A pair of artists have made off with around one million Facebook profiles, adding them to a fake dating site in a publicity stunt that we're still trying to get our heads around.
In a move that smacks of the motives of the hacker who downloaded 100 million publicly accessible Facebook profiles and uploaded them to BitTorrent to demonstrate the social networking service's worrying lack of privacy, artists Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovic took Facebook profiles and used them to create the fake dating service Lovely-Faces.com.
In a press release, the pair claim that their motivation was: "To give all these virtual identities a new shared place to expose themselves freely, breaking Facebook’s constraints and boring social rules.
"We established a new website giving them justice and granting them the possibility of soon being face to face with anybody who is attracted by their facial expression and related data," the pair 'explain'. "Now they are there, in full effect, free to keep in touch with a whole world of men and women and anything in between. And we accomplished our mission: the final piece of the free relationships interface is now running."
That last part of the statement is perhaps not quite true: since receiving a great deal of press interest, both from those who view it as an artistic endeavour and others who believe Cirio and Ludovic are attempting to scam people, the site has disappeared, displaying a database error.
The site, however, doesn't appear to have been the aritsts' main focus. Rather, the project culminated in an installation at the Transmediale Festival in Berlin, where 2,000 of the 'best' pictures - picked by a neural network running a facial recognition algorithm - were printed and displayed.
If you're finding it a bit hard to follow, the artists have released a diagram demonstrating how the data ended up on Lovely-Faces.com instead of Facebook:
If you're still struggling to understand what the pair have done, join the club. The project, dubbed 'Face to Facebook,' is the third in an increasingly bizarre trilogy of artistic hacks that the artists call 'The Hacking Monopolism Trilogy.'
The Trilogy, they claim, is designed to exploit 'conceptual hacks' using custom-built software to "generate unexpected holes in [companies'] well oiled marketing and economic system." This latest, and so far most wide-spread, effort follows the pair's previous works 'Google Will Eat Itself' and 'Amazon Noir.'
While many are up in arms about the privacy implications of the pair's work, it's important to remember that the images and data they have uploaded to their site are publicly available - and while uploading data to Facebook doesn't automatically give a random third-party rights to use it without your permission, Facebook's own privacy agreement would allow it to create a similar site with no additional permission required.
Whether the pair are a maverick amalgamation of hackers and artists seeking to highlight the growing trend to sign over personal information to faceless corporations, or just some neo-intellectuals who know how to write a mass-download script, is up for debate - but if you're disgusted at the ease at which they were able to take over a million profile images, perhaps your ire would be better spent on Facebook.