In the upcoming video game, Watch Dogs, you play a criminal hacker who exploits a city-wide surveillance network to "inflict your own brand of justice." And to show that maybe this futuristic tech nightmare is closer than you might realize, Ubisoft (the game's maker) created a promotion called Digital Shadow, that's actually one of the best ways to determine exactly what you are sharing online right now. While it may have started as a clever tie-in promo, it has turned into a red alert for many Facebook users, who realized the worth of their data and exactly how exposed they were.
The website scrapes your Facebook profile (after you grant access), creating its own profile of you that focuses on vulnerabilities. The access granted is similar to the access offered to cameras, location services, apps and other websites that users commonly associate with Facebook. Digital Shadow spells out exactly what they have access to: "Watch Dogs Digital Shadow will receive the following info: your public profile, friend list, News Feed, relationships, birthday, work history, status updates, education history, groups, hometown, interests, current city, photos, religious and political views, follows and followers, personal description and likes and your friends' status updates and photos." So, pretty much anything and everything you've ever put on the Internet.
Before you begin, Digital Shadow ominously reminds you: "You are not an individual. You are a data cluster." Then it proves it.
After access is granted, Digital Shadow scans your profile in seconds (the website briefly flashes that it is "infiltrating the target") and produces this breakdown:
Who You Are:
All accurate, although the pictures are outdated, as I changed my photo privacy settings in 2011. I was identified with 97.3% accuracy.
Who You Care About:
By examining how much you do, or don't, interact with your friends, Digital Shadows predicts who could hurt you the most. It notes: "You exhibit high levels of interaction with these contacts. They can be used against you."
What Makes You Tick:
Charting your word usage against that of your friends, Digital Shadow predicts your personality traits. It uses this to determine your insecurities, spitting out this message: "You exhibit extreme levels of [trait you scored highest in] and can be easily threatened."
When You're Vulnerable:
By reviewing your activity, Digital Shadow predicts when the best time to strike is.
The website also predicts your location if you have geotagging or location services turned on. It also estimates your salary and produces a very well educated guess of your passwords. The password generator pulls from your friends, pet names, interests, frequently used words, and more to auto formulate potential passwords. It then estimates the time it would take for the passwords to be tested against Facebook's log in by a hacking program: over a million can be tested in about two minutes.
Taking all of this into account, Digital Shadow predicts how much your data is worth to Facebook. I am a minimal Facebook user, with relatively strict privacy settings, less than 500 friends and only 62 recent posts. My profile isn't fully filled out and my location services have never been on. Regardless, I was worth over $90,000 in data to Facebook. An active Facebook user, with thousands of friends, would bring much, much more.
After you're done being scanned by Digital Shadow, you can easily remove the app from your Facebook settings by logging into your account, selecting Settings, then Apps, and pressing the X next to Digital Shadow. While you're there, you should check out what other apps have permissions to use your data, because they're likely turning a profit on your digital presence.
Unless you stop using social media completely, and delete — not just deactivate — your profiles, your data can always be mined. While Digital Shadow won't make that disappear, it will bring attention to the pieces of your personal life that are most useful as data points, offering you a chance to adjust privacy settings.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.