Information Security on Facebook – Learning to be Aware
It gets people all hot under the collar thinking about how the social networking sites might be careless with members’ personal friend lists and personal information. But what if those same privacy-jealous social networking members freely pass out their friend lists themselves – on other websites? Social maps exist now, like Facebook Connect, that allow members to carry their Facebook experience, to Amazon, to the New York Times, to Netflix or on any of 10,000 participating sites, and find out what their friends like on those websites.
Do the people who connect with social maps realize that those websites they go to with their social maps can actually completely look into their profiles and those of their friends too? When they find out where you go, what you do, who your friends are and what you look like, who knows what they will do with it? Digg for example will use your Facebook profile picture to publish next to recommendations. Other websites will try to share the information they harvest on your viewing habits among fellow businesses. Your Facebook information properly analyzed, can lucratively help them target advertisements to you wherever you may be in the world signing in through that Facebook account.
Only two years ago, the Facebook Beacon app brought all kinds of privacy concerns up; when a user went around the Internet while signed in into Facebook, Beacon was able to record all the places visited and phone home to Facebook. The biggest problem there was, that Beacon was turned on by default; Facebook’s Connect on the other hand, has to be turned on manually.
Facebook Connect also allows you to use your Facebook username and password to log in into participating websites; and then you can choose to have Facebook publish all your Internet meanderings on your profile. They are all doing it these days: MySpace with MySpaceID, and Google with Friend Connect. Of course, there are larger concerns here than having some private company look at Facebook’s information to send you advertising. The courts could subpoena your personal information from Facebook any day if they have reason to believe there is incriminating information there.