New apps help people avoid unwanted encounters

Mon Mar 31, 2014 10:37pm IST

A worker looks at his smartphone in the financial district in San Francisco, California November 6, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/Files

A worker looks at his smartphone in the financial district in San Francisco, California November 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith/Files

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REUTERS - Trying to avoid an awkward encounter with an ex? Fearful of an embarrassing meeting after an argument? New apps can help people avoid bumping into others and provide escape routes if they do.

By logging on to Facebook and other social networking sites, users can choose people they do not want to see.

"Everybody has somebody they want to avoid," said Udi Dagan, chief executive officer of Israel-based technology company Split. "For some people, it's their exes; for others, it's their bosses or even relatives that they don't feel like bumping into during their free time."

With Split, a free app for iOS and Android devices, users log on to Facebook and select people from their social network they do not want to meet. The app sends an alert when they are nearby and shows a route on a map to avoid them.

The Cloak app for iOS works in a similar way through Foursquare or Instagram, sending a notification if the person comes from within half a block to 2 miles away.

"You can tap on someone and flag them," said Brian Moore, co-founder of Cloak, a New York-based company. "That means you'll get background notifications whenever they come close to you."

The creators of the apps, which are available worldwide, said all the information was already publicly available and that they were simply aggregating it into one place.

Split and Cloak gather location data from social network updates and check-ins. Photo-sharing network Instagram includes location data whenever a photo is uploaded. Both apps gather data from Foursquare and Instagram, and Split gets additional data from Facebook and Twitter.

The information is as accurate as a person's last update or check-in that contained his or her location.

Split also collects data from people using their app, and allows them to hide their location so others cannot see where they are.

Some people may consider the apps anti-social, but Moore does not.

"Anti-social is when you never want to see anybody," he said. "In reality, everyone has a side where they just want to be alone."

Craig Palli, chief strategy office at Boston-based mobile marketing company Fiksu, said the apps were an inevitable progression in the industry.

"So much of our lives have become open and public," he said." It's the first sign of a trend that people want to break from that."

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Lisa Von Ahn)

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