PinPal Wants to Use Your Friends to Create a Sex Meat Market

Strong title? Probably – but then PinPal deserves it.

Currently in private beta, PinPal is a new start-up that looks to create a casual dating network by using the API’s of Twitter, Facebook, Klout and, as the name might suggest, Pinterest.

From the site’s own description:

PinPal combines the visual magic of Pinterest with the connecting power of your favorite social networks to help you find your perfect PinPal!

After you sign up, we’ll search through your favorite social networks to find your friends – and more importantly, their friends! Up to three degrees of separation!

In essence, it’s a pretty smart idea and one that, when you think about it, is surprising that no-one else has thought of it. But you know there’s going to be a “But…”, and you’d be right.

The Creepiness Factor of PinPal

Note the key sentence that stands out – “we’ll search through your favorite social networks to find your friends – and more importantly, their friends!”. Doesn’t that set alarm bells ringing?

It reminds me of the issues Klout faced  a while back when they were caught adding friends of their site’s users to their platform, whether that friend was connected with Klout or not. It’s the same ideals, the same methodology.

Haven’t we learned anything from Klout’s failings when it comes to privacy and abuse of it? Apparently not, according to PinPal.

According to the FAQ section of the PinPal site, privacy no longer exists on the web. Their take on users’ privacy concerns?

Let us ask you a question – is your privacy safe online anyway? We don’t think it is, as much as we’d like it to be. So, to answer the question of privacy, you have as much privacy on PinPal as you do elsewhere online – we think that’s the fairest way to go.

So, essentially what PinPal is saying is if you trust other online properties – especially the ones we use to gather your information – then by definition you should trust us. Encouraging…

Especially when you see how the service works.

When you access the beta (invite-only at the minute – I was asked to have a look), PinPal connects your Twitter and Facebook account, and not only gets your information but also, as it turns out, that of your friends.

Whether  they’re locked down in private settings or not.

They then source that against Klout, and determine if the user is “worthy” of being in the system. For instance, you need a Klout score of 40 or more to progress.

Once your influence and worthiness of being a date partner is assessed, your Pinterest account is then brought into play, and PinPal scours that API to find people of the opposite sex that you’re connected to. That’s added to the Twitter and Facebook friend information – and the friends of the user – to create a “hot list” of potential partners for a casual date.

PinPal creates a private board and the pictures of the “possibilities” go on display for all to see. You pick your chosen Pin, and introductions are made.

As a dating site, that would work well. But PinPal isn’t just any old dating site, and therein lies the issue.

You’re On Your Own, Sport

Online dating sites are ramping up security and their process after an alleged rape of a woman using a dating site in Southern California. It’s tragic that something so awful should have spurred this action, but at least they’re trying to protect others from the same fate.

PinPal seems to avoid this major concern, and almost shows disdain for anyone asking about it. Again, from their FAQs, in answer to the question how safe PinPal dates are:

As safe as any online dating service, with the added security that this is all happening with social media, so if something goes wrong you can let people know about it. That’s pretty powerful stuff right there!

So, essentially, because you can tweet about your date, if something goes wrong – heaven forbid, something as serious as the SoCal case – it’s okay, because your tweet will be enough to create a backlash against your attacker…

At its best, it’s naivety – at its worse, it’s gross negligence and abandonment of responsibilities to your users.

So, in a nutshell, PinPal is creating potentially dangerous situations not only for you, but for your friends too, who may not even be aware they’ve been sucked into PinPal’s questionable practice.

Like I mentioned earlier, it reminds me of Klout at their peak of bad practices. But at least Klout saw sense and offered opt-out solutions for anyone not wishing to be in their system.

From the looks of PinPal, once in it’s very difficult to leave. And even if you do, your friends are still on display for all to see.

No matter how you dress it, that’s bullshit.

I reached out to Jimmy Addison, the co-founder of PinPal, for his thoughts on these concerns, but there’s been no reply as of yet.

In the meantime, if you want an example of all that’s wrong with social media, look no further than PinPal. They’ve got to be a lawsuit waiting to happen…

Click now to read the full story on PinPal.

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