The hidden face of Facebook

الأربعاء 23 أيار 2007

A word of caution for those who are addicted to social networking sites.

facebook front
Written by Ramsey Tesdell

An explosion in the popularity of social networking sites on the Internet has taken the world by storm recently.
MySpace, Facebook and Orukt are some of the most popular ones, which allow you to publish a profile of yourself that includes a picture, details about your education, your interests and even your favorite movies.

Facebook began as a project at Harvard University in the United States for college students to remember the names of people at school and stay connected. Since then Facebook has expanded to other colleges around the world, and is now open to any one, whether they are associated with a university or not.

Users join networks, connecting universities, geographic regions and companies, to be included in a community. You are able to add friends from any network and view profiles of your friend’s friends.

Facebook allows you to upload an avatar, which is a picture representation of yourself, and albums of pictures, as well as join groups and express your support for political candidates and causes.

Your Facebook homepage displays all of your friends that have updated their profiles; it shows you those who changed their relationship status, those who changed their picture, and whether any one has added “The Departed” to their favorite movies list.

It is a great way to stay in touch with friends you’ve met while traveling. Personally, I use Facebook to stay in touch with people I’ve met around the world and to reconnect with friends from high school I lost touch with over the years.

Clicking on any of the highlighted words in your own profile brings up a list of people with the same keyword listed in their profile.

For example, if I click on my favorite band, the Rolling Stones, it displays a list of people in my networks who have that same band listed – great for meeting people with similar interests.

Also a great way to stalk people you don’t even know. And that is one of the biggest concerns with these social networking sites.

Facebook gained some credibility over MySpace because it was previously restricted to only universities and high schools, but now that it’s open to anyone with an e-mail, the threat of being stalked online is much greater.
Besides being pursued by a creep from the neighboring town, the most frightening part of Facebook is their own privacy policy.

Here is a section for all of those who have their blogs listed on the site:
“We may use information about you that we collect from other sources, including but not limited to newspapers and Internet sources such as blogs, instant messaging services and other users of Facebook, to supplement your profile.”

Translated into layman’s terms that means they’ll pull information from your blog, your personal website and chat sessions to collect as much data as possible about you.

Another piece of their privacy policy states:
“We may share your information with third parties, including responsible companies with which we have a relationship.”

This means that the information you happily post on Facebook for all your friends and family to see is collected, including data mined off your blog, and then sold to advertisers, or the government, or anyone they want to.

Facebook isn’t all that secure either. Private information can be collected by automatic scripts written by college students. Two students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) were able to mine data while working on a research project.

Here is how Facebook responded:
“However, the possibility of data mining by private individuals unaffiliated with Facebook remains open, as evidenced by the face that two MIT students were able to download, using an automated script, over 70,000 Facebook profiles from four schools as part of a research project on Facebook privacy.”

Some of the very features that make Facebook so addictive and attractive are the same reason why it’s so scary.
Imagine that your personal information is posted, imagine that you list your interests – favorite movies, bands, books – and you join several groups. You also post that you are supporting a specific candidate.

Imagine that your friends post comments on your wall, including something embarrassing you did the evening before as well as pictures of you acting in a less-than professional manner.

Then, as you apply for a job, your potential employer peruses Facebook to get an idea of who you are and sees you acting in a manner that isn’t up to the high standard they expect in an employee. So, before you’ve even been asked for an interview, you’ve already lost the job. Simply because you or your friends posted it on Facebook.
Another disquieting point is the use of the site to recruit for certain professions or certain organizations. Just imagine how valuable this information about young people and their interests can be…

An article in the December 2006 issue of Wired Magazine described the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) first attempt at using a social networking site to recruit new employees.

“It’s an invaluable tool when it comes to peer-to-peer marketing,” says Michele Neff, a CIA spokeswoman.
Invaluable for them, scary for us. Just imagine what will happen when Facebook sells your e-mail to a company that starts filling your inbox with unwanted ads.

Even worse, imagine having your profile archived in the CIA or FBI because of your name, religion or interests.
It can be addictive looking for long-lost friends or checking out pictures from last weekend’s party, but careful of what you post, your next job may depend on it.

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