To help advertise for the May 27 release of Watch Dogs, publisher and developer Ubisoft has launched a very creepy marketing stunt.
Watch Dogs is a third-person action game about hacking and the power of data as a weapon. Ubisoft is promoting the PC and console title (with a Wii U version slotted for the end of the year) with unconventional marketing that blurs the line between fiction and reality. Its latest move is digitalshadow.com, which can analyze your Facebook data and show just how much hackers could do with all that information. The results are uncomfortable. (Unfortunately, it only works in the U.S.)
How much does your Facebook reveal about you?
If you allow digitalshadow.com access to your Facebook account, prepare to feel vulnerable, because the data you share reveals more than you think. As soon as you grant permission, the website displays the message “Infiltrating target” along with a percentage counter.
“We know who you care about,” says a voice in the trailer above. And it’s true. Once the program finished crawling my Facebook data, it successfully identified my closest friends and family, telling me that they are “pawns” who can be used against me.
That was just the beginning. It also identified my emotional state based on what I’ve shared recently — and claimed that I could be weakened by exploitation of that state. It then listed my most commonly used words, right next to a line graph detailing the frequency of certain emotions in my updates. This graph might be the most interesting and disturbing part of the entire process, because it lets you compare your results with any of your friends, even those who haven’t signed up to participate.
It knew when I was most active (most vulnerable to attack) — in fact, it showed me a breakdown of my posting activity by type of information and by time. It knew my location data, complete with the probability that I was in a certain place. It claimed to know my salary range — the one thing it got wrong, fooled by the fact that I’m a college student and don’t make any money.
Near the bottom of the page is a section that shows attempts to crack your Facebook password based on information you’ve made available. It didn’t get anywhere close to mine, but watching a website attempt to guess your password in real time, and knowing that it could go on indefinitely at the pace of hundreds of attempts per minute, is very unnerving.
Finally, I was informed what my digital shadow was worth in cash. Right underneath that, at the very bottom of the page, was the following message:
“Your data casts a digital shadow that grows with every online interaction and can be tracked, monitored, and used against you. Every photo. Every email. Every purchase. Everything you’ve ever done in the digital world can follow you into the real world. Your actions leave you exposed_”
This is even scarier if you remember that everything Ubisoft learned about me was from Facebook alone. Imagine how much a hacker could learn about you by cross-referencing your Twitter, Google, Amazon … and all the other accounts that store your data.
Watch Dogs’ theme is a well-timed reflection of our cultural vulnerabilities and paranoias, made all the more real by the massive Heartbleed security breach affecting most of the Internet over the last few days.