The (deserved) Facebook privacy policy pile-on continues

January 6, 2010

Pretty interesting way for a rogue marketer to harvest a fairly deep level of personal information from Facebook made possible because of the new privacy settings. Does anybody care? I hope so.


[A] marketer could take a list of 1,000 e-mail addresses, either legally or illegally collected — and upload those through a dummy account — which then lets the user see all the profiles created using those addresses. Given Facebook’s ubiquity and most people’s reliance on a single e-mail address, the harvest could be quite rich.Using a simple scraping tool, a marketer could then turn a list of e-mail addresses into a rich, full-fledged set of marketing profiles, with names, pictures, ages, locations, interests, photos, wall posts, affiliations and names of your friends, depending on how users have their profiles set. Run a few algorithms on that data and you can start to make inferences about race, income, sexual orientation and interests.

While that information isn’t available for all users, Facebook changed its privacy settings in early December so that certain information can’t be made private, including one’s name, current city, profile picture, gender, networks and friend list (the latter can be somewhat hidden from public view) (emphasis added).


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