Connect App Lets You Stalk People

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If you are an active socializer and can’t imagine your life without Twitter and Facebook, you must know all of these services had asked your permission to share your location when you signed up. These services claim this is to “bring you closer to people you love,” but in fact it’s a way to aggregate precious data about you. That information about you and your friends is siphoned to third-party applications you haven’t signed up for, and Connect is one such wonderful example.

Connect is a web and iOS application launched last week in San Francisco at the Launch Festival. What it does is basically aggregating geographic detail of your contacts, social network profiles and makes it into human maps.

You can ask where does this application get that much information about you and your contacts? The data is pulled from Twitter, Facebook, Google, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and Instagram. It is no surprise these applications track users’ location, but it is somewhat weird to see your own and your friends geographic data analyzed and exploited on the big scale collaborative map. It is especially disturbing to see that information disseminated by an application you haven’t authorized to do so.

Connect does not have access to people’s data that is unavailable online, so you can see only your friends’ locations. Nevertheless, it is somewhat chilling to be able to see your friends whereabouts and check-ins, especially when you think they can see the same about you.

Recognize that address you gave LinkedIn, or the location from which you uploaded a photo to Instagram? Have you been tweeting outside your house? When you see all those moments compiled together into one big datasheet, it looks somewhat scary and brings up a lot of privacy concerns users had with Apple’s feature Find My Friends.

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On the flipside, Connect does help you stay connected with your friends when they’re traveling, and this is probably one cool feature to see where they are as they travel and send you pictures, or share comments on their social profiles. The app is intensely detailed and allows you to see current information, like the real time check-in from a friend on Foursquare.

Even though the application collects information from your friends social networks, so basically, the more your friends tweet, upload pictures to Instagram, or comment on Facebook and Foursquare, the more information Connect has to display about them, there is still a lot of information that escapes the app. Here’s a quick look around at the app’s functions for aspiring stalkers and for those who would like to protect their location information.

As you download and install Connect for iOS devices, you’ll have to allow push notifications to be able to see when your contacts are nearby, or when they post a check-in.

You will have to sign up via Facebook, and this is only the beginning because the application starts digging deep into your informational cloud, so if you feel uncomfortable sharing all that information about yourself with a third-party app, you’d better off without this “anti-matter of privacy.”

“Connect will receive the following info: your public profile, friends list, email address, work history, status updates, check-ins, education history, groups, interests, current city and photos and your friends’ relationships, birthdays, work histories, status updates, check-ins, education histories, groups, interests, current cities, photos, websites and personal descriptions.”

Now is the time to think how many random people are on your friendship lists on Twitter and Facebook because all these people can now potentially see that much information about you. Then you will need to sign up with your email address.

Next, the application will offer a small tour of its functions – you will be introduced to the search bar feature that allows sorting through your friends with filters according to school, job title and relationship status.

The application will encourage you to add more of your social accounts to expand its reach and collect more data about your friends. Whenever you add a new social account of yours, you will have to sign in to each account individually and allow Connect access.

Your reward for sharing all that information about yourself and your friends would be a map that shows where your friends are hanging out based on their Instagram pictures, tweets, Facebook status reports or foursquare check-ins. Note that they will be able to see the same about you if they install the app.

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You can enhance the data on your map from the toolbar in the left upper corner – People Sources. It will display social networks, from which the application is aggregating your friends’ location information. You can add more social networks or disable existing ones any time you like. The application is free, but if you need to track data from LinkedIn, you’ll have to pay $2.99 of in-app purchase.

Whenever your friend checks in a hotel, you will see a red notification in the upper left corner. If you tap it, you will see a complete feed of your friends’ activities: person’s name, location, hotels, social network icon that provided the information. If you realize that all those people are not just your friends – they can be random connections from Twitter and Instagram, you may realize those random connections can track your activity, likewise, if they should find out about Connect.

The main map displays everyone’s default location probably based on information disclosed on Facebook. If you wish to see people’s current location, tap on the bottom right corner of the screen.

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You can filter your searches in many ways of nefarious stalking. As you tap the search bar, you will see a number of icons to filter the map according to your chosen criteria.

For example, if you out on the hunt for someone to date, you can tap on the heart icon to pick only singles on the map. Next, you will be able to see all single people near you.

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Different filters allow for different maps, and you can toy with filters as much as you want.

You can add peephole to personalized lists – by default, Connect has favorites group , but you can create your own lists.

So, the app allows you to track movements of specific people you have on your Facebook, twitter, or Instagram friends list. It goes without saying that applications like this are a good argument to turn off your location settings on social networks. Before someone filed a lawsuit against the app, and it has been suspended from iTunes, download and go crazy with it!