As if our world weren’t devoid enough of security and privacy, here comes another one. Some freak named Ron Bowes decided to noodle around one night on the Internet, scraping up the names and profile URLs of 171 million Facebook users. He then uploaded this data to BitTorrent where everyone can download it.
And guess who’s downloading it? Apple, the BBC, Boeing, Disney, HP,… the list goes on. And it’s not just corporations who are downloading it, God knows how many identity thieves and creepers have downloaded this data.
Getting the data was simple. Bowes used a script to extract the data from Facebook’s public profile directory (you know, the search box you use to look for long lost friends.)
My stance on this issue? Ron Bowes is an idiot. Sure, he might have done this with good intentions, but he should know that if he’s going to upload this data to a public website, then anyone, including identity thieves, can get this data. If this data was sold only to companies such as Apple and HP, that would be a better situation.
It may just be names and URLs in that long list, but a hacker is only one click away from potentially seeing more personal info, such as the user’s email, location, and/or birthdate. People who are smart and either opt-out of listing themselves in the public directory or cover all their personal information need not to worry. However, it’s still scary to think that a hacker can narrow down your identity with just two of the following: name (first and last), zip code, and/or phone number.
This is obviously a big win for the companies, because this data is valuable to them.
It’s not really Facebook’s fault in this incident, it’s just someone being stupid.