Lax Facebook Privacy Makes Pages Open to Public Search

Dennis Faas's picture

A new site aims to demonstrate Facebook's lax security and privacy by exposing some of the more embarrassing messages which users have posted. However, Facebook users appear to have undermined the site by posting intentionally bogus messages.

The new site is known as Openbook and is intended to highlight changes made last month which made the search facility on Facebook much more public, even to non-users. It's even possible for status updates and other user info to appear on public search engines.

This was particularly problematic as there have been several changes to Facebook's privacy policies which means many users have more data exposed than they realized. One estimate suggests it takes 50 settings and 170 option changes to get the maximum user privacy available. (Source:

Software Engineers Create Parody Portal

Three software engineers from San Francisco want to draw more attention to these changes. They put together a parody site, originally titled FacebookSearch but then re-titled Openbook. It simply allows visitors to search for any phrase they choose and see status updates containing that phrase, along with the photo and name of the poster and a link to their status update. (Source:

Used in some ways, this doesn't appear to be all that sinister: for example, by searching for "Infopackets" we discover that a man from East Brookfield, Massachussets posted a link to one of our recent stories.

Facebook Searches May Be More Revealing

Some searches on the new portal are perhaps a little more revealing, however.

For example, the site includes some of the most recently used search terms, including "going to a strip club". The news that a Montessori school teacher from Bowling Green, Kentucky went to such a venue this past weekend might be a little too public for her liking. And that's nothing compared to a high school student from Texas whose claim to have recently lost his virginity has become more public than he likely hoped (or not).

Why Facebook Wants Your Information Public

Some users are having difficulty coming to terms as to why there have been so many Facebook privacy policy changes, resulting in personal information becoming accessible to the public.

We reason that it has to do with dollars and cents. For example: the more Facebook pages available to the public result in more search engines indexing this information; thus, the greater likelihood someone will stumble upon a Facebook page when querying a search engine for a specific phrase.

The more pages displayed on Facebook (whether public or private) results in more ads displayed to those visitors, translating to more revenue generated by Facebook and their executives.

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