Tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking: It’s become like breathing to us. We upload and geo-tag and post – we’re all basically living out personal Truman Show-esque existences, documenting what we look like, where we go, and what we do. And yesterday, YouTube comedian Jack Vale proved it.
“I use social media every day and all day given the nature of my work as a prankster and comedian, and being aware of the detailed information you can get when reviewing someone’s ‘status’, we wanted to see how hard it would be to get this information from people on the street,” says Vale, explaining his motives for conducting the experiment. Based on the video, there’s clearly enough information on anyone on the Internet, if you know where and how to look for pertinent data.
“One was happy when I revealed it was a joke but the other guy was upset because he claimed I ‘invaded his privacy.'”
Oftentimes, we forget that too much of anything is bad – in this case, it’s sharing personal information online. The experimented conducted by Vale explored just how much information on people can be culled from various social networking sites. If you haven’t seen it (go watch it), Vale does a David Blaine-like imitation, approaching strangers and reading off details about their lives as if he were a mind-reader or prescient. In reality, all he did was scour social networks for geo-tagged posts in his area, find the unsuspecting users, and read to them details they’d posted.
Most of the people who appeared in the video saw the hilarity in Vale’s stunt, and perhaps made a beeline for their own privacy settings. Vale says the most memorable reaction he got from targets came from the two subjects at the end of the video. “One was happy when I revealed it was a joke but the other guy was upset because he claimed I ‘invaded his privacy.’ I’m pretty sure he’s mistaken since what he posted was not private and he posted it for the whole world to see,” he says. The guy in question even left with a threat, saying he’d call the police.
The video’s takeaway lesson certainly hits home: Even the most careful Web savvy among us are susceptible to this type of “security breach.” Sure, it’s just a random guy approaching you who knows your recent life story, but you can see from the victims’ reactions, it’s frightening.
Even Vale went through an eye-opening experience while filming his video. “As a Dad, it did make me think about social media and how we use it a little differently. You need to be careful and a lot of times you need to be careful even when you think your settings are set to private. People can still get your information through posts of your friends, family, [and other contacts].”
And while Vale reveals that he personally discovered a multitude of ways to use our social media activity for potential future “experiments,” he says you shouldn’t worry about appearing in one of his stunts anytime soon. “I’m happily married with five kids so I won’t be hiding in a tree in your yard tonight. More than likely.”