November 28, 2010

How likely are you to share your passwords openly with strangers you’ve never met?

If you’re like me and care about your privacy in the least bit, you wouldn’t want to ever take the chance of letting your information get in the wrong hands. Facebook users should be made clearly aware of the Facebook privacy policy, and if you have not read it already then I highly suggest you do.

The motives of a company like Facebook is not to protect your information but to share it. Think about it this way: every member of Facebook who shares information about their-self becomes an asset to the company. Facebook uses this information about you (which according to the privacy policy, is now in their possession) and sells it to marketing companies and shares it with search engines to increase search queries (more hits to Facebook means more money). There’s much more about the privacy policy that I’m not touching upon right now, but definitely- read up on it.

Another point to enlighten you on is Facebook’s application permissions. As an end-user, you must be made clearly aware that ALL applications you use on Facebook have access to your profile. These permissions are equivalent to sharing your profile password with a stranger. Examples of some common applications people share information with are, but obviously aren’t limited to: FarmVille, Cafe World, Bejewled Blitz, Social Interview,  The Yes/No Game, Bumper Sticker, and ‘Likes This’. To see how many developers (yes, their people too) you are sharing your information with, go to: Account > Privacy Settings. From there in the bottom left, click “Edit your settings” under the “Applications and Websites” section. You will see ‘Applications you use’: “You’re using X applications, games and websites…”

Surprised? Now if I were you, I’d remove or disable all those applications because behind the games, amusement, and interviews are people too- people I have never met who can compromise my information. To do this it’s simple: from the same page, go to “Edit Settings” (far right) and proceed to delete your applications by hitting the “X” on the top right of each application listing.

The risk you run by allowing applications to access your profile is quite obvious. It is the same motivation Facebook has- to share and market information about you. Likewise, by sharing your account information with strangers you are running yourself the risk of account theft. I could technically create a fun Facebook app, post something on your wall about it, and all I’d need you to do is allow the app permission to access your profile. (IE. “Tom answered a secret question about you! View it now.“) Bam! I gave myself access to your profile and you didn’t even know.

A brief recap: Facebook. Review their privacy policy in full, they don’t care about your privacy or information- they just want their money, and don’t use Facebook app’s if you wouldn’t give your password out to a stranger.

Tom Beute

Written by Tom Beute– a Christian, barista, and software engineer.