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Facebook snooping… on millions of users…

… it’s not just for governments and retail, anymore! :-)

Ron Bowes, a blogger and a security researcher, wrote a program to scan Facebook’s public directory of profiles. Although users can “opt out” of that directory, most go with Facebook’s DEFAULT, :-) and allow their name and a few personal details to be searchable, publicly. Ron used the information to snatch public data from 170 million Facebook profiles, a 2.8-gigbyte file. He would have grabbed all of the publicly available photos as well, but he didn’t have ENOUGH BANDWIDTH! :-) Facebook has an active user population of 500 million.

Give this guy more computing power so he can run facial recognition software on everybody. :-)

“Once I have the name and URL of a user, I can view, by default, their picture, friends, information about them, and some other details,” Bowes wrote on his blog at SkullSecurity.org.

Bowes created a torrent for his cache and made it available through sites like Pirate Bay. Just for your information, Bowes found that the most common username on Facebook is jsmith and the most popular first names are Michael, John, and David.

Facebook reiterated that its privacy controls allow users to adjust settings to that they do not appear in a search of Facebook or through search engines.

But what are the DEFAULTS…? And WHY…? (I suspect that I will write about the importance of defaults at a later date….)

Although Bowes gathered PUBLIC information, he still violated Facebook’s terms of service. Undaunted, Bowes is planning his next “data dive.” (Remember when guys like this used to stick to dumpsters?)

“So far, I have only indexed the searchable users, not their friends,” he wrote in his blog. “I’d like to tackle that in the future, though, so if anybody has any bandwidth they’d like to donate, all I need is an ssh account and Nmap installed.”

-Bill at

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