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App could draw unwanted attention

CINCINNATI (WKRC/ WKEF) -- It seems like everywhere you turn, people are using smart phones to stay connected.

Social Radar is an app designed for people to connect with others near them; and it taps into social media profiles.  If used correctly, it is pretty neat, even tracking people down to within 25 feet of where someone is standing.  But it could also allow a person to easily track down a teen, in this case a 14-year-old girl and she had no idea anyone could find her.

Reporter Jackie Couture with ABC 22 started her journey trying to find a 23-year-old woman.  The app was a little delayed in her movements, so it took a few tries; but Couture was finally able to find Onissa McCarley at her home.  She was surprised to see the reporter, but was not alarmed since she is on the app to connect with people.

"Because I'm older it doesn't bother me as much as it would if it was like a 16-year-old; that's kind of creepy, because my life isn't very private," McCarley said.

But when the app brought Couture right to a recreation park where a 14-year-old was hanging out with her friends, that was much more surprising. Knowing the girl was really young, the team with Couture took their time to explain who they were and called her mother.

Couture asked, "Are you alarmed I was able to find you so easily?"

"Yeah," the girl said.

"What are your thoughts on this app?"

"I think it's dangerous," the girl replied.

Couture said, "Did you realize what you had downloaded?"

"No, I thought it was something to connect with friends, I didn't know it could track you."

A Social Radar representative said when you join, it asks the person to share your location up front.  With a quick swipe of a finger a person can heavily limit what people can learn about them, including where they are. If the user is under 18, it is supposed to limit the location provided to just proximity, but the 14-year-old girl was still found easily enough.

"It will take some education of folks that may or may not know this new breed of technology and the power behind it. Like you said, it's just a matter of making people aware - knowing what's on your kids' phones if they're younger and then taking the steps to educate them about how to protect themselves about their privacy," said Shana Glenzer, Social Radar's Vice President of Social Marketing.

The 14-year-old girl told us she certainly learned a big lesson in privacy.

"It's really scary to have it, like, track you, that's weird," she said.

Couture asked, "Are you totally creeped out by us right now?"

"Yes, yes," replied the girl, laughing.

"Good thing it's us, though and not someone else, right?" Jackie asked.

"Yeah, yeah."

The young girl's mom hopes other parents take a closer look at the apps their kids are downloading.  There are so many out there just like Social Radar to help people connect with others for free.

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