In Brief

Cloak: new 'anti-social' app helps users avoid friends

New smartphone app uses FourSquare and Instagram to help people steer clear of unwanted interactions

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A NEW smartphone app will help shy or secretive users avoid their friends by alerting them to their whereabouts using geo-location data from social networks. The so-called "anti-social" network warns users where their friends are on a map if they post to either FourSquare and Instagram.

Some users have criticised the service for failing to support the two biggest social networks Facebook and Twitter, but the app's developers, programmer Brian Moore and former BuzzFeed creative director Chris Baker, have defended their decision. Most Twitter users have their location information turned off, they say, and it is very imprecise anyway.

They offer no explanation for why Facebook information is not used, but some have speculated that they may hope to eventually sell the app to the California-based social network.

Privacy is a guiding principle behind an increasing number of popular services, including Snapchat, which deletes messages a few seconds after they have been received, and Secret, which allows messages to be sent anonymously.

Baker told the Washington Post that Cloak was in line with such trends in social networking: "Personally, I think we've seen the crest of the big social network," he said. "Things like Twitter and Facebook are packed elevators where we're all crammed in together... I think anti-social stuff is on the rise. You'll be seeing more and more of these types of projects."

Baker says that the app also addresses a problem many people experience where they end up connected online to people they do not actually like.

Nick Jones, editor-in-chief of App Magazine, told the BBC he was unconvinced about the new service, but might give it a go. "It does sound like a gimmick," he said. "But I might use it myself".

Jones says the service taps into a fundamental desire for many people to be able to maintain secrecy in an increasingly connected world. "Secrecy has its advantages for people. It's quite attractive", he said.

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