Facebook torrent hack makes free download of personal user data

Saturday, June 29th, 2013 By

a geek and poke cartoon lampooning facebook

The Facebook torrent hack mined the personal information of 171 million Facebook users and made the data free for anyone to download. Geek and Poke illustration.

The Facebook torrent is a file of data on Facebook that a hacker mined and made available free for anyone who wants it. Ron Bowes wrote a web crawling code that scraped the Facebook directory for details about 171 million Facebook users. Bowes put the 2.8 GB file online as a torrent. Facebook said the Facebook torrent is no big deal — it just contains information on users anyone can get from a Facebook search. But others say the Facebook torrent is another indictment of Facebook privacy policy, and users should be concerned.

Facebook torrent exposes 171 million Facebook users

The Facebook torrent contains names, profile URLs and unique user IDs for 171 million Facebook members. Daily Tech reports that Bowes, who heads a company called Skull Security, posted the Facebook torrent on Pirate Bay. As of the morning of July 28, the Facebook torrent had about 13,000 active downloads on Pirate Bay. The data that Bowes scraped and packaged contains information Facebook users have either chosen to share or neglected to protect. Facebook users who have locked their privacy settings to friends only aren’t listed in the Facebook torrent.

Facebook privacy issues

The Facebook torrent emerges after multiple changes have been made to Facebook privacy settings to make user data more accessible for commercial use. In a statement to BBC News, Facebook said personal information people have “agreed to make public” was collected by a researcher, and that no one’s privacy has been compromised. However, Tech Crunch said with the advent of the Facebook torrent hack, now would be a good time for the default Facebook privacy settings to change to “Friends Only.” Letting “Everyone” see your Facebook information includes a hacker who can grab your personal data, package it and sell it to the highest bidder.

Personal data on Facebook torrent can never be deleted

Facebook said the personal information mined and distributed in the Facebook torrent can be found by anyone on Google, Bing or Facebooksearch. But Future of the Internet makes the point that the Facebook torrent is a snapshot of Facebook’s directory that lasts forever. Going forward when users delete their accounts or restrict their Facebook privacy settings, that personal information remains available to the world on the Facebook torrent.

Facebook torrent hacker targets friends of users

In addition to the personal data for one fifth of all Facebook users, the Facebook torrent contains the programs Bowes used to mine the data. Tech Crunch said in a post describing his hack, Bowes wrote that so far, he’s only indexed searchable users, but he wants to go after their friends next. Until Facebook switches to friends only by default, which is unlikely, users opt out:

Go to Account > Privacy Settings > Applications, Games, and Websites (link near the bottom, in a box) > Public Search > (Uncheck box).

Previous Article

« Little things that can mar a credit report

Watch out for the little things that can gang up on your credit report and bring down your FICO score. Cartoon of an angel and devil standing side-by-side. The angel is offering angel's food cake on a plate, while the devil is offering devil's food cake.
Next Article

How to find the best credit card »

If you're choosing a credit card, understand what's important. Learn how to find the best credit card for your financial situation. Close-up of the logo on a VISA credit card.

This post has one comment

  1. Eloise Yvette Herman says:

    i really like this one

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

    Leave a Reply

    Other recent posts by bryanh

    I Have Money Now!

    I’m headed to New Zealand, thanks to an online payday advance. Plenty of people will call that irresponsible, but plenty of people haven’t walked in my shoes...

    Personal Money Store makes it easy to get cash today

    When you know you're going to have trouble making it until payday, delaying will only make the situation worse. Apply now to get cash today!
    Getting cash today is easy with Personal Money Market.

    Used Snow Tires and Lots and Lots of Shoes!

    Long ago, a man returned tires to a Nordstrom store. He got his refund, no questions asked. You can count on great customer service at the Anniversary Sale, too