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In Iceland, an App to Warn If Your Hookup Is a Relative

Carol Matlack

If you meet someone in a bar and hook up for the night, there are some risks involved. We think you know what they are.

If you live in Iceland, though, there’s yet another risk: The object of your desire could be a very close relative. Iceland has only 320,000 inhabitants, and virtually all of them trace their ancestry to the island’s 9th century settlers.

How, then, to determine whether you may be skating close to incest with that attractive stranger? There’s now an app for that.

Developed by three young software-engineering students at the University of Iceland, it lets users instantly compare their lineage by bumping their mobile devices together. The app includes an “incest-prevention alarm,” says Arnar Freyr Adalsteinsson, one of the developers. “When you bump, it shows your nearest common ancestors. If you bump with someone who’s too closely related, you get an alarm sound and a text warning.”

The app draws on an Icelandic genealogical database called Islendingabok, or Iceland Book, which traces the lineage of all the country’s current inhabitants, in some cases going back to 9th century settlers. The app, called IslendingaApp—yes, Iceland App—this month won a contest organized by the university to celebrate the database’s 10th anniversary.

Icelandic citizens have long been able to use the national database for genealogical research, including access via mobile phone. An ad by a local mobile-phone operator a couple of years ago showed a couple lolling happily in bed after a romantic interlude, only to have their smiles disappear when they consult the database on their smartphones.

With IslendingaApp, users can not only log into the database but also can use convenient features such as a calendar that reminds them of relatives’ birthdays. But by far the most talked-about feature has been “the bump,” Adalsteinsson says. “As you can imagine, it’s pretty catchy.”

The app can be downloaded here. But alas, it’s only in Icelandic, and users must have an Icelandic social security number to log on.