We have mentioned before that it is not a great idea to put up a lot of personal information on Facebook. Need one more example of why you need to be careful? Enter researcher Peter Warden.
Warden wanted to pull publicly-displayed information off Facebook and then offer data sets to a few researchers so that they could begin to make associations with the data. With 210 million users, the task seems daunting. Not if you have the right software …
Warden got the data from Facebook, but did not go through the corporate offices of Facebook. He used a Google Profile crawling tool to “crawl” the public profiles of Facebook users and gather all the publicly displayed information from 210 million Facebook profiles. Apparently there are still quite a few of us out there who have a lot of their Facebook information set to “public.”
Facebook was not happy and threatened Warden. The threats of a lawsuit killed the project and the data was erased. (As you would expect, Facebook has just a few lawyers working for them.) And, to its credit, Facebook is taking the security concern seriously. According to the Fast Company article, they are continually working to improve data privacy and security.
But, as Warden pointed out in the article, that does not mean all data is safe – and apparently there are a few other sources you can use to gather similar information. However, Warden is not discouraged. He is already working on how he can pull the same sort of data from other Internet sources, including public Google Buzz information.
You can read more on Fast Company.