VeriSign iDefense is warning Facebook users to beware when installing third party applications.
While no specific applications have been named, VeriSign says that the potential is there for third party applications to gain access to sensitive personal data.
On one hand, it’s nice to have security people issuing warnings like this to raise awareness that there are risks of having their personal data used in ways they don’t expect. On the other hand, why single out Facebook? This kind of blanket warning can apply to any web platform that allows access via API’s.
While there might be some technical hurdles to overcome before our information is safe online in applications like Facebook, the authors tend to think the problem has just as much to do with user attitutdes as it does with technical problems. Do all users go into using online applications like Facebook with their eyes wide open to the possibilities of how their personal data could be used? The authors don’t think they do.
However, Olson and Rick Howard, director of intelligence at VeriSign’s iDefense Labs, said a longer-term problem is users’ openness with personal information on public forums.
“They seem to have no sense of privacy,” Howard said. “We think it could go two ways. In the future, they’re either going to decide they’re embarrassed by all the information they’ve put out there, or they may decide it’s just the way it is and (that) it’s OK to put information out there.”
I wonder how many users are aware of how to fine tune their privacy settings in Facebook or of how Facebook controls personal information? Rather than rely on technical solutions from developers to solve the problem of keeping our information private, I think the better solution is to work on educating users about the nature of open and social networks.