If you sometimes wonder how much more intrusive location-based mobile apps can get, well, here comes Happn to give you an idea.
Happn is a new mobile dating app that started in Paris, France but is now in the US. It is expected to have more than 10 million users by the end of the year.
"Find the people you've crossed paths with," is the app's tagline, and this is literally what it does. It uses the GPS on your phone to show who you have passed -- and who has passed you -- in the city, on your phone.
A friend told me about it last week. I was interested to see how the location piece works, so I downloaded the app.
The app links to your Facebook profile and scrapes photos and some of your details from that. So you get pictures of the people you pass, interests and friends in common and a paragraph to fill in a few details about yourself. Then you can set whether you are interested in men or women. Beyond that the details you can add are fairly minimal. The real difference between Happn and other mobile dating apps, however, is that it maps where you pass a person, when and how often, to a fairly accurate degree.
For instance, the app tells me that I have passed a user we'll call "Pamela" -- because that's her name -- three times already. She was on 34th Street, two minutes ago, and that she is now less than 250 meters away. Light Reading's glamorous NYC home is in a rat's nest of rented offices on 34th street. Certainly not impossible that Pamela is right here, somewhere in the building.
"Security was one of the pillars of our thinking when we built Happn," CEO and Founder Didier Rappaport told Business Insider in May. "When you are very near someone, we will never say 'You are 10 meters,' we will say 'You are less than 250 meters' -- you don't have any flag on the maps. We don't record the exact journeys of people, we just remember the crossing points."
It doesn't take an evil genius -- or even someone who can do a decent impression of Dr. Evil come Halloween time -- however, to realize that you're getting a lot of information about people's movements with this app. It was pretty easy to figure out when users regularly pass my apartment, for instance, because the app makes it easy to notice patterns in user movements.
Interestingly, not everyone finds all of this that worrying. I talked to about ten people about this app -- men and women -- over the weekend. They were split about 50/50 on whether it was creepy or cool. Some people, both male and female, found the idea of knowing who they were passing on a daily basis intriguing.
Me? I think I'm still solidly in the "it's way creepy" camp! I'm going to wipe the app. But Happn is obviously gaining new users at a fast clip anyway.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading