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Last modified: Wednesday, May 8, 2013

IU's Kinsey, School of Informatics re-release app for anonymous reporting of sexual behaviors

May 8, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- With privacy concerns addressed, Indiana University has re-released the free Kinsey Reporter app, a global mobile survey platform for collecting and reporting anonymous data about sexual and other intimate behaviors.


The Kinsey Reporter app is available for free from both the Apple iOS and Google Play (for Android) stores.

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The pilot project was announced in the fall. But researchers from IU's School of Informatics and Computing and project partner The Kinsey Institute delayed the public release until the university could fully review the project for any potential privacy-related legal issues. The reporting app had already been reviewed and approved by the university's information technology division and IU's Institutional Review Board, which reviews all research involving humans.

Kinsey Reporter allows citizen observers around the world to use free applications now available for Apple and Android mobile platforms to not only report on sexual behavior and experiences but to share, explore and visualize the accumulated data. The app is free from Apple iOS and Google Play (for Android) online stores, and reports made by anonymous citizen scientists will be used for research and shared with the public at the Kinsey Reporter website.

Filippo Menczer, director of IU's Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research, or CNetS, and a School of Informatics and Computing professor, said the designers did make one change to how information is reported: Reports will wait in a geographically defined queue until a quantity threshold is met in order to remove any fears that reports from low-population areas might be recognizable.

"In the past version we had intended on using a pre-determined time delay on reporting from low-population areas, but now it is a quantity delay," he said. "Delays will be longer from low-population areas, but users may select a lower geographical resolution to decrease the delay."

Users have the option of selecting their own geographic preference for the report by choosing city/town, state/region or country.

CNetS, which is part of the IU School of Informatics and Computing and the Pervasive Technology Institute, and The Kinsey Institute developed the reporting app to collect anonymous data and then aggregate and share it openly.

After downloading the app, users can contribute observed information on topics such as sexual activity, public displays of affection, flirting, unwanted experiences and birth control use. Survey types change over time, and users are able to view aggregated reports by geographic region via interactive maps, timelines or charts. All of these reporting venues can be manipulated with filters that remove or add data based on specific survey topics and questions selected by the user.

Julia Heiman, director of The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, said the hope is that users will become citizen scientists, contributing as natural observers in society by using the mobile app to provide new insights for researchers into sexuality and relationships today.

"What do people notice, what are they involved in, and what can they relate to us about their lives and their communities?" are questions of interest, she said.

Menczer added that the new platform may allow scientists to explore issues that have been challenging to study, such as the prevalence of unreported sexual violence in different parts of the world, or the correlation between various sexual practices like condom use, and the cultural, political, religious or health contexts in particular geographical areas.

"These were some of our initial motivations for the project," he said.

Reports are transmitted to Kinsey Reporter using a secure, encrypted protocol, and the only data collected are approximate timestamp and geo-location selected by the user, and the tags the user chooses in response to various survey questions. No information identifying users submitting the reports is collected or stored.

Accompanying the app release are a Kinsey Reporter website, a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. The resources also provide links to information about sexuality, such as blogs and podcasts from the Kinsey Confidential website. YouTube videos on "What Is the Kinsey Reporter App" and "Making the Kinsey Reporter App" are also available for viewing.

The Kinsey Institute receives support from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at IU Bloomington, which is dedicated to supporting ongoing faculty research and creative activity and developing new multidisciplinary initiatives to enhance opportunities for federal, state and private research funding.

For more information on Kinsey Reporter, or to speak with Heiman or Menczer, please contact Steve Chaplin, IU Communications, at 812-856-1896 or