Social networking websites are turning out to be a curse for privacy for people. The biggest culprit among various social networking websites is Facebook, founded less than 5 years ago. What made Facebook click was not its US$ 15 billion value, not its software, its patents, or its smart people but its enormous database, an electronic catalog of interconnections and interests of its members with details of who knows whom. The daily updates of my friends' new friends and what groups they have joined are like tiny, atomized announcements, inviting people to contribute updates. Facebook's vast social network is invaluable for checking reputations. The same data can be helpful to sell stuff though earlier this year, Facebook found that telling members what their friends had bought was going too far. On the other hand there are websites that purely help make business connections like LinkedIn.com's with motto of "Relationships matter," jigsaw.com that encourages everyone to submit others' contact information so that prospective clients can "bypass gatekeepers" and "go straight to decision-makers."
Technology keeps changing the norms. As such few years ago, a public catalog of all the nation's swimming-pool owners was shocking, but today anyone can use Google Maps to look down into people's back yards. As such friends circles are likewise going to be more public and staying off websites like Facebook.com won't keep people private. With many public sources from which social network information can be culled including newspapers and blogs computers can connect people simply on the basis of whether they are mentioned in the same article. As technology creates opportunities for people to catalog who knows whom, people are uploading their family photos to online album websites such as Facebook.com and Flickr.com. This is not only helping them create a vast network but also infringing on privacy as photographs that should be private are being seen by other people. Here’s were see things start to go wrong, with the whole world finding out, where someone spent their vacation.
All this information sharing through links established by computers may not be real social connections. As privacy settings change limiting the abuse of personal information without resorting to internet censorship will slowly become even more difficult. Recently the news of sale of 1.5 million stolen Facebook accounts on the black market by a hacker created panic amongst users. Researchers at VeriSign iDefense Labs, an internet security firm, found stolen login details of people on Facebook.com on sale for as little as US$25 for 1,000 on a Russian website Carder.su. According to the firm, the hacker called ‘kirllos’ was offering login information for bundles of 1,000 accounts with 10 or fewer friends on sale for just $25 (Â£16) and with more than 10, for $45 (Â£30). However Facebook rubbished the claims, saying that ‘kirllos' was making wild claims; as when Facebook tried to buy details from ‘kirllos’ during its own investigation, the hacker was unable to produce anything. Its known that hackers use software that logs computer keystrokes or 'phishing' techniques that trick users into giving out their passwords, personal information like birth dates, addresses and phone numbers. The accounts are then hijacked to send spam and malicious programs or to commit identity frauds. Users concerned about their account privacy can do very little to contain the damage.
Despite this there is flurry of information uploaded on Facebook that should remain private. This has even resulted in marriage breaking down in Britain, where marriage counselors claim that social networking sites like Facebook have helped a number of bored middle-aged users in their 40s and 50s to reconnect with childhood sweethearts resulting in their lives being thrown into turmoil. Australian Family Relationships Clearing House manager Elly Robinson said online behavior was causing friction in households. She said "People will come in (for counselling) where one partner may deny their online behaviour has been any sort of problem, but the issue is … if it's upsetting one of those people in the relationship, it's a problem". Robinson further said "Relationships develop more quickly online because inhibitions are lowered, it's easy to exchange information, people are online 24/7, there's an (endless) amount of people you can link up with who are there for the same reason, real life pressures fade away … it's a bit of a fantasy world".
Relationships Australia vice-president Anne Hollonds said "The internet doesn't make people have affairs. It's become the pathway of choice for many people but I don't think that means the Internet is breaking up families". However she also said "But there's no evidence to suggest that had the technology not been available, you wouldn't have had an affair with someone else anyway". As everyone fantasies about love from the past and with the technology available people are using internet to reconnect with lost loves, ultimately causing trouble for their present families, something for which they should be always be responsible.
Just yesterday a software glitch on Facebook; let people's friends in online communities, see each others' private chat messages. This forced Facebook to temporarily shut down its online chat feature. "When we received reports of the problem, our engineers promptly diagnosed it and temporarily disabled the chat function," a Facebook spokesman said in an email response to an AFP inquiry. According to Facebook, for peeks into private chat all Facebook users had to do was to manipulate the "preview my profile" feature in a particular way that led chat messages and pending friend requests to be made visible for a "limited period of time". However chat option was back for most Facebook users by 1900 GMT on Wednesday. The software glitch exposed the world's leading online social-networking service which is increasingly being scrutinized regarding infringement of privacy of its users.
According to a Consumer Reports survey titled "Social Insecurity"; most of the adult users of social networks have posted "risky personal information" such as birth dates or children's photos to profile pages. The survey indicated that 23% of Facebook's users "either didn't know that the site offered privacy controls or chose not to use them." Since its launch in 2005 Facebook has become an online repository of personal information and its important that the company should protect user data the way banks protect safe deposit boxes. According to Andrew Brandt, lead threat research analyst at computer security firm, Webroot "They shouldn't be leaving the vault unlocked even for a few hours," Brandt said, referring to the chat feature glitch. Internet users need to realize that any information they put online can escape into the wild. If you have embarrassing photos from spring break that could get you in trouble now or in the future, just don't put that stuff there. Brandt further said "Remember that everything that goes on the Internet essentially stays there. Even if Facebook hides it away, that stuff might be retrievable in the future."
Just last week, 4 US senators expressed concern to Facebook over recent changes to the social network that they say compromised the privacy of its more than 400 million users. In a letter to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, they said they worried that personal information about Facebook users is being made available to third party websites. They also said Facebook should make sharing personal information an "opt-in" procedure under which a user specifically gives permission for personal data to be shared. With social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and others rolling out new features issuing of guidelines on the use of private information has become necessary. It’s also known that Facebook on April 21, 2010 rolled out a series of new features that allowed partner websites to incorporate Facebook users data, helping the website to expand its presence across the internet.
Despite this Elliot Schrage, Vice President-Global Communications (Facebook) is adamant in saying that online privacy is taken very seriously at the company. He said "These new products and features are designed to enhance personalization and promote social activity across the Internet while continuing to give users unprecedented control over what information they share, when they want to share it, and with whom". With Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg famously saying “There is nothing private in social networking on internet.” It has really become important to draw a line where people can use social networking websites freely but still maintain a level of privacy.