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Site auto-trawls embarrassing Facebook posts

'Delete Facebook account' surges into Google top 10

Application security programs and practises

A new site illustrates the privacy perils of users who leave their public updates searchable outside of Facebook.

Youropenbook (formerly Facebooksearch) allows interested parties to search for status updates containing potentially embarrassing information such as "playing hooky", "stupid boss" or "control urges" simply by clicking on a link. The site also offers customised searches of freely viewable status updates. Search results return the name and profile picture of those making potentially embarrassing comments.

The site neatly illustrates the privacy perils of making status updates and wall posts viewable in much the same way PleaseRobMe previously illustrated how location updates through services such as FourSquare might potentially help out burglars.

Youropenbook automates a type of security shortcoming first noticed by a commentard on Slashdot. The Facebook Graph site allows users to search for posts containing the word sex, or any other search term the curious might choose to select.

A spokeswoman for Facebook explained: "This is the search feature of the Graph API, documented here (http://developers.facebook.com/docs/api#search.)"

The same search is possible directly on Facebook.

"Only posts (status updates, notes) which are Everyone and Page names are available unless you authenticate with an app (e.g. the TweetDeck app is a desktop client you can use to search over your own status updates)," she added.

Facebook has become synonymous over recent months with attempts to erode privacy settings so that users' information is shared by default. As illustrated here there are 150+ privacy options on Facebook making the process of locking down a profile the 21st century equivalent of programming a VCR.

With all the privacy furore around Facebook, including EU complaints over a recent privacy rollback and more recent moves to share user information automatically with "pre-approved" websites, it's little wonder that some users have decided the simplest option is to quit the site. "Delete Facebook account" is now the ninth hottest search term on Google, Sophos reports. ®

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