Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Has Facebook become its own Worst Enemy?

If you play any Facebook games, you may have a large accumulation of "Facebook friends", which are people you have "friended", but whom you don't actually know or care about, they're just there because you're both playing the same game(s), and these games are designed to reward you for having a lot of friends as players.

Except, Facebook doesn't like you doing this. In fact, it's against their TOS, and of late, they've made it considerably harder and harder to be able to do this. But since most of us want to keep our ACTUAL friends by NOT bombarding them with game requests, you can either friend people you don't know who are already playing the game, or you can create a second account and use that for games, which Facebook ALSO doesn't want you to do.

Why should they care who you friend?

Two big reasons.

First, you have to realize, YOU ARE THEIR PRODUCT. They are selling your personal information, which you gleefully tell them in order to impress friends and strangers with how awesome you are. This information says a LOT about you. It gives companies some idea what it is you want, how you think, and most importantly, how to convince you to part with your hard-earned cash (if you have any, or even if you don't). If you give them incorrect information, it makes their product less valuable. These corporations are obligated to deluge you with ads or to otherwise invade your privacy to figure out what to sell you or to deprive you of insurance or employment.

The other reason is that there are hackers and phishers out there who would like to get into your Facebook account so they can start figuring out how to impersonate you to convince your bank to give them all your money, and then convince your friends to give all theirs too. Or maybe they just want to post naughty pictures of you and extort you. Or who knows what else they can come up with to rob or humiliate you. The point is, when people like that get into your account, it's a bad thing for you and for people you know.

However, it's not really necessary for evildoers to hack you any more. All they have to do is buy your information from Facebook, who is happy to sell it to them.

So what can you do to protect yourself from this?

The most obvious and effective solution is to not use Facebook or any other "social media", but really, who's going to do that? The next-most obvious solution is to give them as little as possible. Frex, I will never ever give them my address and phone number, even if it means I can never get on Facebook again. I am also very wary of scams going around Facebook. And I use a very secure password. There are a few other security measures available, which you should look up and make use of.

But even if you protect yourself, your friends might not be so careful, and even if they are, their friends might not be. It doesn't take very many weak links to break the chain. Facebook is already an incredibly valuable resource for hackers and phishers, and they don't even have to hack your account; all they have to do is buy your information, which you provided just so you could play a game or contact your old friends.

Facebook's security measures and rules enforcement have become ever more Draconian in the past few years, but it's not going to be enough. The wolf is already in the chicken coop. It's just a matter of time before the chickens realize it.


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