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250,000 Facebook Profiles Stolen Without Permission

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February 04, 2011

250,000 Facebook Profiles Stolen Without Permission

By Michelle Amodio, TMCnet Contributor

Today’s a good day to double check that any information on your Facebook (News - Alert) page is securely locked down and not accessible to the public., a supposed new kitschy online dating site, launched this week by scraping personal data from 250,000 profiles, including names, locations and photos – all because those profiles were publicly accessible. If this isn’t something you’re too happy about, it may already be too late.

This heinous act is, so it’s reported, is all for art and not commercialism. Paolo Cirio, a media artist, and Alessandro Ludovic, media critic and editor in chief of Neural magazine, have a site describing how and why they did it.

The two “cyber artists” were able to swipe data from more than one million Facebook users whose information was public. After culling through pictures using a face recognition algorithm, they grouped the “face collection” and parceled them out into six categories.

“Facebook, an endlessly cool place for so many people, becomes at the same time a goldmine for identity theft and dating - unfortunately, without the user's control. But that's the very nature of Facebook and social media in general. If we start to play with the concepts of identity theft and dating, we should be able to unveil how fragile a virtual identity given to a proprietary platform can be. And how fragile enormous capitalization based on exploiting social systems can be. And it'll eventually mutate, from a plausible translation of real identities into virtual management, to something just for fun, with no assumed guarantee of trust, crumbling the whole market evaluation hysteria that surrounds the crowded, and much hyped, online social platforms,” according to Face-to-Facebook, the project’s website.

“The software effectively extracted 250,000 faces that were connected to the relevant public data in our database.”

Even if this was some creepy artistic social neworking experiment, Facebook didn’t take too kindly to scheme.

"Scraping people's information violates our terms," said Barry Schnitt, Facebook's director of policy communications. "We have taken, and will continue to take, aggressive legal action against organizations that violate these terms. We're investigating this site and will take appropriate action."

This debacle is a perfect example of art imitating life. Anyone who knows the history of Facebook is well aware that Mark Zuckerberg (News - Alert) stole personal student data to create his social networking powerhouse. The Facebook model uses many of the same triggering principles that Cirio and Ludovic used for their “art,” so, basically, Facebook was the inspiration for this breach of personal information.

The legal link explains that if anyone has been “hurt” by their project, simply contact them and they will remove your information.

Facebook’s threat has some backbone after all, as any info obtained from their site requires legal consent which Cirio and Ludovic seem to lack.

Regardless of how this plays out, it might be a good idea to head over to your Facebook profile and lock down any bit of information that may be public.

Michelle Amodio is a TMCnet Contributor. She has years of experience in business and marketing. Previously, she worked in broadcast journalism and as an editor abroad in London, England for a privately owned magazine. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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