A little Facebook stalking here and there is mostly harmless, if not an everyday reality in 2016. But just when you thought you'd adjusted enough privacy settings to feel more comfortable about what people are able to see, a software developer in Denmark recently designed a creepy way to track peoples' sleep by using easily accessible data found on Facebook.
As a report by The Verge explains, Søren Louv-Jansen created software that allows you to track your friends' sleep patterns by using the activity timestamps displayed in Facebook's Messenger app. And because many people tend to check Facebook before they go to bed and around the time they get up, the results can be uncomfortably accurate, the developer said in a blog post on Medium. He claims the "hack" is meant to raise awareness around the insane amount of information we willingly -- and in this case, unintentionally -- hand over to social media companies every day, and what can be done with it.
"By creating a simple service that checks Facebook every 10 minutes, I’m able to get an accurate picture of my friends’ Facebook usage," he said in the blog post. "Many people visit Facebook as the first thing in the morning, and the last thing before going to bed. It is therefore possible to get a good impression of their sleeping habits (or lack thereof)." However, the tool is less effective when attempting to track the sleeping habits of people who aren't very active.
To demonstrate, Louv-Jansen used the tool to generate graphics showing his friends' sleep patterns, and even noticed trends like their erratic sleep habits on the weekends. In addition to explaining the creepy hack, he published the source code for the tool on GitHub. Facebook, however, is not pleased and warned using his tool is a violation of its terms of service, according to a report by The Washington Post.
"Everybody I’ve shown this to have been equally fascinated and outraged by the accuracy with which it predicts their sleep habits." he wrote on Medium. "In this digital world we leave footprints where we go, and when we do it, without even thinking about it. Facebook might block this little 'hack,' so your friends no longer can track you, but Facebook will always be able to do their own data analysis which is undoubtably way better than what I’ve come up with. They are likely using this data for profiling, and creating more user-specific ads."
[insert angry reaction]
h/t The Verge
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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and is pretty weirded out by this. Send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.