Apple just removed an iPhone app that made it easy for people to stalk the activity of their friends and partners on Instagram
- Apple removed the app Like Patrol from the App Store this weekend, CNET first reported.
- Like Patrol let subscribers follow what other Instagram users were liking and commenting on, after Instagram removed the following tab in October.
- CNET reported in late October that Instagram had sent a cease and desist letter to Like Patrol, alleging it was scraping Instagram user data without consent.
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Apple removed the Like Patrol app from the App Store on Saturday, CNET's Alfred Ng first reported. Like Patrol is a third-party app that allows subscribers to see the Instagram posts that certain users interact with.
Founder Sergio Luis Quintero told CNET in an email that the app was like Instagram's "Following Tab, on steroids."
For an $80 annual fee, subscribers could set notifications filtered by gender, which would alert you when certain people you followed liked or commented on posts from men or women. Life Patrol even claimed to have an algorithm that determined whether those users were attractive or not. On the app's public website, it downplays the potential for the app to be used to stalk Instagram users, saying "Check out current liked posts. You'll never miss out on the best content," and "Find new friends by looking at their recently followed!" but it's not hard to see how the app could be used more maliciously.
Apple taking action to remove the app is just one example of a broader efforts among tech companies to prevent third parties from improperly using people's data. Instagram recently announced it was rolling out an update that gives users control over the Instagram data they share with third parties. Instagram's parent company, Facebook, has taken similar steps recently following a data leak that allowed developers to access user information through Facebook Groups.
Like Patrol filled a gap left by the Instagram "Following" tab, which was removed in early October. At the time, the company said that the function wasn't used frequently.
Like Patrol launched in July, and functions by scraping Instagram user data in a way that Instagram says violates its policies. On October 31, CNET reported that Instagram sent a cease and desist letter to Like Patrol.
Apps like Like Patrol are only one of the recent ways technology has been used to spy on partners and family members. In October, the FTC brought a case against "stalkerware" manufacturer Retina-X studios. Stalkerware apps like this one can be installed without the device owner's consent or knowledge, and then used to monitor the person or even track their location. A 2014 NPR study found that 75% of domestic violence shelters worked with victims whose abusers had surveilled them with stalkerware, and this area of technology doesn't seem to be going away.
Like Patrol and Apple did not immediately respond to request for comment.
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