When online dating site lovely-faces.com launched this week with 250,000 profiles, the German creators Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico proudly announced that they had acquired those users not from legitimate sign-ups, but from scraping public Facebook profiles. Their explanation: it was an art project. Facebook is not happy.
Cirio, a media artist, and Ludovico, editor-in-chief of Neural, a new media arts magazine, claimed that they used custom software to collect information about 1 million public Facebook profiles. They scraped names, locations, and photos, and then picked out key descriptive words such as “sly” and “easy going” to organize their unwitting “users” into dating categories.
The duo claims it was all an experiment to point out how easy it is to steal peoples identities.
“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,” they wrote on their art project web site Face to Facebook.
Facebook, which has been under fire in the past for security breaches, is understandably peeved. “Scraping people’s information violates our terms. 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,” Barry Schnitt, Facebook’s communication policy director told Wired.
Facebook requires companies that scrape Facebook data to ask for permission, even if that information is already available publicly.
Cirio and Ludovico said that they will take down specific profiles if a user requests. They also claim that the site was intended to provoke a reaction, and not to make money. The two have pulled similar stunts targeting Amazon and Google. Lovely-faces.com is currently offline.