You May Be More Public Than You Think

Via Kieran Healy, this is perhaps the most graphic illustration ever of Facebook’s privacy problems. Making use of a public programming interface that Facebook released a few weeks ago, three programmers in San Francisco wrote Openbook, a website that searches Facebook profiles for — well, for anything you want. Because I’m basically a nice guy, I’ve illustrated this with a relatively innocuous search for “rectal exam” and then blurred out the results. But other popular searches include “playing hooky,” “boss is an asshole,” and so forth. You get the idea.

So what’s the point of this? Here’s what the authors say:

Our goal is to get Facebook to restore the privacy of this information, so that this website and others like it no longer work….This website is a parody, and has no relationship to Facebook.

All the charts and graphs and blog posts in the world don’t bring home just how public your Facebook information is the way this does. So show it to your friends! And if you want to make sure that your random musings aren’t available to, say, your boss or your teachers, here’s a tool that checks your Facebook privacy settings and lets you know if you should think about changing them.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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