Planning a break up? Don't do it on Facebook

Breakup Notifier alerts you when friends change relationship status. Dating -- and data mining -- will never be the same again.

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When is that hottie finally going to dump that loser and hook up someone who can truly appreciate her? 

I’m sure my wife’s Facebook friends think this sort of thing all the time. Now they can find out in real time, thanks to the Breakup Notifier.

[ See also: Facebook ads use your face for free ]

Simply put, The BN keeps a constant watch on your friends’ relationships so you don’t have to. Just sign in to Facebook via the Breakup Notifier Web site and select the friends you want to monitor. If “Married” suddenly turns into “Single” or “Divorced” or “It’s complicated,” you’ll get an email – and be right there, flowers and candy in hand, ready to pounce.

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Breakup Notifier is simple, clever, free, and completely nonfattening. It doesn’t breach the privacy of anyone’s personal information, because they’ve already set their relationship info to be publicly available. Of course, the people you’re watching don’t know you’re watching them, but they wouldn’t in any case. You could the same thing manually, though if you choose more than a handful of hotties to watch you’d probably get nothing done all day.

(For the record: I’ve been playing with this toy for two days now, divorcing and remarrying various Facebook sub-personae, and it has yet to work correctly. Maybe I’m doing something wrong. Also, none of the Florida Bikini Models Who Are Probably Fat Old Guys in Disguise in my friends list have changed relationship status either. Damn.)

Thus the instant headline: “Breakup Notifier makes stalking easier.”

So why is this service vaguely disturbing? Because it points out what should be obvious but usually isn’t: The nature of publicly available information changes when you automate its collection.

Take, for example, the scads of very personal information that is mandated by law to be in the public record – property ownership, marriages and divorces, civil and criminal lawsuits, etc.  There are good reasons for this. You want to know whether six members of the city council who just approved a development project own the property they just spent millions of taxpayer dollars purchasing. You want to know whether the guy who just went on bended knee in front of you is already married, or if your kids’ teacher is a convicted felon.

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