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A sweaty, wild-eyed man in a stained undershirt hunches over his computer in a shadowy basement. He's broken into your Facebook account and is reading your posts as his dirty, cracked fingernails paw at the keyboard. Rage (jealousy? hate?) builds as he flips through your photos and scrolls through your list of friends. He rocks back and forth, growing more agitated as the pages flash past. Then he consults a map of your city and heads to his car ... So why ... oh, why ... did you include so much personal information -- and your address -- in your profile?
If that all sounds like the stuff of a digital-era horror movie, you're not far off. "Take This Lollipop" is an interactive short video that's been making its way around the Web as Halloween approaches. Visitors to the site are first presented with an image of a lollipop with a razor blade in it -- don't take candy from strangers, kids -- and asked to grant access to their Facebook account. Don't worry: The application claims it uses your data only once, then deletes it. But the creepy results just might make you think twice about who else gets access to your online information.
The video uses the developer tool Facebook Connect and features actor Bill Oberst Jr. (whose credits range from "The Secret Life of Bees" to the inexplicably Oscarless "Nude Nuns With Big Guns") as the aforementioned grungy nutjob. As he stares at his computer, it's actual photos and other information from your page that he's scrolling through. (Note to parents: If you're tagged in pictures of your kids, be ready for those to pop up, too. It ups the ante on creepiness exponentially). In the weeks since the video went live, viewers have begun sharing it with friends and asking them to video-record themselves while watching it. (This one from YouTube has more than 18,000 views, not to mention a vaguely "Blair Witch Project" vibe.) Creator Jason Zada, a commercial and viral marketing director who was the brains behind the viral "Elf Yourself" online campaign for OfficeMax, told Porter Gale of Ad Age that he'd been kicking around Halloween ideas and "wanted to do something that messed with people." He said the clip is definitely meant to spur thought about how much information we share online. "Our privacy was dead a while back and will never be the same," he said. "Life as a whole has changed. If you look at the video, the scariest part is that your information is in the video.
The piece is scary because a person is violating your privacy, not because it's bloody or there's anything jumping out." As of Thursday morning, nearly 2 million people had "liked" the page. How many of them are at Facebook's headquarters remains unclear. "I did hear the video project has been polarizing inside of Facebook, and I received a call from Facebook's Developer Relations Team, " Zada said. "They were very nice, respectable, and I explained I didn't want to cross any lines."