We Know What You’re Doing (Even If You Don’t)

Aug / 27 15

We Know What You’re Doing (Even If You Don’t)

Posted by ericwagner in Social Media, Web

Privacy concerns have been at the forefront of social media discussion since Facebook spread across Harvard’s campus. Many tech-savvy users understood the need to privatize their profiles and protect their information. Even new users are urged during sign up on Facebook, Twitter, and other media to use the privacy settings. Yet there are still people out there that do not value privacy or are just blind to using the settings.

This has urged an 18-year-old British web developer, Callum Haywood, to do an experiment based on the idea from this video by Tom Scott. The experiment uses public Facebook status updates and public Foursquare check-ins of random strangers and publishes them. They divide them in different categories of who hates their boss, who is hungover, who has been doing drugs, and who is posting private information (phone numbers etc.). The experiment is called http://www.weknowwhatyouredoing.com/, WKWYD for short.

Here is an example of the site.

His WKWYD is a spin-off of Openbook.com (which used public Facebook status updates and has since shut down) and Please Rob Me (used public check-ins from Foursquare to alert strangers when you were away from home). What Haywood did differently was he publicly displayed the updates without compromising all the privacy. On WKWYD, they show the first name and last initial only. Unlike the other two sites you can’t directly jump to the profile of the idiot that posted about their awful boss or call up the home address of the person who just boarded a flight overseas.

You may be wondering how WKWYD accesses this information. Well you simply search Facebook’s Graph API and voila; you can access any public information out there. Here is an example https://graph.facebook.com/search?q=hate%20my%20boss&type=post&locale=en_GB. The results will be in raw JSON output. This query searches for terms “hate my boss” (when in your URL navigation bar the % signs are just spaces). And the locale=en_ is GB which is for Great Britain, for the United States simply enter US. I searched for “broke my foot” and used US for my locale in the search and the results were pretty hilarious.

The updates are all within the last hour so they aren’t necessarily in real-time. Absolutely no data from Facebook is being collected or stored.

The premise of the site is that these people really don’t want this information to be public. Or at least I hope not. Many people have lost their jobs because inappropriate social media use. This is why Mr. Haywood has made efforts to remove actual phone numbers, surnames, etc. And within context some of the results aren’t even from people who are hungover, taking drugs, or hating their boss. Like all experiments there are some erroneous results.

Hopefully this site will spread further and show people the value in using privacy settings on social media. If you don’t know where to change your Facebook privacy settings simply click here. Be sure that your Control Your Default Privacy is not set to “Public”. To learn more about privacy settings on Foursquare go to here.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Written by Eric Wagner

Eric is a online marketer and search engine optimization specialist (SEO). In his free time, Eric enjoys exercise, motorcycles, technology, and spending time with family and friends.

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