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May. 28 2009 - 10:51 am | 22 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

Celebrity stalking via Twitter

omgicuStalking celebrities via Twitter is the newest craze.

Earlier this week, Ashton Kutcher worried that a proposed Twitter reality T.V. show “putting ordinary people on the trail of celebrities in a revolutionary competitive format” would result in stalking. Says the guy who is currently tweeting his Atlanta location to his nearly two million Twitter followers. That’s celebrity logic for you…

But celebs like Kutcher who have opted to join Twitter are not the only ones whose locations will be trackable there. Last month, a new website launched promising “participatory celebrity gossip.” Called OMGICU, it’s GawkerStalker on steroids. Active only in New York at the moment, it enables participants to tweet celebrity sightings by sending text messages to 60270 – the sightings then appear on OMGICU’s Twitter page and website.

Whereas the celebrity-locating Gawker Stalker has the delay that comes from tips being e-mailed and then sorted by editors before posting, OMGICU is nearly instantaneous. So those New Yorkers or visiting tourists hoping to run into celebs may find it a useful tool.

I signed up for the service last week. I haven’t sent any notifications along yet, but have gotten some interesting alerts about celebs in the area. (I missed my chance to rendezvous with Taye Diggs “looking amazing in a fedora” last night.)

So is this a natural progression for “citizen journalism” and social networking tools or a horrifying invasion of celebrity privacy? I spent some time talking to the site’s creator who sees this as the natural evolution of celebrity journalism.

We’re obsessed with celebs; their gossip and photos draw us in despite ourselves. But US Weekly and People shortchange us, says OMGICU creator, Hugh Dornbush, who left NYU business school to start the website. “You get to know what’s happening with celebs around you as it’s happening,” said Dornbush.

To use the service, you register with the website giving them your cell phone number so you can receive texts announcing celebritries spotted around New York. On the site, you can rate sightings so the service knows that you get excited about Jesse Eisenberg but not about Gisele, or vice versa. At this point, the Dalai Lama is actually the most highly-rated celebrity — he was spotted at the Four Seasons in Midtown earlier this month.

OMGICU takes the concept of citizen journalism and warps it into citizen paparazzism.

Professional paparazzi should be concerned. At this point, the site allows for texts only from its amateur stalkers. But the site has future plans to allow users to upload their photos and videos of celebs caught in the moment. So should I spot Jesse Eisenberg riding his bike along the Hudson, you might one day get a piece of that exciting footage.

Celebs are already concerned about the level of attention they get. There are a small amount of users on the sight now, but as the number increases, it will likely be much easier to pinpoint celebs’ locations. Those wishing to swing by and gawk will easily be able to do so, turning Manhattan into more than a zoo than it already is, with celebs on display like animals without cages.

The thing is, I don’t really like going to zoos (Going on safari in northern Kenya kind of ruined them for me). While I find it fun to spot a famous face once in a while walking the streets of Manhattan, I can’t imagine actually going out of my way to track one of these folks down. Though I’ve been getting frequent texts over the last week letting me know that Whitney Port from the City is “looking hot at Cafe Cluny in the West Village” and that Mike Myers is grabbing a coffee at the Starbucks at Spring and Crosby in SoHo, my only reaction has been to glance down at my phone and nod (or shrug). Of course, I also don’t read US Weekly.


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    Everyone had the same reaction when Gawker Stalker came out… and there’s no validity to it. Also, if a celebrity is willing to post his or her location on their Twitter, then they deserve to be hounded by fans rushing to that spot. If you don’t want to be stalked, tweet about things other than where you’re eating lunch.

  2. collapse expand

    It seems like this site takes it to the next level though in that it sends you texts when a celeb’s in your vicinity. Which is more convenient than watching the Gawker Stalker map 24-7. Plus, the creator claims it’ll eventually be customizable, in case you’re more interested in catching up with Bloomberg than with Britney.

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    I am a writer, reporter, editor and blogger. I'm an editor at Above The Law, where I blog about lawyers, judges, law firms and the legal industry. Here at True/Slant, I write about our changing notions of privacy.

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