Facebook Fears Flourish

Dennis Faas's picture

And now for a report that is sure to surprise no one but stimulate many: Facebook users expose themselves to identity theft and virus attacks.

Wagging their fingers on this one is Sophos, a well-known web security company based in Boston, MA. Sophos has even gone so far as to set up their own fake account, in order to develop some interesting insights on the Facebook phenomenon.

Although still trailing long-time society site MySpace, Facebook is one of the fastest-growing pages on the 'net. It allows a user to create his or her own mini-site, invite chums to become their online "friends" (it requires pals to join Facebook themselves, an instant ticket for expansion), and of course post pictures and videos. With public events and a "wall" where friends can blab about anything from sports to Jim and Jane's date, it's no surprise that the site offers opportunities for identity thieves.

Just how dangerous is it?

According to Sophos, who created fake user "Freddi Staur," nearly half (41 per cent) of Facebook users have dangerously divulged critical personal details. These include phone numbers, email addresses, and even date of birth. Since most individual user pages are public, these could be viewed by just about anyone. (Source: informationweek.com)

Snapping back in a MacDonald's (we-can't-help-it-if-people-are-stupid) kind of way, a representative for the site stated, "Facebook has long deployed technology that limits the availability of personal information and welcomes every opportunity to educate users about how to protect their data online." (Source: mercurynews.com)

Current popularity champion MySpace has faced its fair share of identity issues and social malcontents during its reign. Earlier this year, News Corp. and MySpace itself were sued by families whose members were sexually abused by people they met while using the site. Predators continue to hound MySpace, even today.

There are ways for wise Facebook users to protect themselves, however. Although Sophos remains critical of the site, they advise users "to go to the security setting on your profile and set it so it can only be seen by a limited number of people".

Of course, most Facebook users realize that displaying personal information is a risk. So too is driving to work, making an ATM withdrawal, and heck, using the Internet.

That's no surprise.

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