CIO Symmetry

Dec 1 2008   7:27PM GMT

Protect that Facebook profile: The risks of social networking sites

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

Facebook is keeping people linked together both personally and professionally. Knowing that, it’s important to keep an eye on the security of your accounts on social networking sites — and the integrity of your online persona.

Facebook won an $873 million judgment against Adam Guerbuez of Montreal, after suing him for spamming Facebook users with sexually explicit messages. Guerbuez hacked into member profiles using phishing tricks to get users to give up their login details. Once in, Guerbuez used the compromised profiles to send out mass messages (4 million) to friends of friends.

My first thought when I heard about this: What if my account had been compromised and, as a result, my boss (and Facebook friend) received messages from my account touting male enhancement pills? That would certainly not be cool, Guerbuez. No poke for you.

One may ask why I would be Facebook friends with my boss — Facebook, the sacred, secret window into my personal life, littered with an assortment of pictures, wall posts and (dare I say it) “bumper stickers?” I keep it clean on my Facebook profile and usually follow the “don’t friend me, I’ll friend you” credo. I have noticed more and more people opting to have two Facebook accounts (although Facebook expressly forbids multiple profiles) – a personal one and a professional one. I have considered this myself but then thought, don’t I have a LinkedIn account for that? Furthermore, if someone searches for someone and finds two Facebook profiles (one with a Sears-style profile picture and one including a tequila shot-athon — both pictures clearly of that person) it may look a bit sketchy. Or smart?

Today, it’s especially important to keep it clean on Facebook – 22% of hiring managers check social networking sites before hiring someone. This number has doubled since 2006 and will continue to increase as an additional 9% of hiring managers plan on screening applicants online in the future. On top of that, 34% of the managers who screen have dropped candidates from their lists based on what was found in their profiles.

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