SocialRadar: A personal data aggregator in your pocket

Now Taylor Swift can say "I knew you were trouble before you walked in."

SocialRadar, a mobile app launched today for the iPhone, finds people in your social networks who are nearby and then tells you everything you want to know about them -- their location, profile data and recent posts from multiple social networks. "There are 1 billion smartphones in the world that are location beacons and there are profiles in the cloud. No one has combined those," says Michael Chasen, CEO and founder.

The app, launched by startup SocialRadar, functions as your personal social network data aggregator. It pulls information from Foursquare, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ for everyone in your social networks: People who you have friended, that you follow, with whom you have connected or have in your circles, says Chasen. "It shows you how you're connected and what you have in common."

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     Source: SocialRadar

The free app is available today for the iPhone, with rollouts planned for Android and Google Glass.

SocialRadar isn't the only mobile app pulling data about people from multiple social networks and aggregating it to present an up-to-the-minute dossier on individuals of interest. Current Caller ID, the Android app introduced by Whitepages.com in 2012, does something similar, although the context is your contacts list. Current Caller ID app pulls data from your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn networks and presents profiles and recent posts associated with people you are about to call or who are calling you.

With SocialRadar, the context is your location and identifying who you might know who's nearby. It can be used to scan a meeting room to double-check people's titles, or in a bar, to check whether someone is married or in a relationship (which sounds a little creepy). Users can also modify the data to add information such as a person's gender or age.

SocialRadar retrieves location data from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Foursquare, as well as the GPS coordinates from other SocialRadar users.

Want to cast a wider net? Users can set a range within which the app will scan, from the entire US down to  within 50 feet of where you're standing. The app also can alert you when a person of interest comes within a specified distance of your current location, and it includes a compass feature that points you in the direction where that person is located, along how far away they are in feet - or miles. If the person is miles away, the SocialRadar also offers driving directions.

SocialRadar is accurate to within 25 feet if the subject is also running SocialRadar, Chasen says. It's less accurate -- to within about 50 feet -- when relying on location data shared from other social networks, such as Facebook or Foursquare, he says.

SocialRadar users can avail themselves of a privacy mode that limits what other users can see about them. For example, they might be able to see that you're in the vicinity but not your exact location. SocialRadar has three privacy settings: "only your friends, anonymous or invisible." The latter still reveals some information about you, but not your identity, Barenholtz says. People in your social network who don't use SocialRadar but want to control what information you see about them must either turn off location sharing, unfriend you or use whatever  privacy settings are available within each social network to restrict what you can see.

It's all about you

In a sense, apps like SocialRadar define people in a new way, by showing a consolidated view of their online social network identities and activities and pushing that out to people in their networks -- and those people may be accessing that infomration in many different contexts, such as in a bar, at a wedding reception or in the boardroom. It's a mashup of all of your social network personas and interactions.

And that's something to think about. "Aggregated bits of data, when combined, can tell a lot about you," says Alex Fowler, head of privacy and public policy at Mozilla.

Here's another point to ponder: Aggregating data about you adds value, and in this case the aggregation point for that data is SocialRadar, a startup with $12.5 million in funding. Users are paying for the free SocialRadar app by agreeing to open up the pipes to their social network feeds and pumping all of the profile, posts and location data for themselves and their friends through its servers. How does SocialRadar plan to monetize the service? Chasen declined to say, although he did say that they encrypt the data they pull from all sources.

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     Source: SocialRadar

As SocialRadar and similar apps continue to proliferate, users of social networks may want to think about the fact that a post on one social network may be pushed to peoples' smartphones in unexpected contexts. Do you want everyone in your social network who calls you to be reminded of that you think President Obama is a $#%$% idiot the next time they look up your number? Robert Hansen, an application security researcher and technical evangelist at WhiteHat Security, advises caution in general while posting online."If it's something I even briefly pause about I don't put it on social networks," he says."I only post things I would divulge in casual conversation."

Chris Babel, CEO at Truste, likes the idea behind SocialRadar. "It sounds like a very cool app that adds a lot of value for the consumer," he says (Truste works with businesses to help them build trust with consumers). "The key is to know how they're doing it and whether they're doing it well."

But this app is not necessarily meant for baby boomers like me, or even Gen Xers -- at least not right out of the gate. "It's for millennials who just got out of college," those are the people who are likely to be the most receptive initially, Chasen says. And eventually, he predicts, "the adoption of this technology will be utilized by everyone, and will change the way people meet and connect."

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