Privacy concerns with social networking services
Social networking sites vary in the levels of privacy offered. For some social networking sites like Facebook, providing real names and other personal information is encouraged by the site(onto a page known as a ‘Profile‘). These information usually consist of birth date, current address, and telephone number(s). Some sites also allow users to provide more information about themselves such as interests, hobbies, favorite books or films, and even relationship status. However, there are other social network sites, such as Match.com, where most people prefer to be anonymous. Thus, linking users to their real identity can sometimes be rather difficult. Nevertheless, individuals can sometimes be identified with face re-identification. Studies have been done on two major social networking sites, and it is found that by overlapping 15% of the similar photographs, profile pictures with similar pictures over multiple sites can be matched to identify the users. For sites that do encourage information disclosure, it has been noted that majority of the users have no trouble disclosing their personal information to a large group of people. In 2005, a study was performed to analyze data of 540 Facebook profiles of students enrolled atCarnegie Mellon University. It was revealed that 89% of the users gave genuine names, and 61% gave a photograph of themselves for easier identification. Majority of users also had not altered their privacy setting, allowed a large number of unknown users to have access to their personal information (the default setting originally allowed friends, friends of friends, and non friends of the same network to have full view of a user‘s profile). It is possible for users to block other users from locating them on Facebook, but this must be done by individual basis, and would therefore appear not to be commonly used for a wide number of people. Most users do not realize that while they make use of the security features on Facebook the default setting is restored after each update. All of this has led to many concerns that users are displaying far too much information on social networking sites which may have serious implications on their privacy. Facebook was criticized due to the perceived laxity regarding privacy in the default setting for users.
Due to the high volume of personal information often displayed on social networking sites, it is possible to make further estimations about a user, such as the person’s social security number, which can then be used as part of identity theft. In response, various groups have advised that users either do not display their birthday, or hide it from Facebook ‘friends’ they do not personally know.Cases have also appeared of users having photographs stolen from social networking sites in order to assist in identity theft. There is little evidence that users of social networking sites are taking full measures to protect themselves from identity theft. For example, numerous celebrities have claimed their Twitter accounts have been hacked. Sexual predators
Most major social networking sites are committed to ensuring that use of their services are as safe as possible. However, due to the high content of personal information placed on social networking sites, as well as the ability to hide behind a pseudo-identity, such sites have become increasingly popular for sexual predators. In 2009, it was revealed that MySpace had evicted 90, 000 registered sex offenders from its site in the previous two years. However, it was also suggested that the majority of these simply transferred to using the services provided by Facebook. In response to concerns, Facebook Help Center has set up a system whereby users may notify on suspected sex offers which, if proven to be accurate, will result in their account being terminated. While the numbers may remain...
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