My sister’s Facebook account was accidentally hijacked last week by someone who had just been given her old mobile phone number. She’d cancelled the line over a year ago, but had never removed it from her Facebook account.
So the person who received her old number on a new cell phone account immediately began receiving my sister’s Facebook traffic. What’s more, all of this person’s bewildered SMS responses went straight to my sister’s wall.
She called me for help and I was astonished to learn how hard it was to locate the mobile number in the Facebook account settings. Working together, it took us a full 10 minutes to figure out how to remove that old number from her account.
It turns out we’re not the only people who have trouble with Facebook’s privacy tools. In fact, a recent survey from has Webroot (Webroot Survey Reveals Social Networkers’ Risky Behaviors) revealed that protecting your personal information in the social media space is one of the most difficult things to do.
It turns out that most social media users aren’t even aware of who can see their profile. And a full 80% of users’ private profiles are open to public searches on Google.
Most social media users, particularly younger ones, would prefer their information were private, but have failed to take action to protect it. If my experience with Facebook is any indication, I can guess why: it’s just too difficult to do.
The #1 social media site, Facebook, announced today that they’re simplifying the privacy controls for accounts, which is going to be a very welcome change. But whether or not better control is going to lead to improved privacy overall is questionable, if the Webroot survey is any indication.
My guess is that poorly designed and implemented privacy tools on sites like Facebook, and the fact that they are set to a de facto “open” state, is a serious contributor to the erosion of privacy concerns online.