Anti-virus firm Sophos has advised social networking buffs against entrusting their personal information to ‘strangers’. It arrived at this advisory after its testing Facebook. Using a test Facebook account, which was used to invite 200 Facebook members to be its friends, the responses revealed that “41 percent of users — more than two in five — will divulge personal information, such as email address, date of birth and phone number, to a complete stranger, thus greatly increasing their susceptibility to identity theft.”
I was surprised by this research report. I thought that social networkers have become mature enough to choose their friends, given the threat of identity theft. It would be more interesting had the report provided a profile analysis of those who revealed their personal details: Were they largely young or old? Were they women or men? Were they from the rich countries or not?
I guess that the unnecessary openness of some social networkers was due to the mindset that having a lot of online friends indicates a high level of likability or sociability. Somehow, social networking sites, MySpace.com being the number one example, have established the implicit race wherein one who has the highest number of online friends wins.
Perhaps, from the point of view of cause advocates, the implicit race applies but with a more noble, much less political, intention–gaining more allies to a cause.
But whatever one’s purpose on social networking is, the point is for him or her to be extra careful against identity theft. For instead of gaining friends or allies, s/he will lose more of him/herself. Unless s/he wants a friend she’s willing to lose her/his identity to. But that’s another story.