How (and why) Facebook is sharing people’s secrets with the world

This morning’s Observer column.

If you think that privacy is an abstract concern of EU bureaucrats and libertarians with too much time on their hands, then might I suggest that you consult This is an ingenious site which allows you to type in a search phrase. It then ransacks the publicly available Facebook “status updates” and displays what it finds.

A search for “I cheated”, for example, brings up all kinds of intriguing stuff. A nice young woman from Baltimore posted “dam right i cheated i coulnt get it from u wen i needed it”. There’s also the odd potentially embarrassing reference to cheating in exams. A search for “I lied” brings up updates like “I’m sorry, I lied before when I said I used to make lots of bets. My therapist tells me I should try lying a lot to help get through my… gambling problem”. Another writes “im not gonna bother anymore…theres no point hiding the truth…..iv lost too much and all because i lied to the one i love…im such a fukin dick head, i fucked up the best girl i’ve ever had”.

I could go on but you will get the point. All of these people are instantly identifiable. Millions of Facebook users are posting embarrassing or damaging messages which can be read by the entire internet…