Sharing Information: The Facebook Data Torrent

August 9th, 2010 by

By Pat Hinds,

Ron Bowes, a security consultant and blogger at Skull Security, used a piece of computer script to scan Facebook profiles listed in Facebook’s public profile directory. Using the script Bowes collected the names and profile URLs for every publicly searchable Facebook profile. All together, Bowes said he was able to collect names and Web addresses for 171 million Facebook users. That’s a little more than a third of Facebook’s 500 million users.

This act of data mining has added to the controversy regarding an individual’s privacy being violated by social networking applications like Facebook. In this case Ron Bowe’s collected information was located in Facebook’s public profile directory. In the article “The Facebook Data Torrent Debacle: Q&A” by PC World, they explain how users can determine what information is public on your Facebook page and how to identify if companies like Google and Microsoft have been mining your public profile information to help with search engine results.

My position is the use of the internet to distribute information that you want public is a competitive advantage for companies and individuals who want to embrace communication through technology. The information that is made public should be harvested by people who want to improve communication and collaboration between individuals and companies. Stunts like the one Ron Bowes pulled shows that public information can be harvested and used to identify attributes of the individual; this is positive and should be a wake-up call for companies that are not using this information and sales2.0 processes – they had better get into the game or they will lose a competitive edge.

As individuals and companies you have the choice of participating in the sharing or not sharing of information on the internet; because it an individual’s choice I do not think it should create any controversy if this information is harvested. If the information is used in a malicious manner the problem is the use of the information not the information itself.

On the POIM website we state five guiding principles of build, persevere, partnership, customers and listen. 3 out of the 5 principles are based on communication (partnerships, customers and listen) and I want to embrace all tools that will help me achieve these principles and public profile information helps me achieve these goals.

Topics: Business Intelligence