OFFBEAT Think twice before posting private messages

Instances of people losing their jobs or suffering relationship breakups because of indiscriminate status message posting on online social networks are a part of Internet lore now.

Now a new website that creepily calls itself ‘We know what you’re doing’ has created a lot of buzz over the past week, as it lays threadbare on just how easy it is to access some very personal status messages that users from around the world post on their Facebook walls. It gives a live update on messages posted under four categories — ‘who wants to get fired,’ ‘who’s hungover,’ ‘who’s taking drugs’ and ‘who’s got a new phone number’. These are messages scanned from Facebook’s Social Graph from users who have posted some self-damaging messages on their public profiles.

Some of the messages that were updated on the site, at the time of writing this report, included such gems as: “Im getting so mad right now I hate my boss Jay…”; “Having to work now is the worst specially afta being in bed for 2 days! Still hungover from saturday this is not good!!”

The site’s founder 18-year-old British web developer Callum Haywood, who has been an Internet celebrity of sorts over the past few days giving interviews to international media, says there is no malice involved in the site and that it had been set up only to create awareness. The site calls the exercise “a social networking privacy experiment”.

In an email interview with The Hindu, Haywood said: “People need to be aware of who can see what they post on Facebook, and be in control of that. Facebook’s privacy controls are very effective when used correctly.”

“If you do post any personal information online, make sure you know exactly who can see it, and that you are comfortable with them accessing it. As a general rule of thumb, do not post any personal information in a public capacity, because once you do, it may be harder than you think to remove it.”

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