I got a Facebook account a few months ago. When I signed up, I didn’t know anyone on it except my girlfriend and one of her colleagues. It was a lonely place. I was just about to give it up as yet another rubbish web-fad when the bug caught on at work. Within days most people in the office had signed up. It started to get interesting. A few people even got addicted. Then a number of old acquaintances signed up and tracked me down. Suddenly I was deluged with friends. I felt popular for the first time in my life (of course, I was deluded because nobody gave a damn about me – they just wanted to list more friends than anyone else). I then started to get friend requests from people I barely knew. I’d crossed paths with them briefly some time in a foggy past. But I accepted their offer gracefully. Then I was contacted by people I’d never heard of. I saw that we had friends in common, so I thought what the heck and added them to the pack. And then I got friend requests from people I’d never heard of and had no friends in common with. I didn’t respond for a few days while I considered their invitation. But I thought they must know me somehow. Maybe it was just my bad memory. Should I accept them as a friend? What harm would it do? In the end, after a lot of active procrastination, I decided to reject their requests. I wanted to keep my friends as friends. Or, at the very least, tenuous acquaintances.
But it seems that not everyone is as discerning.
A recent study by Sophos, a security software company, shows how trusting people are. Which, in this case, isn’t a good trait. They created a Facebook profile for the fictional character, Freddi Staur (spot the little hint at ‘fraudster’?). They sent friend requests to 200 random people and an amazing 42% accepted. Of those trusting dumbasses, 72% showed their email address and 23% gave away their phone number. This is a real fraudster’s dream.
The other thing that came to light is how many people just give away information to anyone that looks for it. The default privacy settings for Facebook are pretty lax and only 20% of users bother to change them. I am now part of that smart minority. Come and join me. And do what your mother says: don’t talk to strangers.