As popular humour sites Lamebook and Failbook have shown over the years, sometimes sharing is not the best way of expressing your caring. A recently launched experiment in online privacy, We Know What You’re Doing, once again demonstrates the devil-may-care attitude many Facebook users have when they post status updates to the popular social network. The result isn’t pretty; much too many people post messages unflattering to themselves, all too unaware that their statements are public and available for the whole Internet-connected world to see.
We Know What You’re Doing, or WKWYD for short, features a minimalist, black-text-on-white-background theme and four columns of Facebook status updates, each corresponding to a given category of Internet faux-pas. The site’s teenaged web developer Callum Haywood raises all-too-pressing questions: Who wants to get fired? Who’s hung over? Who’s taking drugs? Who’s got a new phone? The answer to all four question is pretty clear: way too many people.
Each column lists status posts along with the first name, last initial and thumbnail photo of the foolhardy poster. For instance, Kevin S. writes, rather cheekily: “Smoke weed everyday :P”, a status liked by eight other people. Ashley S. writes: “get mi phone tmoz :) new number 07x0x1x77xx” (phone numbers are partially censored on the site—everything else is fair game). Another Facebook user, Shyane Blondiee P. posted “Is anyone hungover.??? ;D <3” as her status update. As for those who value their freedom of expression more than they do their day job, count Alex J S. as one of your own; he writes: “I hate my boss so f***ing much… the film Horrible Bosses is making more and more sense to me” and four people thumb-up in sympathy.
Thanks to the publicly available and easily queried Facebook Graph API, the whole world can see the stupid—as some have called them—messages posted to the online public sphere. While the phenomenon may seem laughable to onlookers, it raises serious concerns about Internet privacy and censorship. Perhaps the site will serve as a lesson to those who have yet to learn the subtle skills of online reputation management; hopefully it’ll lead to more users posting with prudence. It may feel restrictive to self-censor, but it’s important to remember that once something is online, it could be online forever. Therefore, end-user discretion is advised.
Users whose status updates appear on the site have the option of getting in touch with Haywood through the ‘Report’ page to have their messages removed from WKWYD, but as always, a gram of prevention is worth a kilogram of cure. Users are much better off switching their Facebook account privacy settings from ‘Public’ to ‘Friends’ or better yet ‘Custom’. It doesn’t take the mind of a rocket scientist to figure out how Facebook’s privacy controls work. It’s simple enough, and it ensures that your posts do not end up on the site and destroy your work life or make you the object of ridicule.
Word Count: 492; bhive.ca