Personal privacy is a growing issue. The National Security Agency is currently building a data center in Bluffdale, Utah, where it will house data from its various branches across the United States. Many worry about agencies like the NSA breaching personal privacy for the sake of national security, but the biggest offender in breaching privacy could be you.
I recently learned that you can find a person on Facebook using their phone number, assuming they’ve added their number to their profile page.
While this may be useful social tool for connecting with that girl at the bar, it made me worry about the security of my information, so I had a colleague search my number.
Luckily, he wasn’t able to find my profile by typing in my cell phone number.
I did, however, find that my number is in Facebook’s system, though not publicly. While you can use your number as a secondary method for Facebook to identify you if you need to change your password or if hackers manage to hijack your account, you may want to consider adjusting your settings so not everyone can see it.
If your number is listed publicly, anyone can match your number to your name. Hackers or con-artists can input randomly generated phone numbers until Facebook matches it to a name. These names and numbers are then sold to advertisers or used for phone-based scams. According to an article on Techworld.com, Facebook recently addressed this problem by limiting the amount of phone number searches each user can make, which should result in fewer instances of number harvesting, but it doesn’t mean you’re safe.
The best way to keep your number and personal information safe is not to put it on Facebook to begin with. If you feel you must include certain information, be sure to change your privacy settings so that only friends can view it, and make sure your friend list is trimmed down to actual friends. After reviewing my own Facebook account, I discovered that my date of birth was listed, which is nice for the loving birthday wall posts I might receive, but is also more information about myself that I’ve placed in the hands of others.
Another potential security risk I overlooked was location tagging. A friend of mine often tags me in her Facebook posts with our location included. Everyone on my friend list then knows where I am, who I am with, and can even track me on a map, in other words, they have information that big brother can only dream about. While these locations and status updates are restricted to my friend list, I still don’t want everybody to know my exact address unless I’m giving it to them personally.