Paolo Cirio on Fri, 11 Feb 2011 19:28:29 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Art with 1M stolen Facebook profiles and a Dating website - Press Release

Press Release, February 10th, 2010. Somewhere in Europe.

* Face to Facebook.

Face to Facebook is a project by Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico,  
who wrote special software to steal 1 million public profiles from  
Facebook, filtering them through face-recognition software and posting  
the resulting 250,000 profiles (categorized by facial expression) on a  
dating website called

The project was launched at Transmediale, the annual festival for art  
and digital culture in Berlin, on February 2nd, in the form of  
installation displaying a selection of 1,716 pictures of unaware  
Facebook users, an explanatory video and a diagram detailing the whole  
process. The website went online on the same day.

* The Global Mass Media Hack Performance.
On February 3rd a global media performance started with a few  
epicenters that after a few days had involved Wired, Fox News, CNN,  
Msnbc, Time, MSN, Gizmodo, Ars Technica, Yahoo News, WSB Atlanta TV,  
San Francisco Chronicle, The Globe and Mail, La Prensa, AFP, The Sun,  
The Daily Mail, The Independent, Spiegel Online, Tagesschau TV News,  
Sueddeutsche, Der Standard, Liberation, Le Soir, One India News,  
Bangkok Post, Taipei Times, News24, The Age, Brisbane Times and dozens  
of others.
It was a "perfect news" for the hectic online world: it was about a  
service used by 500.000.000 users and it potentially affected all of  
them. Even more importantly, it boosted our inherent fear of not being  
able to control what we do through our connected screens. Exquisitely  
put by Time: "you might be signed up for's dating  
services and not even know it."
At the end of the day Cirio's and Ludovico's Facebook accounts were  
disabled and a "cease and desist" letter from Perkins Coie LLP  
(Facebook lawyers) landed in their inboxes, including a request to  
give back to Facebook "their data".
We can properly define it as a performance since it happened in a  
short time span, involved the audience in a trasformation, and evolved  
into a thrilling story. The frenzied pace of these digital events was  
almost bearable.

* The Social Experiment.
In the subsequent days the media performance continued at a very fast  
pace and what we still define as a "social experiment" was actually  
quite successful. Starting on February 4th the news went spontaneously  
viral: thousands of tweets and retweets pointed to the Lovely- website or to articles and blog posts, often urging people  
to check if they (and their loved ones) were on the website or not. In  
a few days received 964.477 page views from 195  
different countries. Reactions varied from asking to be removed (which  
we diligently did) to asking to be included, from anonymous death  
threats to proposals of commercial partnerships.

* Back to Facebook.
We approached the Electronic Frontier Foundation about legal counsel,  
but after a second warning by Perkins Coie, we temporarily put up a  
notice that is under maintenance. But they are not ok  
with that.
They want not to be reachable. And they even want the  
same for, the website where we explain the  
project. So basically their current aim is to completely remove the  
web presence of this artistic project and social experiment.
They missed out on Face-to-Facebook also being meant as a homage to  
FaceMash, the system Mark Zuckerberg established by scraping the names  
and photos of fellow classmates off school servers, which was the very  
first Facebook.
Furthermore, it's a bit funny hearing Facebook complain about the  
scraping of personal data that are quasi-public and doubtfully owned  
exclusively by Facebook (as a Stanford Law School Scholar wondered  
analyzing We obtained them through a script that  
never even logged in their servers, but only very rapidly  
"viewed" (and recorded) the profiles. Finally, and paradoxically  
enough, Facebook has blocked us from accessing our Facebook profiles,  
but all the data we posted in the last years is still there. This  
proves once more that they care much more about the data you post than  
your online identity.

We're going to reclaim the access to our Facebook accounts, and the  
right to express and document our work on our own websites.
And even if we are forced to go offline, will never  
go offline in the minds of involved people.

Face to Facebook data:

People who asked to be removed from the database: 56
People who asked to be included in the database: 14

Commercial dating website partnership proposals: 4
Other partnership proposals: 9

Cease and desist letters by Perkins Coie LLP (Facebook lawyers): 1
Other threatened lawsuits or class actions: 11

Anonymous email death threat: 5

TV reports: 3
Online news about (source: Google News): 427

Number of times "lovely faces" introductory video has been viewed on  
you tube: 31,089
Unique users on 211.714

Face to Facebook links (a few):

Fox news LA (video)

WSBTV 2 (video)

Tagesschau (video, in German)

The Age

Stanford Law School / The Center for Internet and Society

Face to Facebook contact:

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