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Perspective: Will security become Facebook's Achilles' heel?
Security
Written by Daniel   
Tuesday, 26 February 2008 13:44

Perspective: Will security become Facebook's Achilles' heel?
By Aaron Greenspan
Published: February 22, 2008, 9:00 AM PST
C/Net News

Editor's note: Aaron Greenspan claims ownership of the idea for Facebook.

 It's hard to go anywhere--to work, to the store, to the movies, really anywhere--without hearing about Facebook.



Its popularity is nearly unprecedented, making it a success to be envied in the eyes of many businesspeople, and in particular, software developers. Yet one area that Facebook has arguably not been successful in is that of protecting its users' privacy.

Although the issue has been raised time and again by users of the site, first with the introduction of the news feed and again with the introduction of its Beacon ad targeting technology, the company seems to be perpetually fumbling the ball. One starts to wonder: what's so difficult about keeping information private?

It's not that it was meant to be; the concept of Web-based social networking was never preordained as a privacy nightmare waiting to happen. Nothing is written into the precepts of graph theory dictating that civil liberties must be violated. Facebook was originally successful in part because it restricted the flow of information between students at different schools. No, what has manifested itself in Facebook today is directly the result of its leadership's conscious decision to put privacy on the back burner.

The key turning point in Facebook's history came in September 2006 when the site switched from being a closed community of students to a global destination for everyone on the Internet. To maintain its high growth rate, the company decided that it had to widen its scope, and in doing so, it tossed user authentication out the window.

At that point, any hope of having a site that respected user privacy was completely lost. The point of authentication, after all, is to prevent people from lying about their identity, and it goes to follow that when that measure is no longer in place, lying can and will happen.

Still, even if you are who you say you are, it's still incredibly easy to share too much. Facebook encourages it, of course. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has a mantra about supporting the "free flow of information," as if openness is a panacea for inefficiency.   [C/Net News...]   [Comments...]
 

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