March 11, 2012
The rise of the stalker apps
The New York Times on apps that let users find friends whenever they are nearby.
... After an app is downloaded to a smartphone, it typically connects to Facebook to pull in address book and personal information. The user must give it permission to do this.
The apps run quietly in the background of the phone and wait for someone else using the service to wander by. Because the app knows the locations of all its users, the software can notify people who are close by. It then checks for commonalities, like a love of Quentin Tarantino films or hidden social connections, like sharing a group of friends.
Some apps, like Highlight (described as a "crowd-sourced location recommendation app"), even allow people to “bookmark” people they enjoyed meeting and will remind them of that interaction the next time they cross paths, even if it is a year later, in a restaurant across the country.
... The use of batteries and data, precious commodities among smartphone owners. Because applications that run in the background, constantly checking location, can deplete both quickly, the makers of these apps must make sure they do not drain either to function.
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