It’s nearly Halloween and so I guess it’s appropriate to be talking about creepy shit. But rather than focusing on ghosts, axe murderers or monsters under the bed, let’s take a look at the modern-day stalker that we unwittingly choose to carry around in our pockets. I’m talking about Facebook.
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To be more specific, do any of you remember the Facebook app ‘Take This Lollipop’? Earlier this week marked its fifth anniversary, and five years on this app is a stark reminder that our privacy is under attack more than ever.
The app itself did really well and went viral due to its controversy back in 2011. You can still go on it now – all you have to do is login to your Facebook profile on the website, which allows the site to access your profile information. After this, the ‘Take This Lollipop’ user is taken on a three minute short film, starring actor Bill Obserst Jr. as a stalker who browses through your personal photos before using Google Maps to drive to your house. It’s pretty dark – initially you feel like a voyeur on the underground of some psychopathic maniac, but as his grimy fingers start to type on the keyboard, you come to the realisation that you are his target.
Freaky shit right? And although this was meant to be a fun way to kill a few minutes online (as if we needed that), it also demonstrates to the viewer exactly what you agree to when you hit “OK.” Although it’s obvious that our personal information is presented online, we hardly ever stop to think how absurd it is that pretty much anyone can now find out your date of birth, what you look like, who your friends and family are, what are you personal interests and scariest of all, where you live, all at the click of a button.
This is the message ‘Take This Lollipop’ serves to the viewer. And when it does, it leaves a bitter taste. It’s five years on, and while the app’s popularity might have died down, it hammers home that even more of our privacy has been jacked by online organisations. We’ve got Instagram accounts, Twitter, various email addresses, WhatsApp, Skype – not to mention the surveying power of search engines such as Google and the surveillance systems provided by Apple that we choose to carry around in our pockets.
While consumers have been trained to freely share their personal information on social networks, ‘Take This Lollipop’ teaches you the horrific consequences when the information makes its way into the wrong hands. But in the modern world, perhaps it’s not the Patrick Batemans or the Ted Bundys we need to worry about. It’s the stalkers of the business world we really need to look out for – Facebook, Google, Apple. Our information is used to snidely sell us products and promote information for ulterior motives. God knows what it will be used for in the future.
Perhaps I am overthinking ‘Take This Lollipop’ a little bit too much – after all, 50% of its function was just for a bit of fun. But you know, it’s message is very much relevant, if not more so, in the modern world where we are dependent on our technological and online tools that we freely give away our personal information to. So maybe this Halloween, don’t be afraid of the crazy axe murdered lurking in the shadows – it’s the suited entrepreneur behind the computer screen that we should really be keeping our eyes on.
If you genuinely want to do something about your lack of privacy, here’s how to stop the government spying on your internet history. It doesn’t sort out this whole big mess, but at least it will stop people from finding out your dodgy porn history.