A Facebook bug that exposed the contact info of over 6 million users was discovered this week after the bug had reportedly been in existence for over a year. Facebook spoke on the existence of the bug and apologized to the general public for the leak of any personal information.
The bug is linked to the friend discovery process in Facebook that allows users to upload their contacts and address books to locate their friends who are also using the social network. However, the bug linked the information of the user who uploaded their contact info and the information of the friend who was invited to join Facebook, and made it available via the Download Your Information tool. This raises concerns that one of the largest social networks in the world is not secure enough to process and store all of the information users put in each day. Most of this is personal information such as phone numbers, dates, and addresses as well as photos, status updates, and locations via Facebook’s Check-In feature.
We are living in a time when any information that is put online is readily available to anyone who has access to a search engine and anyone who is willing to shell out a few bucks for some of your basic personal information, including your address, age and phone number. Over the last several weeks, there has been a national debate over the NSA—to help in the fight against terrorism—gaining access to phone calls and emails of numerous Verizon customers in the U.S.. Most of this information was provided by telecommunications companies that are protected from prosecution by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which was enacted in 1978. It really feels like everyone is out to get you, doesn’t it? In fact, these types of information releases, such as with the Facebook bug and the data that is being collected by the NSA, really shows how dangerous the Internet can be.
Something you emailed or messaged on the web six months ago could potentially be stored in a government server or, worse, mistakenly released by Facebook. We are living in a hypersensitive world, and this is proven everyday when more news about the NSA comes out, when the AP Twitter account is hacked to say the White House was attacked, or when another teenager gets arrested because a video of a fight he was involved in gets posted on YouTube. It seems everything we do is recorded in some way, whether that be something we chose to post on FourSquare, Instagram and Facebook, or something that was leaked by a bug on one of these sites.
The Facebook bug, coupled with the already existing privacy concerns with the iPhone, makes me question the security of my information. I suppose the best way to protect against information leaks is to not put it up in the first place, but as scary as the Internet can be, we still need it everyday to live our lives. Without the internet, a line of communication between employers, family, and friends can easily be cut off. There just has to be a safer way of navigating the Internet, because it is unregulated, for the most part. As a result, there are so many different information traps and surveillance tactics in place to catch unsuspecting users.
The concern over the regulation of the Internet and the security of information has always existed, but it has been brought to light by Facebook’s release of contact information. Though Facebook’s apology will win back many Americans, there is no doubt it is still a social network that is operating within the vast cloud we call the Internet. This alone, shows how scary it can be when our personal information is posted on networking sites, or is being sent via email.