For the hermits on the go, there’s now an solution just for you. The new Cloak app leverages other social networks to help users avoid others.
Using public location data from Instagram and Foursquare, Cloak first figures out which people are near the user. The app then sends an alert if and when people come within a preset range, allowing the user to avoid an ill-fated encounter with whomever he or she designates. Users can decide who is flagged for encounters at any given time.
Cloak is only in version 1.0.1, so don’t expect many bells and whistles. There isn’t any support Facebook at this stage, nor can you view users within a specific area around you. Since the app relies on retrieving data from apps that have tight privacy settings, the user must be friends with/following any users he or she wishes to avoid.
This quirk is a little self-defeating, given that users may not always be friends with the people they are trying to avoid. Furthermore, the premise of the app relies on devoted social media users that check-in frequently. The app’s developers have explicitly asked users to create dummy accounts to add people that users don’t want to interact with, raising questions about the creators’ ability to iron out some of Cloak’s peculiarities.
Cloak’s creators have ruled out support for Twitter, however. The developers have noted that many Twitter users don’t enable location services and even when location data is provided, it’s simply not enough for Cloak to do its job.
Some reviewers and users are concerned that in the wrong hands, Cloak works more like a tracking device than a way to stay away from others. Cloak doesn’t provide any information that users can’t already access, but the app does serve as an aggregator for location data. This makes keeping tabs on others much easier, which could have unfortunate consequences for innocent Foursquare and Instagram users. For the moment, though, most users seem content to use the app in the manner for which it was designed.
At the moment, Cloak is only available from the App Store. How many of you would consider using this app (or one like this)? Is Cloak is a precursor to the next wave of privacy concerns, or do you think it’s just a cheap gimmick? Let us know in your comments!