May 3, 2008
SY Tan

BBC Technology Investigates: Facebook Faces the Music

Are you a fan of Facebook? Do you post pictures, chat with friends, and share jokes via Facebook? Do you do all these with peace of mind knowing that your personal information is only accessible to family and friends whom you have authorized to view the information? BBC Technology programme, Click, has however revealed the weaknesses in Facebook’s system.

The reason Facebook is so popular is because it allows one to add applications and share it with others. But when an application is added, it is given access to most of the information in one’s profile, and from there, contact details of family and friends as well. As a test, Click developed an application which could successfully steal personal information from Facebook users called Miner. Miner could appear as a joke, saying, game or quiz and infiltrate users’ sites seemingly like any other harmless application. It then began to collect personal details of the user as well as the user’s contacts and emailed them to an external Inbox.

With just a simple application, Facebook users’ personal details and those of friends are compromised. One does not even need to add the application to be affected; your friend who has your details could have added it. It is difficult for Facebook to stop any applications with evil intent as they are created on third party servers and Facebook does not have an effective system to track or monitor these applications.

The only way to be safe is not to add any applications at all. But that will be like not going to the beach or swimming in the sea in Hawaii. Can Facebook users have the cake and eat it too? Facebook will need to improve its security system to protect its users’ privacy or it will see itself playing second fiddle to upcoming social networking website, MySpace, which has better security control.

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