Apr 15 2018

Making sense of recent Facebook user privacy concerns

Facebook is a titan of social media. With billions of users, Facebook is the largest platform of them all (far surpassing Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). This means billions of people are sharing their personal information on one singular network. However, has Facebook kept this information safe?  It was reported several weeks ago that Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm, improperly obtained 87 million Facebook users’ personal data in 2015. To make matters worse, there is new reporting that all Facebook users may have had their profiles compromised through the platform’s ‘search’ function for several years. Facebook is facing serious backlash for not managing its users’ private information responsibly.

Although the Cambridge Analytica scandal caused 87 million users’ information to be exposed, the search feature built into Facebook is the root of almost 2.2 billion profiles being compromised. Through an e-mail address or phone number collected by hackers on the Dark Web, cybercriminals could use Facebook’s search function to complete the profile of information for all users. With just an e-mail address, they could locate a profile and collect all the information on it that was made publicly available by the user, such as his or her profile photo, hometown, birthday, relationships, jobs, interests, and more.

Earlier this month, the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, appeared in front of Senate and House committees to discuss what had happened, and how it could be prevented in the future. Facebook has since modified the search function to disallow for people to type phone numbers to find users, as it could translate into another unintended exposure of data. Zuckerberg had the following to say on Facebook’s responsibility to protect its users:

“It is clear now that we didn’t do enough, we didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse… We didn’t take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is, and that was a huge mistake.”

The recent exposure of users’ profiles should cause worry for many. Now that 2.2 billion profiles have been compromised, are Facebook users at risk of having their identity stolen? Will these recent scams cause Facebook to be more restricted? How will Facebook users know they are safe when using the social media platform? This data exposure, and the attacks on users that could potentially follow, may create a whole new Facebook for all users that promotes connectivity and privacy equally.

Going forward, Facebook users should double-check their privacy settings to make sure they’re configured to your liking. Additionally, a thorough review of the personal information that they have listed should be performed. Users should be asking themselves, “does it make sense to have that information available online?”

Similarly, review the Facebook groups and applications that have access to your profile. If there are groups or applications that you no longer use, it’s good practice to remove that access.

It’s a good practice to do this exercise on a frequent basis. The key is limiting your online ‘footprint’, wherever and whenever possible!