While it comes as no surprise that Facebook is a goldmine of personal information, the trick is gaining access to such datum. I’m not going to bore you with why “friending” someone opens up almost all of your personal information to them; I’m sure you all know how it works. The hard part is getting someone to actually make friends with a complete stranger.
However, it seems that one in five people are willing to allow a complete stranger onto their friend list, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia Vancouver. Out of the 102 bots used and 5053 random requests sent, 976 were accepted. Another 3,517 requests were sent to friends of friends, and 2,079 of those were accepted. This led to a grand total of 3,055 accounts accessible, with another 1,085,785 friends of friends also accessible.
This total is astonishing. In total, over 250 gb of data were culled through these accounts. E-mail accessibility jumped from 2.4% to 71.8%, and postal addresses rose from .9% to 19%. Furthermore, three in five people were willing to accept friend requests when they had at least one friend in common, compared to the previous one in five.
Facebook disputes the value of the study, claiming that the accounts were given more leeway to do more things instead of being blocked by the “Facebook Immune System”" because the accounts were tied to a university IP. It also claims that the accounts were blocked much quicker than the researchers claim.
Despite Facebook’s best efforts to diminish the results, 250 gb of data is hard to argue against. On top of that, if unchecked, these bots could also further harvest data from new status updates, providing important clues about the user’s locations and activities. Creating a fake Facebook account now seems to be the simplest form of socially engineering personal information out of someone on Facebook.