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He is #RudeToWaiters but he #SmellsAmazeballs: Privacy implications of the social networking dating application of Lulu

Renee Powers

Released in the United States in 2013, the Lulu mobile application uses women’s Facebook data to populate a database of men for rating their attractiveness. Only Facebook profiles with genders marked as “Female” may access this application. Popular with U.S. sororities, Lulu is marketed as a social dating “intelligence” application to crowdsource evaluations of men, much like Yelp crowdsources evaluations of restaurants. Once downloaded, women may then choose to anonymously rate and evaluate men set by a predetermined list of evaluation criteria, including ambition, appearance, commitment, humor, first kiss, and sexual performance, including penis size and endurance. Lulu insists its users are always anonymous, but because the application links with Facebook, one cannot be sure. Furthermore, the men featured in this application have no agency; they are automatically included in Lulu’s database once one of their female Facebook friends uses the application. If privacy is the right to be left alone, Lulu’s integration with Facebook data is a serious privacy breach. In this paper, the authors recognize this new application as an opportunity to discuss gendered implications of privacy as they pertain to mobile technologies. Through feminist conceptualizations of power and social surveillance, we discuss the implications of exposing private details via Lulu for evaluating potential or past sexual partners. We identify the privacy issues invoked by Lulu and explore a critical framework to help us better understand the controversy surrounding Lulu. We suggest that women’s empowerment need not come at the price at men’s disempowerment, as exemplified by Lulu.