Friday, February 11, 2011

Art hacktivists take on Facebook

An Italian artist duo responsible for "scraping" profiles from Facebook for a mock dating website have been asked by Facebook to cease their activities.
Digital artists Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico revealed to CNN that the billion-dollar corporation issued them with a "cease and desist" letter regarding the mock site, which is called

At the time of writing, the website was temporarily unavailable, though Cirio and Ludovico are seeking legal advice on the status of their "conceptual art provocation," which they say uses publicly available information and is therefore legal.

Scraping is a way of grabbing the computer code that makes up the words and images you see on a web page, which can then, for example, be presented on other websites.
In a prepared statement to CNN, a spokesperson from Facebook said: "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've already been in touch with Lovely-Faces to demand that they delete the data and we will take additional action as necessary."

Their work, they say, exposes the "vulnerability" both of people's online data and the internal mechanisms of major internet companies -- as well as questioning the ownership of the data they use.

What separates them from ordinary hackers, they say, is that the information they are using is publicly available and that they are not out to harm or benefit financially from the people whose information they filter., part of the artists' Face to Facebook project, was two years in the making and was unveiled as part of an installation at the digital art festival Transmediale in Berlin.

It involved using automatic browsing software to select one million Facebook profiles, and then cutting-edge face-recognition software to match profile pictures according to gender and a bizarre variety of social traits and types.
"I like to demonstrate how this information could be copied, could be manipulated, could be arranged, can be shaped, in a way," said Cirio.

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