Sunday, October 24, 2010

Your Facebook Privacy is Breached and Unlocked!

Privacy as we know it has pretty much been dissolved into today’s lifestyle. It used to be something awfully appreciated; a personal diary was NEVER to be read by someone else, a girl’s purse was not to be opened and the windows’ curtains concealed what was happening inside the homes. It was violated once someone you don’t trust knew something about you and started gossiping. Today, however, it’s not the case of the untrustworthy someone you gave away your secret to but it’s YOU and the DEFAULT PRIVACY POLICIES set by all our favorite networking sites!

Social Networking Default Privacy Polices


I prefer to start with the default privacy policies set by the systems we connect ourselves to everyday. The biggest change and addiction introduced to our lives in the past few years was Facebook. Yes, I remember around 4 years ago when I first signed up. It was very nice to see it connects you to people you haven’t seen in years, and the fact that you can keep in touch with people you never thought you will see or talk to again is just awesome. I like to see it as your self-updating phonebook. People change their phone numbers all the time, move to new places and change their emails sometimes but they still have their Facebook account.

One time, I got a newsletter or notice policy from Facebook just like everyone else. To be honest, just like everyone I clicked skip and moved on. Until a close friend of mine warned me that the NEW FACEBOOK DEFAULT PRIVACY POLICY was to UNLOCK your profile to everyone! It’s like your favorite books, movies, series, music, friends, wall posts, pictures, notes, videos, and basically EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU! I was so angry that it has given all my secrets away to STRANGERS. I mean not the not pretty close friends you add, but completely strange people! I adjusted my privacy at once, and then I was looking through the profiles of my friends and it was all UNLOCKED! It was very frustrating and annoying because when I first created my account I adjusted my privacy, and they all at once for no freaking reason unlock it to the whole world? Anyhow, a bit by bit most people realized this breach and adjusted their privacies. Some people still have their profiles opened up to strangers though.

A lot of privacy complains about Facebook were made, and Facebook “thought” it learned the lesson but NOOOO. Do you know that if you have the Facebook mobile application installed and your phone supports GPS that you can publicize your location? For example, it automatically says “Sara is in City Stars.” It sounds like a great application for some people. BUT do you know that the DEFAULT SETTINGS is to enable this application at once to all your friends on Facebook; not the general public this time! [1] Smart Move, Bravo! Now they are learning their lessons; to publicize your location to your friends list! What the hell is wrong with Facebook? What if I don’t want people to know where am I? Let’s be sincere here, not everyone in your list is REALLY your friend; nobody has 500++ real friends! A good friend once told me if you think you have more than 3 friends, then you are fooling yourself.

Okay, so aside from the great Facebook stupid moves to reveal everything about everyone. There is another very vital breach most people fall for. It’s the cute little applications and quizzes provided in Facebook. Do you know that those applications are not made by Facebook? That they are made by other people just like you and me? Well, I would say people interested in IT, not everyone. That’s not the point. The point is what you sign for when you want to take the “How much should I weight?”  and “What hair color fits you best?” quiz or play the very popular Facebook game “Farm Ville”.  Here is a clue.

In order to play the game online, the application will have access to all your personal information! Why on earth is that essential for me to play Farm Ville? No, thank you. I don’t want to play, take any “cute” quiz or use any application for that matter. Most people think differently though. It’s like when you install a new program or create an email address. Press next, next, next, and wow I am so smart I just did all by myself! NO! In this case, you are allowing a STRANGER to access your information! As I said earlier anyone can make an application. He/She can make everyone “allow” him/her to access all the information and use it to do whatever he/she pleases!  Three of the top ten applications transmitting personal information and users' friends include FarmVille, HoldEm Poker and FrontierVille [2].

Even for those of us who are very cautious about their privacy settings who make their entire information private to themselves or their very close friends get exposed to the privacy breaches, especially when it comes to pictures. If you share a computer or accessed your facebook from a computer other than your personal computer, the link path saved in the history will be an accessible way for anyone to view your pictures.


A lovely social network started to dive in our lives before Facebook was MySpace. I am not one of its biggest fans nonetheless. The thing is with MySpace that it’s an account linked to your msn account. My old email used to be msn; so, I just realized few days ago that I have a MySpace account! I don’t remember applying for one! What’s worse is that it displayed some information about me such as my age, birth date, birth location and so on. I thought okay, I will deactivate it! That should be easy right? It told me it will take 48 hours to deactivate the account! 48 hours!!! WHY do you need that much time? You are only programmed dumb computer! Can’t you do it on the spot?


When social networks such as Facebook and MySpace became popular, a new idea for a professional network aroused, that was LinkedIn. It’s great; you upload your CV and connect to your professors at school, people you have worked with and so on. You can apply for jobs online and get recommendation letters. Once more, the default settings for it too were to make it public! I find it very concerning because it could seriously lead to identity theft!

Twitter & Google Buzz

Twitter and Google Buzz, I love them. They are adorable and here comes the but… Also the default settings are for your status to be a public display. Twitter was clear about that from the start, so I don’t really blame it. Google Buzz, on the other hand, not so good. Anyone who knows me knows that I am one of the biggest Google fans. Still, it made a not very smart move. In Google Talk, you have status updates to share them with your friends just like Msn Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Skype, etc. All of a sudden, with no prior warnings, your status is publicly displayed on the web! Why did Google do this DUMB move?

Privacy Exposed by YOU

The Internet privacy concern is not only limited to those breaches done by Facebook or any social networking site for that matter. A huge contributor to this crime is YOU. Yes. I can’t help see that a lot of people just share their phone numbers online with a huge list of “friends”. It’s not just that, but also with the new BlackBerry Instant Messaging application also known as BBM, people just display their BB pin publicly. After which they start to complain from getting phone calls and messages from strangers! What a surprise!

People also tend to share pictures that are not to be shared publicly! Okay, so you got a new boyfriend/girlfriend and you are in a “lovey dovey” relationship or you went to an awesome party and had fun. That’s great except that some things are just meant to be private! I mean who knows what is there in the future. It’s great to capture memories, but do we really need to show it to everyone? Here is a little advice by President Obama to sum it all!

By: Sherwette Mansour 


1.     The Canadian Press.(2010). Canada's Facebook fans get new GPS-based mobile application in Places. Winnipeg Free Press. (Oct.2010)
2.     Steel, Emily & A. Fowler, Geoffrey. (2010). Facebook in Privacy Breach. The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 2010)

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