The two faces of Facebook

Sunday, Feb. 4, London’s The Sunday Times printed statements accusing Facebook of secretly reading private text messages of users who had downloaded Facebook’s mobile app. Since permission to access texts is clearly listed in the app’s terms and conditions, the report was called “disingenuous” by European Communications lead Iain Mackenzie. In an article from the Washington Post, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said, “the suggestion that we’re secretly reading people’s texts is ridiculous.”

While that may be, users have a right to be on the defensive.

“The Internet already knows a lot about us,” said Megan Daley, a DePaul student.

In fact, just by looking at the fastest growing social networking site, it becomes apparent why users are concerned. Facebook is devoted to the idea of virtual self-expression. It’s hard to avoid, with a list of friends cascading down the side panel of a Facebook page or the wealth of information that lies behind the info tab. The website takes the characteristics of an individual, computes it into data digestible enough for computers and spews it out for the world to read. When one’s favorite music, school and family members are revealed to the masses, it might be informative, but it also puts users at risk.

John Siuntres, the creator of Word Balloon, claims social networking was the catalyst of his career.

“You never know who’s going to be reading it,” he said. “Not surprisingly it can sadly hurt people every day.”

Besides the leak of personal information, revealing data to any social networking site can cause serious harm. According to an article from Inc.com, one young woman posted about an upcoming vacation her family was going on. When they left town, they were robbed.

The girl had apparently posted descriptions of her home, and although no address was accessible, the house could still be identified and violated by intruders.

By releasing such private information, it seems that Internet users already make themselves prime targets for fraud and security threats. They don’t need Facebook, or any social media company, to help.