Facebook Privacy settings have long been maligned for their complexity and arguably ‘anti-private’ default positions. There have been many instances when information that was believed to have been kept private had somehow become public, with disastrous results for some people.
This week has seen two separate incidents whereby Facebook users have had cause for concern about the public availability of their contact details. The first was the software bug that accidentally exposed 6 million users’ contact info via a bizarre combination of the ‘People You May Know’ and ‘Download Your Information’ features [you can read more on that in a separate blog - Facebook Bug Inadvertently Exposes Contact Details Of 6 Million Users].
The second, however, highlights the need for us all to pay greater attention to the default settings of social networks we use when it comes to personal privacy. A mobile developer in the USA was able to search and download 2.5 million entries of phone numbers from Facebook by exploiting the Graph Search feature that is still being rolled out world-wide.
Despite the fact that this is publicly available information, Facebook sent a cease and desist order to Brandon Copley – the man behind the data scraping – and pursued further legal action. Speaking to TechCrunch, Copley sees the whole situation as a Facebook security oversight:
“Facebook is denying its users the right to privacy by allowing our phone numbers to be publicly searchable as the default setting. This means that anyone with my number knows my Facebook contact information. I may have not told my future employer about my Facebook account, but if I called them on my cell phone they can now know how to find me on Facebook.”
One thing that is for certain is that we need to be particularly vigilant when it comes online privacy settings.