There is no shortage of social media apps out there that will loudly broadcast to everyone where you are at every second of the day. Rarer is the app that exists to obfuscate you. This, though, is the goal of Cloak, a new app that wants to keep other people from being able to find you.
Characterizing itself as an “anti-social network,” Cloak came about after programmer Brian Moore moved to New York and just kept on stumbling into his ex-girlfriend. In fact, Moore ran into his former inamorata four times in six months, a number he thought defied probability in the 300-square-mile metropolis. It was awkward.
Talking it over with his friend and former Buzzfeed creative director Chris Baker, Moore decided to create an app that could connect to Foursquare and Instagram and scan the locations of friends and acquaintances, compare that to a user’s GPS location, and put up an invisible geofence around them. If someone you know on Foursquare or Instagram checks into a location within a customizable distance of your location (from miles to mere blocks), Cloak will send you an alert to duck or cover.
“Testing the app was pretty easy to do in New York City,” Moore jokes. “We knew we were in the right place in beta testing when we took a cab home one night and our phones just kept on buzzing the whole ride home, warning us of friends nearby.”
But why wouldn’t you want to run into friends? “Generally speaking, we feel like we’ve reached the point of social fatigue–too many networks with too much information, all the time,” tells Co.Design. “It’s okay to turn off, and pick up a copy of Walden and just be alone. But beyond that, Cloak has a million different use cases. Maybe you’re on a first date and just want a real night of privacy. Maybe you’re in week two of growing out your beard and can’t be seen until it’s fully grown. Maybe you just want to go to the grocery store without makeup on in your PJs.”
As a bonus, Cloak doesn’t have to be used anti-socially. If you want, you can use Cloak as an alert system: if your friend walks into your Net, you can load up the app, see where they are, and then chase him or her down. It’s up to you. You could even, potentially, use Cloak to stalk, although Moore hopes that people won’t. “We definitely don’t condone stalking on the app, and it’s pretty clear the functionality is to do the exact opposite.”
Although bitter 21st-century misanthropy is the selling pitch, Moore hopes that people will do more than just look at Cloak as a gag app. He hopes it will inspire people to think about privacy as well. “If you look beyond the funny notion of ‘just avoiding people’ and get into what privacy in real life means, or how intimate real-life encounters can be, we think there’s a lot going on,” Moore says. And if you’re really hell-bent on being a social recluse, there are better ways to do it than Cloak, anyway. “If you really want to avoid everyone, just throw a Google Glass on your face,” Moore jokes.
Cloak can be downloaded on the iOS App Store for just 99 cents.