July 2000: I was 18. It was my last summer before I went to university. I had a job at a convenience store. It’s not that it was a great job, that’s not what this tale is about, but within a week I had made enough money to buy something I’d always wanted when I was at school. A cell phone! Man, it was the best thing ever!
Admittedly the most I could do with it was talk and text (maybe throw the odd smiley face or sad face in there to show my current mood) but it was still a huge improvement on the previous decade’s array of devices. It didn’t matter to me though. I had a cell phone and I was super stoked.
It meant no more looking for a payphone or having to borrow you friend’s (or brother’s) phone. The only stress I had to deal with was going to a cell phone store once every few weeks to buy more credit (it was a “pay-as-you-go”). But other than that I felt liberated and back in the summer of 2000 there was no Facebook, Twitter or any real form of social media. And there was certainly never any mention of identity theft or privacy issues. It truly was a simpler time.
Now let’s fast forward 12 years and meet 18 year old Callum Hayward, the owner and founder of WeKnowWhatYoureDoing.com. What started out as an “experiment” has now exploded in popularity and is exposing the amount of personal information we are letting loose on the internet.
The website searches for public Facebook posts on four different subjects: people that hate their bosses, people who are hungover, people that take drugs, and people who post their new cell phone number. The results show Facebook status updates like “23:31 and still working. i hate my boss” and “Still hungover…this is just not fair”.
From Nottingham in UK, Mr. Haywood created this site to make people wake up and take note, and therefore check their Facebook settings. He points out that anyone can make a site like his using Facebook’s public application interface and if you want to be super creepy go to OpenStatusSearch.com and search for public Facebook posts.
Mr. Haywood points out that his inspiration for this site dates back to February 2011 having watched Tom Scott’s presentation I Know What You Did Five Minutes Ago at the Ignite London Conference. Mr. Scott’s presentation included showing the audience live data of a Facebook user’s profile that had been set to “public” and discussed PleaseRobMe.com: a website set up in 2010 to expose the privacy problems with the location-based platform FourSquare.
So how vulnerable are we to these sites? The answer to that is an easy one: very. We’re all social media addicts. We love to share, tweet and engage our friends and followers about, at the majority of times, the most inane crap there is. At times we love it, and at other times we love to hate it. We all know the consequences of sharing too much, but we just ignore it. Even now, at what point did you stop reading this and check your Facebook privacy settings?