Facebook Glitch Exposes Chat Conversations

Dennis Faas's picture

Facebook users are generally trusting when it comes to their privacy, but some issues push them right over the edge. Take a recent glitch that allowed outsiders to view private user information, including friend names and the content of their chat conversations.

The glitch emerged late last week, and has once again brought scrutiny and anger down upon the heads of Facebook brass. Users of the social networking site discovered that they were able to find out more about their friends than had been the case in the past, and some could even uncover chat conversations between other people. (Source: techjackal.net)

While there's no doubt some users delighted in the voyeur spree -- there have been reports of private information being posted outside the site -- others were shocked and offended.

Facebook Security Gap Closed, Damage Done

Facebook has announced that the gap has been closed on the glitch, and that it will remain vigilant in securing similar holes in the future.

Unfortunately for Facebook, this most recent issue has pushed several users over the edge. Some, like Maryland government contractor Jeffrey Ament, have said they're fed up with Facebook's privacy snafus and have deleted their accounts.

"Facebook has become more scary than fun," Ament told the New York Times. "Every week there seems to be a new privacy update or change, and I just can't keep up with it." (Source: nytimes.com)

For its part, Facebook isn't convinced that being a site member is really that dangerous. "For a service that has grown as dramatically as we have grown, that now assists with more than 400 million people sharing billions of pieces of content with their friends and the institutions they care about, we think our track record for security and safety is unrivaled," said Elliot Schrage, Facebook VP of public policy.

Users Force Fed Links, Information to be Shared

Concerns about privacy continue to mount after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the site would begin sharing user information with some outside sites.

In recent weeks, the "interests" listed by users have been linked to private and commercial businesses. For instance, I am a former student of the University of Windsor, and Facebook essentially forced me to link to that institution's Facebook page. It's not something I really wanted to do.

Facebook Ads Becoming More Intrusive

The pressure on users to become part of a wider commercial network may be wearing thin. A site that began as a cute way to keep in contact with long lost college pals is now becoming the model for new and ever intrusive marketing strategies.

"Facebook continues to manipulate the privacy settings of users and its own privacy policy so that it can take personal information provided by users for a limited purpose and make it widely available for commercial purposes," said Mark Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Perhaps the time is right for a new site to bring things back to basics: chatting with friends rather than corporate America.

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