Are we too Paranoid about Privacy on Facebook?

Written by Amit Agarwal on Jul 29, 2010

facebook privacyThe other day there was a post on my wall from a Facebook friend that suggested that I delete my account since Facebook is disclosing our personal phone numbers to the external world without permission.

The message read something like this:

Facebook is at it again. Did you know that your land line and mobile numbers are all available to everyone on Facebook. Go into account – > edit friends and click Phonebook. Not good.

The phone directory feature has been part of Facebook for a very-very long time but suddenly, the concern around that feature has become so intense that it has almost turned into a meme on Facebook.

facebook phone numbers

The story continues.

This morning a report from the BBC and Telegraph suggested that some had managed to collect data from profiles of 100 million Facebook users and leaked them onto the Internet. People were not amused and one of them went to the extent of saying that he doesn’t trust Facebook anymore.

I made a deliberate decision not to use Facebook because I don’t trust it. It is obviously a frequently-attacked site, and I don’t trust the company to resist the temptation to harvest the data they host.

It is interesting to see that the issue is getting so much attention in the press though all data that is claimed to have been ‘leaked’ was always public. Facebook maintains a public directory where anyone can browse people on Facebook by their last name.

facebook names directory

The only people who are listed in this directory are the ones who have opted to make their profiles ‘public’ on Facebook. If someone writes a script to scrap this data from into one single file, can it be termed as a leak or a privacy breach?

In fact, Facebook is not the only social site that has a ‘public directory.’ LinkedIn has their own people directory that’s open to both humans and bots. Google too has a detailed directory of its users that can be accessed using Google itself.

linkedin directory

What’s interesting is that the directories on Google and LinkedIn probably reveal more information about their users than Facebook profiles yet all the anger is often directed towards Palo Alto.

Maybe we are being too paranoid or it’s just becoming cool to hate Facebook.

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