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Public Facebook Data

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It wasn’t too long ago that Facebook users were rallying around the Internet complaining about privacy concerns in the site’s terms of service agreement which prompted an abrupt reversion to previous terms. However, with a user base exceeding half a billion people, when even a small percentage of folks don’t lock down their pages, huge amounts of data remain available for scraping. 2.8GB of spider accessible information to be exact and it was made available for download via BitTorrent.

Who’s looking? Big business, government, you name it. Using Peer Block, a cursory look into the IP ranges accessing the torrent of FaceBook data revealed a number of major banks, consulting firms and government agencies were amongst the downloaders. Reasons for their interest are varied – advertising, employee monitoring, business relationship modeling, public-relations management and everyone’s favorite – terrorist network association building. What would you do with the data?

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It’s the New Media baby!..

Seriously.. just like all of those ‘discount’ cards you get from the pharmacy/grocery/etc..I use mine to get savings on a gallon of gasoline at the store pumps..if I buy the right combinations, I can get as much as 20cents off. On a 20-gal vehicle it add up; and an extra box of store-brand Acetaminophine doesn’t eat any groceries.

Seriously.. just like all of those ‘discount’ cards you get from the pharmacy/grocery/etc..I use mine to get savings on a gallon of gasoline at the store pumps..if I buy the right combinations, I can get as much as 20cents off. On a 20-gal vehicle it add up; and an extra box of store-brand Acetaminophine doesn’t eat any groceries.Some of the purposes worry me—like an employer ‘checking up’ on an employee—but then I have Facebook connections to contacts at client sites; so it makes sense in some respect.

Sometimes I wonder what groups use that data. I specifically saw my old employer [Ernst & Young] as one of the downloading sources. Before going on, I recognize what the original article described as potential non-attribution as a random employee could have accessed the data from inside the company’s IP range.

But if I recall correctly, torrents were blocked on all the computers by IT policy. So that meant for the data to come into their address space required an exception to policy, an IT staffer doing it on a non-controlled machine or some PR department without access restrictions.

Personally, I think their usage of the data is more for employee monitoring than for any type of client research or relationship building. Why? I worked in their data analysis group and they weren’t that clever (but certainly charged fees implying they were). Plus, I remember their PR department got on my case once because I had my position listed as peon on FaceBook which meant they had gone and found me in some employee sweep – only leading me to further lock the whole account down.

It would have been pretty clever of them, however, to create relationship charts that mapped out client organizations in order to wedge themselves into contracts by exploiting lower managers seeking promotion through growth and projects.

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