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Indiana University back-tracks on new sex-tracking 'Kinsey Reporter' phone app

Crowdsourcing sexual activity by mobile phone: sleazy new app or legit scientific research?
KinseyReporterEnlarge
"Want to be a part of sex research?" Kinsey Reporter developers ask in their pilot video. "Now you can!" The new smartphone sex-tracking app has raised privacy concerns at researchers' home institution, Indiana University. (Justin Sullivan/AFP/Getty Images)

If Jenna Maroney, 30 Rock's bright-eyed champion of sexual adventure, were to create her own smartphone app, this would be it. 

OK, Maroney may not be a real person, but her smartphone incarnation is. Or rather, was -- the new Kinsey Reporter sex crowdsourcing app, which describes itself as a "global mobile platform for the reporting, visualization, and analysis of anonymous data about sexual and other intimate behaviors" and test-launched in August, has been disabled by researchers' own Indiana University over privacy concerns, according to Forbes.

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The real Jenna Maroneys of the world -- that is, all 950 people using the app as of Wednesday, according to the Indianapolis Star -- will presumably have to take their breathless accounts of "flirting, kissing, cuddling, self-loving time, fetishes, use of birth control, and all other aspects of body-rubbing activity" elsewhere, noted Forbes' Kashmir Hill

The app collects accounts of sexual behavior from volunteers all over the world. Sources are identified only by their time-stamped geo location, data that is uploaded to Kinsey Reporter's secure server and used for scientific purposes, reported The Indianapolis Star.

Hmm. So are these privacy concerns or public relations concerns on the part of Indiana University? It's not clear. The Indianapolis Star said university officials sent out a “correction” Wednesday night emphasizing that the application is “not yet ready for public use," with university spokesman Mark Land saying it needed further review  in order to “make sure [the University] is comfortable from a legal perspective.” All the hubbub reportedly started when a top legal official at the university asked about potential privacy violations.

"In other words," said Kashmir, the university "freaked out." The folks behind Kinsey Reporter, for their part, pointed out that the project already "went through an extensive review process."

Whatever the reasons behind the delay, the platform is just another example of technology's controversial role in new survey methods, gathering personal data, the application of scientific method, and in Kinsey's case -- "those pesky Peeping Tom laws," as Hill put it. 

You can't accuse the Kinsey people of not beng up front about it, though. "Want to be a part of sex research?" they ask in their pilot video, barely waiting for a response. "Now you can!"

Watch the whole trailer here (thanks, Forbes):

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/weird-wide-web/indiana-university-back-tracks-new-sex-tracking-kinsey-re