Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Data from 100,000,000 Facebook users harvested

I'm not sure how big a deal I think this really is. Rachel Quigley of London's Daily Mail reports information from 100 million Facebook users has been harvested and put it up on Pirate Bay for download.

Why am I not sure it's a big deal? Well, partly because Facebook is right when it says the same data is already accessible through search engines such as Google and Bing. We're not talking about someone breaking into Facebooks servers and stealing data or hacking into accounts to steal it. We're talking about someone who wrote a program to harvest the readily available information people have made public. The guy didn't even harvest it with nefarious plans, he just wanted to show how vulnerable people are making themselves. Of course, he doesn't have to have nefarious plans if he's going to release all of the information to the world.

Regardless of Ron Bowles intent in harvesting and publishing the information, I have to disagree with the Mail's opening sentence:

The privacy of millions of Facebook users has been jeopardised after some of their details were harvested and published on the internet.

No ones privacy is in jeopardy that wasn't already in jeopardy. It might be marginally more in jeopardy, but face it, even if people have posted information that will allow someone to guess the password (and they probably have) to their bank account, they're still one in a group of 100 million. So they were one in a group of 500 million before - the information was already public, and they did it themselves.

I'm going to download the file out of morbid curiosity and see how long it takes to get bored and how much useful information is actually there. I'll let you know if I find anything interesting.