The Sims Body Snatchers Invade Facebook
I have long been losing trust in online enterprises not to play with me or my data, and the larger they are, the less I trust them. But when I realized I am literally being played with like a toy, that really made my skin crawl.
An email arrived in my inbox from Facebook, one of the standard “someone’s tagged you in a photo” notification. Fair enough. Except I haven’t been out much and I didn’t recognize the name of the Facebook contact. (We’re not still calling them friends, are we?) So I feared the worst. Goodness knows who has digital photos of me doing any number of embarrassing things.
I clicked through with a twitchy finger ready to click “remove tag.” I mean, what if someone caught me with a Starbucks cup and a sheepish look? Or buying cheap, industrial rib eye steaks with food stamps at the grocery outlet? And forgetting to bring my own shopping bag! I don’t have the energy for all the explaining I’d need to do.
But the image wasn’t a photo. It was a screenshot from The Sims 3. From what I gather, The Sims can now assign avatars to your Facebook contacts so that you can play with them. And have you seen what people do to their Sims? As I type, a virtual instance of me is probably pissing himself before dying in a fiery inferno. Though I could be skinnier, so that’s something.
For better or worse, my “sim” wasn’t in the photo — the software mapped me in the field of view, but apparently I was inside (hopefully not neglecting any hungry children). And whoever invited “remove tag,” I salute you. But the damage has been done in Facebook’s database, probably the database of Electronic Arts, and of course Google’s database thanks to the Gmail notification.
And to top it off, the connection was made by a public relations professional who, since this is a rant about privacy and such, I’ll decline to name. Let’s just say the firm works with EA. Also, I don’t want to make this overblown — I mean, of all the things by and about me online, ending up as a PR puppet in a Sims instance probably isn’t close to the worst.
I just felt it was an illustrative anecdote that played to my particular set of reservations and fears. I’ve played the Sims, and I play online games where I diddle with my own avatar, and I’ve even connected one of those characters to a social network for gamers. But this is the perfect storm of creepy, and now I’ll have to spend part of my weekend purging information and fiddling with settings on Facebook yet again.
And here’s where I link to the Facebook app in question, which I’d know more details about if I didn’t have to give it access to my Facebook profile to get them.