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
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?”
“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.”
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.