Facebook and the X facts phenomenon

Lots of my friends are filling out the X facts about me. Some are “Write any 25 facts.” Some are “Answer these 100 questions.” Then they go on to tell you all manner of detailed information about themselves. This is really a bad idea for a lot of reasons.

Claire Suddath wrote an interesting article on Time.com about “25 Things I Didn’t Want to Know About You” and the way people are writing all kinds of useless, intimate, and just plain weird things on Facebook. While I like social networking, you won’t see me sharing these kinds of things. I’m still old-school paranoid enough to keep most of this kind of stuff off the net. Here’s why.

Friends of friends of friends of friends

Unless you have a really paranoid security setting, which arguably diminishes facebook’s value quite a bit, there’s a very wide network of people who can see some pretty intimate stuff. So, when you post things like your fantasies or dreams or crushing miseries online, there’s really no accounting for who might read it.

Data mining

How many web sites, banks, and so on ask for stupid security questions to “protect your account”? Don’t get me started on how stupid these are. Suffice it to say I agree with Bruce Schneier’s essay “Curse of the Security Question.” So when the 100 questions that one of my friends answered include questions like “first elementary school” and “high school” “first crush,” “first boyfriend” and so on, it is elementary research to learn her answers to many banking security questions.

Those so-called “friends”

I play a lot of games on Facebook. Or I did. It seems to have waned. Anyways, there were a few people who became my “friends” just long enough to connect inside some Facebook game. Briefly they had access to me and I had access to them. I could see all those answers, sit on them for some time, and “unfriend” them. Months or years later I could go on and steal their identities. They’d have a devil of a time tracking it down to me and how I got their stuff. If I confirmed that it worked and then sold it on the black market, they’d have an even harder time figuring out that I was the one who got it in the first place.