Social networking software

Twitter, Facebook and Western Civilization's Decline

I usually present Security Wisdom Watch as a list of thumbs up and down, but this month it's all thumbs down, thanks to the recent state of affairs in the social media world.

This is a sequel of sorts to a column I wrote last week called " Social Stupidity: Am I too social (LinkedIn, so to speak) to be saved." In that piece, I focused on my own challenges in getting security right in the social networking world. This installment focuses more on how the platform providers themselves are making matters worse.

Facebook: True, Facebook users shoot themselves in the foot all the time by sharing too much information [See some examples in " 6 ways we gave up our privacy"].

But Facebook is making things worse by continually messing around with the privacy settings, making it increasingly impossible for users to tell who, exactly, has access to their information.

Foursquare: The platform is billed as a way for people to connect more effectively geographically and find the closest coffee shops, bars and the like. But the more we look at it, the more it comes off as nothing more than a tool for would-be kidnappers and stalkers.

My colleague Joan Goodchild gave a good example of the problem in her story " Pleaserobme.com highlights dangers of TMI on social networks" when she explained how the site "aggregates the Twitter feeds of people who play Foursquare, a location-sharing application that allows users to "check in" from their various geographic whereabouts as part of a game where they earn badges for reaching certain milestones. The problem is, according to pleaserobme, in playing the game, many users are also publicly broadcasting that their home is likely unattended and a good "opportunity" (as the site terms it) for thieves."

Twitter: We've already reported extensively on the threats facing users, including phishing attempts and other forms of social engineering. In an effort to be more like Foursquare, Twitter decided to add a function that lets users tell everyone exactly where they're tweeting from. Did I mention yet that I don't like that about Foursquare?

LinkedIn: This one is still best in terms of locking down the user's privacy. But very subtle and quiet design changes along the way are giving users increasing opportunities to get themselves into the kind of trouble they now get into via Facebook. That includes users falling for imposter profiles advertised as one person but controlled by a bad guy.

In fact, with every design tweak LinkedIn starts to look more and more like Facebook (the ability now exists to "like" someone's post, for example), which in turn has been trying to look more and more like Twitter.

In my view, trying to look more like the other guy means you are increasing your risk of making the same security mistakes as the other guy.

Read more about social networking in CSOonline's Social Networking section.

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