Private MySpace is private no more

shaft.jpgWhy Facebook is evil screamed New Zealand's Sunday Star Times on 20 January 2008. Tom Hodgkinson denounced the totalitarian vision of the men behind Facebook and their links with the CIA. He also translated the cynical privacy policy of Facebook into plain language. But he didn't mention the fact that for some months, people have been hacking into "private" Facebook albums on a large scale. All they need is the right URL.

Similar privacy tunnels have been exploited in other Web 2.0 sites including Flickr.

Now a whopping hole has been found in MySpace. You post content there in good faith that they can only be seen by your friends.

Terrell Russell summarises "a scenario playing out live…"

- Lots of people post things to social network sites.
- Some of these things are private (friends/family type of private).
- The users understand and follow the rules, and protect themselves.
- There is a bug in the system.
- Their private stuff is now available to anyone.
- Someone grabs the content.
- Then redistributes it anonymously and efficiently.

According to Kevin Poulson on Wired:

A backdoor in MySpace's architecture allows anyone who's interested to see the photographs of some users with private profiles -- including those under 16 -- despite assurances from MySpace that those pictures can only be seen by people on a user's friends list. Info about the backdoor has been circulating on message boards for months.

Since the glitch emerged last fall, it has spawned a cottage industry of ad-supported websites that make it easy to access the photographs, spurring self-described pedophiles and run-of-the-mill voyeurs to post photos pilfered from private MySpace accounts.

When I looked, most of the comments on this posting were smirks from members of the "Pedo Movement", just in case you thought Poulson was exaggerating.

Fred Stuzman says the breach was inevitable, though he is staggered by the scale. Many thousands of teen photos were promptly published for commercial profit.

Even before this happened, I found the eagerness of people to share their every move with the world incomprehensible. Now it's scarier still.

Image from, Stalag Luft 3 - the Great Escape by Wg. Cdr. H.K. Rees

Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine


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