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I Solemnly Swear that I'm Stalking My Ex - The Marauder's Map App

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Anyone even vaguely au fait with the Harry Potter series will likely recognise that name, but for those who don't, the Marauder's Map was a magical parchment which could track the exact whereabouts and movements of anyone in Hogwarts (or the surrounding area). It showed them as a pair of feet with a name hovering underneath it. I'm fairly certain that J.K. Rowling never intended it as a something to inspire tech start-ups, but it's happened anyway.

Using location data pulled from apps which always have the 'current location' function switched on, the Marauder's Map app can show you where your friends are going and where they've been, almost to the minute. It's the kind of information that's only really valuable to two kinds of people: members of the police and obsessive stalkers. 

The Chrome extension affixes itself to your Facebook messages page, adding a map tab to the bottom left corner. Once open, any message sent to you by someone with location services active on Facebook messenger will result in a little map marker popping up showing you where they are. Each following message will add to the map, showing where they're going and scrolling back up will show you where they've been. It's a disconcerting reminder that often, you're broadcasting your current location to the world without even realising it. Even more creepily, it doesn't just work on Facebook friends, anyone inhabiting the same messaging thread as you is susceptible to it.

“Everyone I have shown this extension to has been anywhere from surprised to appalled that this much of their data is online for their friends (and even complete strangers) to access. So it seems that there is an issue. The main problem is that every time you open your phone and send a single message it’s so easy to forget about your location data being attached to it. Furthermore, it seems so harmless to attach a location with a single message, but the problem is, over time the information from these messages adds up.” - Aran Khanna, lead developer

It's hard to figure out exactly what practical applications developer Aran Khanna had in mind when he built the app, but judging from his official statement, the principal intent was to highlight just how much data about ourselves we're all broadcasting unconsciously. The sad irony of that is that in so doing, Khanna has created an extension that is easy to exploit, without so much as a sign saying that freaky people need not apply.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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I Solemnly Swear that I'm Stalking My Ex - The Marauder's Map App Reviewed by Callum Davies on Thursday, June 04, 2015 Rating: 5

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