Last night, after chatting with a guy at the dive bar down the street, you returned home to see that he had requested to be your friend on Facebook. You had found him charming, friendly, and yes, maybe a little eccentric, but harmless. Your friends, however, were convinced there was something a bit off about him – creepy, they said. Perverted.
He seems like a sex offender, you remember them saying. Be careful.
Could that be true? Is someone with a criminal history hoping to connect with you on Facebook? Should you decline him, or ignore your friends’ “hunches” and approve the friend request?
Now, the answer to your quandary is just a few clicks away.
Yes – there’s an app for that.
Friend Verifier is “the first Facebook App that allows you to scan pending friend requests and your current friends against the national sex offender registry,” and is powered by VerifyAnybody.com. Since its launch on March 9th, the app has scanned 376,212 people against a database of more than 800,000 registered sex offenders.
Joe Penora, the app’s creator, told Mashable that his inspiration for Friend Verifier was based on hearing his female friends and acquaintances complain about receiving inappropriate messages via social networks like MySpace and Facebook.
“The running joke was, ‘You should create a creepy guy filter,’” Penora said. “Obviously you can’t just see if a guy is creepy, but you can make sure people haven’t been convicted of crimes.”
In our hyper-connected social world, where people of all ages are constantly plugged in – one recent Consumer Reports study found that more than 7.5 million Facebook users are under the age of 13, in violation of the site’s policies – it’s more important than ever to ensure that users are aware of who they connect with.
“I have a younger cousin who’s one of these Facebook friend collectors who just accepts anyone who requests her as a friend,” Penora said. “In this day and age that can be kind of dangerous.”
According to Mashable, as Friend Verifier moves out of beta stage, Penora is focused on two goals: creating a mobile app and making it simpler to differentiate offenders from law-abiding citizens of the same name. There are still a few bugs in the system, judging from the app’s Facebook page, but engineers are making tweaks to address the lingering issues.
In the meantime, what are you waiting for?
Should you let Dive Bar Guy write on your wall? Or were your friends right after all?