There’s been a lot of debate and furore about the internet privacy issue in the past month or so, and with the latest new leaks from Facebook, that’s not looking to stop any time soon. In a perhaps predictable story, using a vulnerability in the graph search there have been 2 separate cases of hackers scraping personal data from Facebook, totalling up to somewhere around 8.5 million users having some form of contact details being pilfered straight from their profile.
Now, there are a couple of sides to this story, one that’ll make you relax, and one that’ll probably make the more privacy minded amongst you pucker up uncomfortably.
On the one hand, as it would turn out, the data taken wasn’t private. All of it was swiped from profiles that had the user’s contact data already made public by the user’s choice. All that happened was that the hacker took a lot of the data in one go. So, if you don’t want that to happen, setting your Facebook profile to private and maybe not including your phone number and other contact details in your profile will go a long way to making sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen to you. Facebook has also jumped on the exploit and say that they’ve disabled the code that allows it to happen until they can fix it.
On the other hand though, this hack has shown something a little more insidious going on in the Facebook world. Have you ever heard of Zombie profiles? Or perhaps, a more accurate metaphor would be Frankenstein profiles. Even if you don’t have a Facebook profile, your friends who do will be, unwittingly, building one for you through casual mentions, uploading of their contact data and connecting with other social networks. Facebook absorbs all this data about you and begins to corrolate it into a stitched together, not yet alive but still there set of background data about you. So, if and when you decide to make a Facebook account, all that data is just sitting there waiting to embrace you with its cold, reanimated fingers.
This is a certain issue with Facebook now apparently. Even if you’re the most ghostly of online presences, if your friends are more non-chalant about their privacy, you’re probably going to get dragged into the light as well just through proxy. You could spend your whole life not releasing your phone number into the internet and it’d probably still end up there thanks to your douchebag friends and their lack of data control.
What can be done about it? Well, there’s always the tin-foil hat we guess.