Unfortunately, there’s something else in the air – the anxiety of identity theft as more and more people figure out how to lift personal data from Facebook and apply it any way they want to.
Now, two self-professed pranksters have lifted the personal profiles of 250,000 Facebook users to build their own dating site from scratch – and, irony of ironies, Facebook doesn’t approve of others using its data to start another social networking site.
The dating site – called Lovely-Faces.com – reportedly took Facebook member profiles, particularly names, locations and photos, and turned them into facial algorithms that visitors to the new site could use to determine dating/mating prospects.
The process the site’s founders used to lift member data off Facebook is called “scraping” –a practice that critics say Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg engaged in while launching “The Facebook” as a Harvard student in 2003.
[Related: Oversharing is the New Nicotine]
For their part, the founders of LovelyFaces.com have no problem identifying the practice as a form of identity theft. Paolo Cirio and Allesandro Ludovic explained their technique (and the reason behind it) in a statement to Wired magazine on February 4, 2011.
“Facebook, an endlessly cool place for so many people, becomes at the same time a goldmine for identity theft and dating — unfortunately, without the user’s control. But that’s the very nature of Facebook and social media in general. If we start to play with the concepts of identity theft and dating, we should be able to unveil how fragile a virtual identity given to a proprietary platform can be.”
Needless to say, Facebook isn’t taking the raid sitting down.
“Scraping people’s information violates our terms,” notes Barry Schnitt, Facebook’s director of policy communications. “We have taken, and will continue to take, aggressive legal action against organizations that violate these terms. We’re investigating this site and will take appropriate action.”
[Resource: How to Spot, and Avoid, Internet Scammers]
The end result for Facebook users is one more potential identity breach. While Lovely Faces says that it will remove any profile and photos lifted from Facebook, Cirio and Ludovic still took at Facebook member’s profiles without their permission. As Schnitt points out, the pair may face legal action as a result.
Call it hacking, call it art, or call it a prank. But whatever label you hang on to what LovelyFaces.com has done, it still results in less consumer control over their online identities – and there’s nothing remotely funny – or romantic – about that.
Image by sebastien.b, via Flickr