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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  1. PinPalWizard says

    @DannyBrown Why are you so negative about this? Man, are your kids keeping you up at night or what? #hatersgonnahate

  2. RyanMM says

    The description of this service kinda makes my skin crawl a bit. Combine this with Girls Around Me to learn about which of your PinPal pins is out in public THIS VERY MOMENT. That’s not weird at all!

      • RyanMM says

         @DannyBrown Ain’t that the truth. This could all be moot if Foursquare and Facebook defaulted to the highest privacy – Instead, the default is “Share my checkins with the world!” They’re too driven by profit motive (they make more money from users who share more) to do the ethical thing and set everyone to the highest security by default and properly educate them on the implications of sharing info on their service.
        I don’t think that Facebook et al shouldn’t be able to make money on the social graph, I just think they should only be doing it from educated users who’ve volunteered the info knowingly.

        • says

           @RyanMM That’s a great point, mate. I see Foursquare kicked the Girls Around Me app off their service, so at least they seem to be listening.
          It’s weird – we talk about how cool social media is, but it seems to be making a lot of anti-social moves in people.

        • RyanMM says

           @DannyBrown The sad thing is, that’s one app. Someone could come along tomorrow and do the same thing with Foursquare’s API, and if they keep it off the radar (maybe by naming the software something less obvious) they could keep doing what Girls Around Me does indefinitely. Foursquare’s move was the right one, but it was very much a first step out of several they need to take.

      • says

         @AngelaDaffron  @RyanMM That’s a great point, Angela – there was nothing to that effect on their back-end demo, and certainly not upfront on their website ToS or Privacy terms.

  3. DannyBrown says

    @heidiekmassey Maybe – I wanted to be subjective but experience with Klout and privacy doesn’t seem to have offered any lessons.

    • gdeems says

      @DannyBrown It was very good article raising #privacy issues. I have been privacy advocate since 1996 here in Maryland, US.

  4. says

    This one raised eyebrows. Sure, the idea of a social media-based dating site isn’t so hairy, but the lack of concern for users’ safety, the privacy issues, and the lackadaisical FAQ responses send up red flags all over the place.
    Thanks for calling it like it is, Danny – hopefully more people sit up and take notice.

  5. DannyBrown says

    @byron_fernandez @belllindsay @HessieJones Some things probably seem a good idea at the time. Implementation, though? That’s the doozy.

    • byron_fernandez says

      @DannyBrown @belllindsay @HessieJones Agree. I believe people who know how to treat others with dignity, fairness and compassion #Transcend

    • byron_fernandez says

      @DannyBrown @belllindsay Agreed. I believe people who know how to treat others with dignity, fairness and compassion #Transcend as Leaders

    • belllindsay says

      @DannyBrown Part of me wants to say “great idea”- but then the creepy crawlies start. Just eww! @byron_fernandez @HessieJones

      • DannyBrown says

        @belllindsay @byron_fernandez @HessieJones Agree. The concept makes sense but the “people on display” mindset is wrong.

    • hessiejones says

      @DannyBrown @byron_fernandez @belllindsay trying to build success early makes people do desperate things, at the expense if users

      • byron_fernandez says

        @hessiejones @DannyBrown @belllindsay By Far the Best assertion I’ll likely see in my networks today. Veritas y brava, Hessie

        • byron_fernandez says

          @hessiejones @DannyBrown @belllindsay “All good things come to those who Wait. But only things left by those who Hustle…” 😉 Happy Sunday

  6. jpippert says

    @ImTheQ I did beta signup but b/c I was out of town haven’t dug into @pinpalwizard to get full understanding, saw @dannybrown post 1st

  7. DannyBrown says

    @spaceguy1 @ambermac @sarahlane It’s definitely an interesting concept, but the inception leaves a sour taste. #pinpal

    • spaceguy1 says

      @DannyBrown @ambermac @sarahlane pinpal’s intro was bad timing in light of Girls Around Me App, but your points on their privacy are valid

  8. design58 says

    @DannyBrown @bobledrew sounds like front seats in the courtroom to watch the after effects – people will still get sucked in like lemmings

    • DannyBrown says

      @design58 @bobledrew That’s the sad thing – the audience it’s for may be looking for “quick fix” and not think consequences

  9. goonth says

    @DannyBrown @bobledrew all ties back to privacy and creating an open layer for standards (sounds oxymoronic, I know).

    • DannyBrown says

      @goonth @bobledrew That’s a great point, and a sensible one – it’s the multi-layers and hidden terms that confuse

      • goonth says

        @DannyBrown @bobledrew …and the confusion part has been the M.O. for cos trying to do large data captures from the onset. Bad precedent.

    • skypulsemedia says

      @goonth @DannyBrown @bobledrew but Pete Cashmore of @mashable declared privacy dead in 2009. Mark Zuckerberg agrees. Why don’t you?

      • goonth says

        @skypulsemedia @dannybrown @bobledrew the approach to #privacy requires a big shift in cultural & biz thinking, but dead it is not!

      • DannyBrown says

        @skypulsemedia @goonth @bobledrew Maybe because there’s privacy and extended privacy (that of non opted-in friends) and latter being abused?

        • skypulsemedia says

          @DannyBrown @goonth @bobledrew you know i ridicule pete for that stupid article and am pro privacy. And zuckerturd hates privacy too.

        • goonth says

          @DannyBrown @skypulsemedia @bobledrew that’s part of it. But in order to change the model(s), you have to experiment. Few are willing.

        • goonth says

          @skypulsemedia @dannybrown @bobledrew bottom line, there’s no reason not to make the opting part a conversation, & data shared rev for use.

        • DannyBrown says

          @goonth @skypulsemedia @bobledrew Perhaps there’s a model for revenue share for those willing to have likenesses used.

        • skypulsemedia says

          @goonth @dannybrown @bobledrew the reason it is opt out vs opt in is you know if given a choice people will not opt in hurting revenues #fb

        • goonth says

          @DannyBrown @skypulsemedia @bobledrew absolutely there is. The first taker will win big. (and I’m working on a product as we speak 😉

        • DannyBrown says

          @skypulsemedia I think it depends on product and offering – look at Twitter’s approach. @goonth @bobledrew

        • skypulsemedia says

          @dannybrown @goonth @bobledrew I quit facebook over the DATR cookie. I hope the class action wins and torpedoes all this secret tracking

        • DannyBrown says

          @goonth You know we’ll be watching that product with interest, don’t you… 😉 @skypulsemedia @bobledrew

    • DannyBrown says

      @michelledh All well and good, miss, thanks – and yes, it’s an interesting concept but questionable approaches.

      • michelledh says

        @DannyBrown Glad you are well :) oh yes, I can see that, its a bit of a worry they don’t. I meant the conversations were interesting. :)

  10. DannyBrown says

    @rbeland Hi Rob, they do seem to be naive on implications. Least @foursquare saw sense on Girls Around Me app.

  11. amvandenhurk says

    @ShellyKramer where have you been all day? All a buzz. Trying to figure if it is legit, but today ANYTHING is possible. @bobledrew

    • bobledrew says

      @jpippert Well, that MIGHT mean I’d never get hooked up with a girl who like Nickelback or Shania. So there’s that.

  12. says

    Frankly I’m not sure what to say about this one. It’s an interesting concept and everyone knows how much I love compiling data (yes I’m a numbers freak). Let’s see how far the frat boy humor takes them. You never know…
    As for their privacy policy, for a dating site collecting so much information it seems very weak. Their terms of service is a bit stronger.
    As for their laissez faire FAQ on the privacy, that’s unreal for a service such as theirs. Apparently Jimmy does take a play from the Joe Fernandez play book and basically tell you to suck it up.
    Thankfully we all have a choice as to whether or not to use the services. I’m married so I’m out anyhow. But for those “single pinners” who might be considering, I hope they read the TOS and think about it before making a decision. But I doubt it.
    Hrm that makes me think of a great app – putting into plain English the privacy policies and TOS of companies. Ah nevermind. People probably still wouldn’t read it :)

    • says

       @RobertDempsey See, it’s comments like yours that make us happy, mate (and you now know the April Fool backstory and reasons why we did it). It shows we succeeded in our goals – believability, and the questioning of what we give up in the name of popularity.
      And pinpalwizard  was a hoot! :)

  13. jureklepic says

    I am sure Klout will run the perks for them… Would you date someone with lower Klout score then yours LOL :) Well they did that while back probably when PinPal was testing Klout API… 
    I see few more political scandals coming out in next few weeks…. LOL 

  14. says

    Hi Mr B
    Keep still and listen very quietly…. can you hear it?
    You can just make out Jimmy Addison saying… “Oh bloody helll Danny B’s on to us”.

  15. Leon says

    G’Day Danny,
    Oh that i was young enough to be concerned!  “Pinpal:” when I first saw the name I thought it was a site for people who sewed…….or still used cloth nappies. 
    Nevertheless, I will inform my elder grandchildren…. and yearn……..just a tiny bit. Here in Australia most of us are automatic life members of convictpal anyway.
    Now that’s fun.
    Best Wishes

  16. says

    So @belllindsay and I have been hanging out in PinPal and it is better than expected. We have met so many amazing people. In fact Lindsay has 13 dates lined up. It really is a game changer.

  17. says

    Thanks for this Danny! Not that I’m in the dating market, but it’s good to know and to have this post to refer to.

  18. says

    Having credit cards circuits knowing everything about our expenses wasn’t enough. Or FaceBook knowing whatever we do online, and let’s not forget Google+. Someone shoud start a class action for net surfer to be paid royalties as it’s our online life that these guys are making money of. It’s not just a matter of privacy which has now become a kind of an empty word, it’s that they are earning millions without paying the copyrights. Better than nothing.
    The beautiful thing about sci-fi is that it usually becomes true so sooner or later someone will create a software able to delete our personal informations wherever they are stored at our own will. This is a software I’ll surely buy.
    Great article Danny, very interesting. :)

  19. kanokratisi says

    Hrm that makes me think of a great app – putting into plain English the privacy policies and TOS of companies. Ah nevermind. People probably still wouldn’t read it :)
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  20. DannyBrown says

    @nittyGriddyBlog Ironically enough, @Tawkly seems to have completely ripped off the @PinPalWizard idea…