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Author: Julia Alberts
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Facebook profile: an invasion of privacy?

Social networking sites, though gaining immense popularity among the youth of today, do not come without their risks. The internet has always been associated to a somewhat dark side and social networking sites have further propagated this image.

In the past, people have misused the internet by luring others through chat room conversations. Social networking sites have, however, provided a whole new arena for fraud and deception. You don’t even have to be in contact with a person to target them!

One of the most widely used social networking sites today is facebook. Facebook has been attracting people of all ages and from diverse walks of life to interact with people from multifarious communities and exchange views about topics like politics, literature, music, etc.

Now, how do internet predators manipulate a facebook profile page and indulge in identity theft? We will discover that it is not that difficult, considering the tremendous amount of personal information that a lot of facebook users have made public.

From your name, date of birth, hometown and school, to your email addresses and phone numbers, there is little that your facebook profile does not reveal.

For experienced internet predators, all they need is a name and the school/college and they are on the job. Facebook profiles also contain people’s favourite quotes, their religious and political views.

Making religious affiliations public may be a wrong step on the part of the user because it may lead to people drawing conclusions and even, in extreme cases, threatening the person in case such a religious clash arises.

Political preferences are yet another very controversial issue.

The quotes that people often have on their facebook pages are frequently seen as a reflection of that person’s personality and viewers instantly form an opinion about them.

So, profile quotes are seen as a branding tool. For example, a person with a lot of serious quotes on his/her profile would inevitably be assumed to be serious in nature, and vice versa about funny quotes.

Using personal embellishments like email addresses, phone numbers and relationship statuses make things all the more worse for the user.

People who make such information visible to others, may it be their friends or colleagues, should just brace themselves for something horrible. However, are users the only ones to blame?

Isn’t it the social networking site itself that has created such applications that encourage people to become more and more explicit about their personal information?

Undoubtedly, yes. If you see other people on your friends’ list updating their relationship status every ten days, you would inevitably be inclined to do the same.

There are a number of applications on facebook, and the pages you like or groups you join can actually access a lot of the information you display on your profile.

So if you think that you’re playing it safe by making your profile visible to only those who have been added to your friends’ list, think again.

The creators of the groups you join, the innumerable fan pages you like, and the games and other applications you waste your entire weekend on, can actually access more information than you can imagine.

Whenever you visit an application, do you remember accepting the terms of agreement that goes something like “I allow this application to access all my personal information, including my profile, photos, videos, etc.”? And you’ve clicked on the “allow” option oh-so-many times, you can’t even remember now.

There is a box on the side of your profile page on facebook that displays all the applications you have visited. Moreover, there another box that shows all the events that you are planning on attending.

Even if a stalker is not on your friends’ list, he/she can always go through the list of attendees of a particular event and find your name there. The page for the event is mostly open to all users for viewing.

To top it all off, you have a wall where your friends can post anything from messages to photos to videos. Even if your wall is visible only to the people on your friends’ list, a casual conversation with a good friend may turn into a humongous issue if other people misinterpret it.

There is an ongoing trend on facebook about adding every person you know, may it be through one exchanged greeting, and then stalking them whenever you are bored and feel like prying. This is usually where all the “gossip” comes from.

Headline news is made out of rumors, particularly in high schools and colleges, where people often feel the “need” to intervene in others’ matters.

Be careful when you make your facebook profile. Here are a few tips: do not reveal too much personal information, and add only those people to your friends’ list who you know very well.

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