Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Facebook and Privacy

Is Facebook Issue or People, who are using it?

I have blogged heaps of time about Facebook issues. I know, I have facebook account myself. I don’t want people to stop using Facebook or close their account in fact I would like them to be aware of all the possible security issues and treats available out there.

In the past, I have blogged about spammers are using facebook account to spam, spreading malware and social engineering. I advice my readers to make sure they really know the people they are adding and not to give out un-necessary information which can be used by someone to steal your identity or to harass you.

After 1 year on Facebook, I posted my picture couple of days ago. Several people and my friends asked me to upload a picture. I always refused to do so.

Let me tell you the reasons why I personally didn’t upload the picture.

1) My picture can be copied by anyone.

2)I have open profile because I am always looking to make contacts and friends. I tend to be bit reluctant to make sure what information I give to them.

Now I have uploaded my picture (just one), reason is;

1) My picture can be copied from my blogger profile anyway so there is no protection and I realize now that facebook friends can also see my picture from my profile if they are not visiting my blog.

2) I have uploaded only one picture though and that is also of “me alone” not with anyone else.

Okay, let me come to point. I have been investigating this particular "privacy issues with Facebook" for last couple of weeks. I will try to sum up my findings and concerns,

Consider this scenario:

I have a friend whose name is “Alisha” and she is added in my facebook friends list. She has a friend whose name is “Sarah”. I like her and I want to get her details but I notice her profile is restricted to her friends only. I sent a request to her but unfortunately she has not responded yet.

Suddenly, “Sarah” uploaded few photos of her friends and tagged “Alisha” in those photos. As soon, she tagged “Alisha” I was able to see all her photos in that particular album plus I was able to see her profile too. I found out more details and bingo I was able to harass her.

Now, consider another scenario:

I have my work friends, my family and my other friends in my facebook friend list. One of my friends uploaded a picture tagging me which is quite personal. As soon he tagged me, all my family members, my work colleagues and my other friends were able to see my personal picture plus all the pictures in that particular album.

Consider third scenario:

I have my neighbour added in my account as a friend. He uploaded few pictures in his profile of the party he had at his home. I commented on his photos and guess what my other friends see:

"Shoaib Yousuf commented on XYZ's picture"

Any of my friends can see my neighbours picture and infact his profile too. After commenting on his picture, i am really not giving any privacy to his personal party pictures.

So – what we learned from this?

Facebook is good social network tool but it doesn’t offer security or privacy what so ever. I suggest and advice all my readers to make sure if they upload pictures don’t tag them. If they still want to do, make sure you select the appropriate security permissions so all other people from your friend’s friend list cannot view it.

If you have any questions, suggestions or your past experience you would like to share let me know.

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