Yesterday, Ryan Singel reported on a site that had scraped publicly available Facebook profiles to create a “dating site,” Lovely-Faces.com. Bets were quickly placed as to how long it would be before Facebook’s lawyers got in touch with the site’s creators.
But the site is not really a dating site, according to its creators. According to them, its purpose is an artistic way to demonstrate some of the privacy risks of Facebook public profiles. Indeed, the welcome on the home page gives a hint that the site might be somewhat tongue-in-cheek: “Welcome to the only dating site that lists real people, sincerely posting their real data and picture. You’ll feel comfortable watching them. Just like in Facebook.”
So if they are not scraping the data for commercial purposes but to make a point (speech), then even if they have violated Facebook’s terms of service, does Facebook really have a viable case against them or is this some form of protected speech? And what about all of the 250,000 individuals who suddenly found their profiles on this “art” site? Was their privacy violated if it was their public profiles?
Gareth Halfacree of ThinkQ has more coverage on the site and the issues, with an update on its status:
The project, dubbed ‘Face to Facebook,’ is the third in an increasingly bizarre trilogy of artistic hacks that the artists call ‘The Hacking Monopolism Trilogy.’
The Trilogy, they claim, is designed to exploit ‘conceptual hacks’ using custom-built software to “generate unexpected holes in [companies’] well oiled marketing and economic system.” This latest, and so far most wide-spread, effort follows the pair’s previous works ‘Google Will Eat Itself’ and ‘Amazon Noir.’
While many are up in arms about the privacy implications of the pair’s work, it’s important to remember that the images and data they have uploaded to their site are publicly available – and while uploading data to Facebook doesn’t automatically give a random third-party rights to use it without your permission, Facebook’s own privacy agreement would allow it to create a similar site with no additional permission required.
What do you think? Is this a privacy violation for the people whose images and profiles were used or not? And if you think it was a privacy violation, does free speech trump their privacy in this case or not?