Despite the recent Facebook data breach that exposed the vulnerabilities of social networking sites, millions of Americans continue to leave pertinent information of full view of the online community.
Facebook is the most popular social networking website, connecting millions of people from every country in the world. Due to its vast size, the website provides a number of privacy protections that let users control who can see certain information and even who can search for them online. But a recent program tested out on the site shows that more than 100 million Americans continue to open themselves up to the possibility of identity theft by refusing to shield personal information from unknown viewers.
Security consultant Ron Bowes uploaded a program he created that scanned the "open access" listings on Facebook, according to Fox Business. After compiling the information into a file, he examined the data to find user's names, birthdays, addresses, phone numbers and more. While this information may seem harmless at first glance, identity thieves have stolen more money with less data.
For example, criminals who dumpster dive or steal pre-approved credit card offers from trash cans or mailboxes can easily use the information listed on the social networking site to open an account in their victim's name and have the product sent to a different address.
Bowes' program should serve as a reminder that it's up to consumers to safeguard their personal information - especially if it appears online and they have the power to protect it. While some may have been put off by Bowes' test, he contends that they left their information out there for someone who may have less than honorable intentions and they have no one to blame but themselves.
Bowes was quoted telling the BBC that "all I've done is compile public information into a nice format for statistical analysis." He also added that the information he obtained was the data that could be accessed through search engines like Google and Yahoo, said Fox Business.
Social networking sites can open the door to identity thieves due to the sheer size and wealth of information that is present. Criminals don't have to use their real names and most people are willing to "friend" someone they don't know. Americans that are members should make sure their computer security and anti-virus programs are up-to-date. And it goes without saying that they should limit the information they make public - even to their friends.