Friends of Duck and Cat – and Facebook’s New (non)Privacy

 Early this week, a study on Facebook user behavior was released by Sophos Australia.  The company repeated a 2007 experiment, where it created two false Facebook accounts – one of a plastic duck and one represented by a picture of two cats – each of whom sent out 100 random friend requests.  A total of 95 of these people chose to become friends with the fictitious beings, What’s worse, the cats were friended  by eight people who did not even receive requests.  Many of these friends readily gave away information like their email addresses, date of birth, workplace or school, and friends and family information.  Paul Ducklin, the Sophos head of Technology Asia Pacific said on his blog:

Ten years ago, getting access to this sort of detail would probably have taken a con-artist or an identify thief several weeks, and have required the on-the-spot services of a private investigator. Sadly, these days, many social networkers are handing over their life story on a plate.

Sophos makes some suggestions, which should be second nature to social network users, but unfortunately are not – don’t blindly accept friends, learn the privacy system of your networking site and use it, and “assume that everything you reveal on a social networking site will be visible on the internet forever”.

This is particularly troubling news when this week Facebook changed its privacy settings, as you probably noticed if you have logged on to your Facebook account lately.  And I use the term “privacy” loosely, since FB would like to change your default settings so that basically you don’t have any. The reason is twofold, both of them having to do with search engines.  First off, as Peter Kafka notes, this “strategy is a crucial part of Facebook’s effort to supplant Google (GOOG) as the Web’s key data repository. And I don’t have a problem with it, in theory…I don’t think there’s much privacy on the Web to begin with.” The second is that Facebook data can now be found through Bing searches (see Your Status – Out in the Open). Some of the changes are good.  If you’ve done a status update in the last week, you noticed that each post requires you to select who gets to see it – therefore it makes users actually think about privacy issues in a much more clear way than the “set it and forget it” of the past.  However, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out, there may be some information over which you have not control – primarily through downloaded apps and quizzes.

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One Response to “Friends of Duck and Cat – and Facebook’s New (non)Privacy”

  1. Facebook and Privacy – An Oxymoron? « The Media Mash-Up Says:

    […] the default to allow anyone to see anything about you (you can review this in the blog post “Friends of Duck and Cat and Facebooks New (non) Privacy” ).  Last weekend, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO made some statements that fanned the flames […]

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