – and, in the case of “Girls Around Me,” potentially dangerous – assumption.

I write the Android version of Glassboard, an app designed for private conversations. Find out more at

3 thoughts on “Girls Around Me Shows Why Privacy Shouldn’t be an Option

  1. And thank you for assuming that women are simply too stupid to make their own choices, and so their choices should be taken away from them for their own good. Maybe we can add a discussion on Facebook privacy settings to the mandatory ultrasound and their related lectures?
    Is it creepy? Sure. A good eye-opener as to how much is shared and how that data can be used? Absolutely. Should privacy settings be enabled by default? Definitely. But you know what? Some of us can walk home all by our little selves even though it’s past midnight and we’re in a skirt.
    – gk

  2. Ummm, “gk”, nowhere does Nick suggest that “their choices should be taken away from them for their own good”. He is saying the default should be privacy, not exposure, _especially_ for information most people would consider/assume to be private*.
    It’s well known in software development that a vast majority of users do not change the default settings. How many of the people (women _and_ men) being displayed in the “Girls Around Me” app knew they were exposing this information in this way? Doubtful very many. However, if the default had been to keep it private, they would have had to chose to expose the information, and there would be no issue.
    Put another way, the _function_ of the GAM app itself isn’t creepy or a problem. As long as it was opt-in. The problem is that the people exposed within the app did not make a conscious choice to share their data.*
    * I know some people are saying that it is clear this is what you are doing when you sign up for Foursquare, but I disagree. Foursquare focuses a lot of attention on sharing with friends. Many people I know are _very_ exclusive about who they friend in the app. And that’s an explicit choice of theirs. But it’s also unlikely they know to turn off the setting that nevertheless makes their information available to apps like GAM. Because Foursquare has made this privacy choice _for them_, and chosen exposure. And as John Gruber points out at , it’s quite likely they are purposefully doing so.

  3. Umm, I have the same situation with the folks from the Facebook. I have people constantly calling me to unlock or “fix” this or that, and 95% is coming from the Facebook. It’s usually because they:
    a) disable the feature by themselves and forgot all about it, or forgot login information;
    b) the parson who made their account forgot to mention that email and facebook are two separate things.
    As for the girls, I know more girls who lurk on the guys than the other way around. Guys are more or less straight forward.
    People are not involved, they don’t know how to use some features, and usually that leads to various discomforts. BY default some things should be private, before the owner of the account decides otherwise. A good step-by-step is always welcomed.

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