Weblog Entries: Privacy

Facebook accidentally exposes members' dates of birth

During a public beta test of its new user interface, social networking website Facebook has accidentally exposed personal information — at this stage limited to the date of birth and age — of all its members.

According to Sophos, which created a YouTube video illustrating the flaw, as many as 80 million dates of birth have been disclosed, even of users who opted to keep it hidden. The flaw was probably caused by the new site template not adding the proper privacy hooks to the birthday field, causing it to be displayed regardless of a user’s privacy preferences.  Read more »

Internet defamation and the 'age of humiliation'

As many have argued, the internet etches an indelible tattoo upon the reputations of those whom people tag, ridicule and ‘out’ — be they cat women, dog poopers or just obnoxious celebrities. But this is probably nothing new:

All of us now live under the threat of easy and instant humiliation. It’s no longer just celebrities and business executives who need to think about aggressive reputation-protection and face-saving techniques.

“Human nature hasn’t changed,” says Jonathan Bernstein, a crisis consultant in Los Angeles. “There have always been people whose aim in life was to cause pain to others. If they saw people embarrassing themselves, they got pleasure in sharing that information. Before the Internet, they had to gossip with their neighbors. Now they can gossip with the world.”

Others argue that there has been a ratcheting up of meanness—that the changes in technology have made us nastier and more cynical. “It’s like a blood sport,” says Mr. Fink, who runs a crisis-management firm in Los Angeles. “It feels like everyone has their cellphone out, ready to take a photo that will hurt someone else.”