Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Facebook fun

Now that I'm a student again, it's time to join the masses and start playing with facebook.

I'll leave it to plenty of other people out there to point out how insane it is that people post rather important information on themselves. For fun, do a quick search for people between the age of 18-20 who list beer as a hobby/interest.

It's a shame that federal student loan data is private (and probably a federal crime to dig through if its not private) - as it'd be a rather fun query to see the intersection of students who list marijuana as an interest and those who receive student aid - given that you lose your right to get student aid forever if you ever get caught smoking pot.

So instead, lets focus on another fun feature of Facebook... privacy.

A user can specify that their profile is private, and thus only their friends can view it. Someone browsing through profiles will just see their name, a photo, and their school/year.

However, if you search for specific terms, Facebook will return all positive matches - including those people who have marked their profile as private.

Case in point. Which IU students moonlight at strip clubs in Bloomington:

http://indiana.facebook.com/s.php?adv&k=10010&n=-1&cy=Night%20Moves&o=4
http://indiana.facebook.com/s.php?adv&k=10010&n=-1&cy=Legends&o=4

From this, we learn that [redacted] ('06) works at Night Moves, but her profile is public, so this is not such a revelation.

However, far more interesting is that [redacted] ('07) also works there, and has marked her profile as private.

And what the hell. Since we're looking, it's also worth noting that [redacted] lists marijuana as one of her interests: [redacted facebook query]
Now, what about Legends.

Well, this is somewhat tougher.

[redacted] ('10), [redacted] ('09) and [redacted] ('06) all return a positive match.

[redacted]'s profile is public, and reveals the fact that she works at the Legends Title company. Drat, it seems there are false positives due to common names.

However, a quick search for Legends Title only returns Shelley's name (http://indiana.facebook.com/s.php?adv&k=10010&n=-1&cy=Legends%20Title&o=4), thus leading me to believe that either [redacted] and [redacted] work at the Legends strip club in Bloomington, or some other company whose name has legends in it.

Clearly, this is not foolproof.

I'm willing to bet that in the case of Night Moves, we won't have any false positives due to the uniqueness of that company's name.

And the moral of this story is:

Just because you mark something private on facebook, doesn't necessarily mean it is private....

2 comments:

Lil said...

Shit. Now the world will know that I'm a 1'5" polynesian who grosses more than 250K/annually!


It pays to be a freak.

Anonymous said...

It absolutely amazes me how much personal information people will put on facebook and myspace. Especially on their public accounts.