back to article How to sniff out private information on Facebook

Facebook users who like to control who gets to see your account details, take note: political views, religious back ground and other sensitive details may be wide open to prying eyes even though you've configured your profile so its viewable only to designated friends. That's because the user setting that allows only …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Looks like a bug, no?

  2. Robin

    re: Bug

    AKA as "a feature".

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And another thing

    You can't delete your details from facebook, only deactivate your profile.

  4. A J Stiles

    Not news

    This is hardly news. If you really want to find some juicy personal information -- enough to impersonate someone else -- just visit Google; then search for "curriculum vitae.doc" and see what turns up.

  5. Chris Collins

    Don't put your details on the internet

    The simple solution to this is if you don't want people to know about things, don't put them in some random database on the internet. Do you go round in real life going up to people saying, "Hi, pleased to meet you, I'm a catholic social conservative who's into Norwegian death metal," or some such nonsense. It's like those tools who make videos of their crimes and stick them on Youtube. I think you deserve to have your intimate details trawled by some spider if you're that stupid. The only way people can find out my principles is when I'm yelling them out down the pub on Friday night. Try and search that.

  6. Rob


    Indeed, if you need to leave any social networking site, it's better to repopulate your profile with garbage data before deleting it (which will almost certainly be a deactivation, not a proper deletion).

  7. Test Man

    Not sure what the problem is here

    Surely if you go into your Privacy setting, then choose to edit settings for Search, then deactivate the option saying "Allow my public listing to be indexed by external search engines", that solves the problem?

  8. J Thompson

    Why is this a bug??!

    There is a differnce between allowing yourself to be found by search results and allowing the world to view your profile.

    Think about it - I only want my friends to be able to read my page, but I want people who know me IRL to be able to find me in searches so that they can add me.

    WHAT is the problem??

  9. Jim

    How is this supposed to work then?

    I join Facebook and I want to find other people who list flower arranging (say) as an interest. The only way this will work is if the search returns a list of potential friends who list this interest.

    But, shock horror, now I know that all these people list flower arranging as an interest!

    This is a feature surely? I guess if you care about privacy then you should lie on social networking sites or, at least, lie about the things you would prefer to keep private.

  10. Richard


    You searched by his NAME, and another random string that showed in his profile somewhere.

    IF you search JUST for the random string, and had that show up, that might be considered a bug, but surely ANY search engine worth its salt is going to return him when you include his full name in the search.

    Try searching for his name and "Protestant Hindu Satanist" - I'm pretty sure that will return him too, even if those religious views aren't in his profile!

  11. Morten Ranulf Clausen

    The problem?

    "WHAT is the problem?"

    Same as Googlehacking: search for a term and slowly expand the term to zoom in on the information you need. Searching on name AND "Christian" or name AND "Satanist" or whatever, and seeing if the expected results (i.e. the user profile) is listed gives you some mighty good clues to what to do next. If not, then that word wasn't part of it and you have a go at something else. If it does, hooray, we have a winner.

    Ultimately the entire profile is disclosed by creating the right search terms. But it's a slow process so only the truly neurotic will do it. And they're certainly not the ones likely to become stalkers. Right...?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ..."the other way around"...?

    " And it's even harder to understand why Facebook search by default indexes profile contents, rather than the other way around. "

    In Soviet Russia, profile contents index facebook search by default? I'm afraid I still don't understand you, comrade!

  13. BobApril

    A matter of choice

    Jim, the way it should work is that your search for "flower arranging" is supposed to turn up people who have that interest AND have agreed to let world+dog find out about it. Right now, you can find them whether they wanted you to or not.

    And yes, Test Man, there is a fix for it - but when you've already selected an option to make your profile private, are you really likely to go looking for a second option to do the same thing? I know it isn't really the same thing, but I'd rate this as a high chance for confusion, at least.

    And for that last anonymous Soviet Russia, profile searches you! (Sorry...somebody had to say it.)

  14. Barry Rueger

    Define your own line

    ... and don't cross it. Notions of "privacy" are shifting, so it's up to the user to decide what information they want out there, and what they choose to keep private.

    Probably since the days of BBSs - fifteen or twenty years ago - I've just assumed that anything posted electronically is NOT private, and have been careful to not release some kinds of information that way.

    Really, it's about risk management... see here:

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why search?

    By default anybody can see your profile as long as they are on the same network as you.

    Admittedly you can change this in the privacy settings but from looking at the amount of profiles that are openly available on the networks, and from the fact I'd not looked at the privacy page until today, I'm assuming a lot of people haven't realised this.

    Surely this is not something that should be allowed by default. If it is, why bother asking whether friends should be allowed to see your profile when unknown to you everyone else on your network can.

  16. Andrewkfromaz

    Search - rarely used in Facebook

    I find that search is most often used for names, rather than profile contents. Personally, whether someone holds an interest (e.g. Norwegian death metal) with me or not, I prefer to think of my profile as most interesting to those who know me IRL already.

    Facebook (or any other social networking site for that matter) have yet to evolve to the point where a (even temporarily) static page that asks people to describe themselves can convince me that I want to associate with other people without another frame of reference.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like