A man walks up to a woman in a bar. Instead of shyly asking about her interests, he already knows them. He doesn`t ask where she is from or where she went to school. After a furtive glance at his phone, he knows that, too.
He has an app for that.
This particular app is called "Girls Around Me" and like many other smartphone programs that provide fast and easy information, it uses publicly available data. For instance, Girls Around Me finds out what women recently checked in to a bar on the social-media site Foursquare, alerts the user and provides a look at the woman`s Facebook profile.
The app was taken down this year voluntarily by its creator, SMS Systems, after a hailstorm of privacy concerns from bloggers led by the Cult of Mac calling it a "stalker app."
Many others exist to take its place in various forms as the world`s smartphones increasingly become repositories for personal data.
Companies that produce the apps say they are harmless.
SMS, based in Russia, said in a statement that all data it provides are already public, and it plans on bringing back another version of its app soon.
"The app just allows the user to browse the venues nearby, as if you passed by and looked in the window," SMS said.
Experts say millions of mobile users unwittingly share personal data every day.
"What we are seeing now is just the top of the mountain," says Lee Tien, a senior attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"With apps like these, risks to personal security skyrocket," says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
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