Yesterday the Associated Press reported that the Boyfriend Tracker app, which had seemed to take Brazil like an overbearing wildfire, was removed by Google from its app store with no explanation.
Both the app’s massive popularity (AP estimates around 50,000 downloads in just two months) and its removal raise questions. The former, of course, speaks to a fundamental problem in the security of relationships in Brazil. To be fair, it is certain that the app — called Rastreador de Namorados — would have just as much popularity elsewhere, but this one happened to be in a country famous for its casual liaisons. “In Brazil, we have this culture of switching partners really quickly, so this is a way of dealing with that,” the app’s maker, Matheus Grijo told the AP. “People really appreciate having a tool to help them find out whether they’re being cheated on.”
The app’s removal points to the fact that companies like Google are finally recognizing that some people don’t like being spied on. The AP reported that many Brazilians were (obviously) upset to learn that the country was a subject of a good many NSA data collections. But AP noted that many people thought that this was different, if only because the NSA is a bunch of strangers, and this is someone you love. It reminds me of the line from NBC’s The Office “It’s better to be hurt by someone you know accidentally, than by a stranger on purpose.”
There is a fundamental flaw in the Boyfriend Tracker app, however: it acknowledges too freely that its purpose is spying on one’s boyfriend. I doubt that Google Play would remove a similar app called “Where is my ten year old child?” or “Did I leave my phone in the taxi or at the restaurant?” They weren’t coy enough for their own good, and it was their downfall.
Regardless, product evolution fills a void, and it seems another fissure has just opened in the Brazilian app market.