I am often amazed by the number of people who use social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace. If you broaden your search to include more business oriented locations such as Linkedin you will even spot many of the people who work here. With the high traffic high profile user base you have to ask the question, how secure are social networking sites?

Recently, Facebook has received a lot of bad press in regards to changes made in their user license agreement. The new ULA basically stated that any content that a user placed on Facebook, including user images, became their property to use at will. As can be imagined, this was met with instant outrage and Facebook was forced to revert back to their old user license agreement. While a big deal in its own right, this sort of problem is just the tip of the iceberg as far as social networking site are concerned.

The biggest security concern in recent months has been the proliferation of malicious third party applications. Facebook makes use of custom applications that do any number of things from share information to exist as mini games. The problem with this is that these applications rarely screened which means malicious code can be distributed unchecked. Since by its nature, Facebook contains numerous pieces of personal information this can result in any number of problems.

Officially Facebook will not claim responsibility for any of the applications that are part of their website.

“Developer applications are hosted on third-party servers,” Ryan McGeehan, of Facebook’s security team, told eWEEK. “When security-related bugs arise in third-party applications—it’s the developer’s responsibility to get them fixed, as their code does not live on Facebook systems.”

Policies such as these have put social networking sites under a great deal of scrutiny. With the potential of danger many have rejected the services altogether.

The problem is that social network websites fill a need in our information driven culture. People have become accustomed to the instant gratification of limitless information. People seek out information about associates before they will work with them. If this information cannot be found easily or provided readily people become annoyed and move on. By their nature, social networking websites provide a means to locate other likeminded individuals, which in turn can provide additional business. Security will always be a concern but if you use internet services intelligently and only install necessities than the inherent danger will not be any greater than if you were to check your email.

– Richard Keene
IT Computer Support of New York
Design and Optimization Department