Skip to main content

Site shows Facebook updates your boss shouldn't see

Brandon Griggs, CNN
  • A new website collects incriminating status updates from Facebook
  • We Know What You're Doing went live Monday and has more than 120,000 unique visitors
  • An 18-year-old created the site to raise awareness about oversharing on public networks

(CNN) -- Anastasia R. hates her boss, Jay, and wishes he would die. Matt B. is "carrying a bucket round in my car cause im so hungover." Charlie S. wants everyone to have his new personal phone number.

And all of them shared these updates on Facebook.

These ill-considered posts, and dozens more, are being collected on We Know What You're Doing, a new website created by an 18-year-old student and Web developer to raise awareness about the information people unwittingly share on social networks.

The site's search tool combs public Facebook statuses for words and phrases such as "hate my boss" and "hungover" to display posts under the headings, "Who wants to get fired?" and "Who's on drugs?"

Facebook: You've got a new email address
MYB: Sandberg named to Facebook board

"I was very shocked at exactly what people reveal in their public Facebook posts, which is one of the reasons I started the site," Callum Haywood told CNN. "If there was no relevant data to prove the point, then the website probably wouldn't exist."

Facebook users feeling helpless: What's really going on

Haywood launched the site Monday afternoon. By midday Tuesday in the United States, his page had received more than 120,000 unique visitors and nearly 5,000 likes on Facebook, he said in an e-mail interview with CNN.

"I created the website to make people aware of the issues that it creates when they post such information on Facebook without any privacy settings enabled," said the teenager, who lives in Nottingham, England. "The people featured on the site are most likely not aware that what they post as 'public' can be seen by absolutely anybody, and that Facebook will happily give away this information to other websites via its Graph API."

The site follows in a line of sites such as Please Rob Me, launched in 2010, which aggregated public check-ins from social-media sites such as Foursquare and Twitter in hopes of showing people that there was a danger in alerting the public that they weren't at home.

Others have aggregated silly and ridiculous Facebook status updates in the past, leading to a debate about the ethics of drawing attention to information that Facebook users may not know is public.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, Haywood said he had not yet heard from Facebook or anyone featured on the site. He said he would be willing to remove any incriminating statuses from the site if contacted by the people who posted them. But that wouldn't remove the information from Facebook, "so another website could easily access it," he said.

Despite years of warnings about privacy, there have been numerous publicized incidents in recent years of people losing their jobs after they posted incriminating or offensive information on public Facebook pages. Haywood said he believes his site, which as of Tuesday was showcasing more than 75 questionable, if not downright stupid, updates, helps demonstrate how often people overshare online.

In case you're pondering an alcohol-fueled Facebook rant about your boss and don't want to appear on We Know What You're Doing, it may be wise to visit Facebook's privacy-settings page and make sure Control Your Default Privacy is not set to "Public." From there you can choose "Custom" privacy settings to choose who can see what. You also can change who sees an individual post from your Facebook Timeline.

Facebook pulls location-tracking feature

Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:32 PM EDT, Mon June 25, 2012
Video: The number of nuns in Canada is declining forcing some to turn to social media sites to recruit. Affiliate CBC reports.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri May 18, 2012
Opinion: Many wonder if America is falling behind as other countries are catching up fast. And yet the Facebook phenomenon did not occur in a vacuum.
updated 9:26 PM EDT, Wed June 20, 2012
Video: Police in an Illinois town post pictures on Facebook of motorists running red lights. KPLR reports.
updated 2:40 PM EDT, Mon June 25, 2012
Here's a real shocker: Teens are better than their parents at using the Internet, and are likely to hide some of their online behaviors from them.
updated 7:49 PM EDT, Thu May 17, 2012
Opinion: Flush with cash and drunk with power after its $100 billion IPO, Facebook could be caught secretly brainwashing millions of new users into signing up (mind-control hoodies, anyone?) -- and still I might not quit the world's largest social network.
updated 6:19 AM EDT, Wed June 6, 2012
Video: Christine Romans on challenges Facebook has in getting its users to buy products or services through the social network.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed May 30, 2012
Video: Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg allegedly skipped a tip for a waiter while honeymooning in Italy.
updated 11:53 AM EDT, Sun May 27, 2012
A video troupe sings the timeline of Facebook. CNN's Jeanne Moos has more.