Is he a mind reader? A stalker? Neither. Filmmaker Jack Vale has a friendly reminder for the masses: If you don't want strangers to know what you're doing, don't put it on the Internet.
Vale conducted a social media experiment at Huntington Beach, Calif. Checking Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, Vale tracked down people who had posted their location and activities with hashtags on social media. He then recorded their (often befuddled, sometimes outraged) reactions to being tracked down.
So, how did he do it? With a mixture of patience and fearlessness. "We would keep refreshing until we saw a photo of someone that was posted a couple of minutes ago," Vale told Yahoo News. He said there were quite a few fails, but there were also times when he would recognize where the photo was taken.
Vale explained that in cases where people uploaded only photos of their food, he could still click around their Instagram or Twitter accounts to find out what the people looked like. Armed with sufficient information, Vale would approach the unsuspecting Instagram and Facebook afficionados and begin spouting facts he'd learned just by perusing their social media profiles. Fun to watch, apparently freaky to experience.
Vale likes to be in the public eye, so he didn't change his own privacy settings as a result of the experiment. But, he noticed, several people from the clip did.
"When we contacted them later, they said, 'Yeah, you kind of creeped us out a litlte bit,'" Vale said.
The project inspired Vale to take a closer look at the social media accounts of his five children. "I'm going to be for sure taking it a little more seriously with my kids. It kind of woke me up a little bit, too," he told Yahoo News.
Explaining how he'd approach strangers without getting punched in the mouth, Vale said that he would initially act like he knew them and then say he'd been having some "intuitions" about what the person was eating for lunch, that they had a friend named Joe or something else.
Everyone in the film agreed to appear in it, but one gentlemen does look to be a bit ticked off at Vale's shenanigans.
"What was funny to us was that he said not to invade his privacy or he'd call the cops. And I'm thinking, his account wasn't set to private, it was out there for the whole world to see," Vale said. "There's really no such thing as privacy when you're using social media."