Details of 100 million Facebook users have been collected and posted on a file sharing website, BitTorrent. But the community is up in arms over whether anyone’s privacy really been compromised by the ‘leak’.

Security consultant, Ron Bowes,
wrote a code to scan Facebook, collecting data not hidden by the user’s
privacy settings. The 100m strong list he compiled contains the URL of
every searchable Facebook user’s profile, their name and unique ID.

as Facebook pointed out: “People who use Facebook own their information
and have the right to share only what they want, with whom they want,
and when they want.

“In this case, information that people have
agreed to make public was collected by a single researcher and already
exists in Google, Bing, other search engines, as well as on Facebook.

“No private data is available or has been compromised.”

information Bowes collected is indeed publicly available. No one’s
email addresses, phone numbers or postal address has been included in
the list. The data compiled is available on Google for any Facebook
user who has not ticked the box that said “don’t allow search engines
to find me”.

So is the Facebook ‘leak’ a problem?

Ars Technica explains:

“Bowes got the idea of
spidering the data so that he could collect statistics about the most
common names. Such statistical information isn’t sensitive at all and
doesn’t pose any security threat to Facebook users.

The data could be useful, however, for building automated account
cracking software that is generic and not specific to Facebook. This is
because a list of the most common names can be used to assemble a good
dictionary of potentially popular usernames for use in brute-force
tools that attempt to identify and crack user accounts.

makes the Facebook data particularly good is that it’s a global index
of first and last name pairs. By putting together the first initial and
last name of the users and analyzing the frequency of the output, Bowes
constructed what he believes to be a compelling list of most common
potential usernames:

    * 129,369 jsmith
    * 79,365 ssmith
    * 77,713 skhan
    * 75,561 msmith
    * 74,575 skumar”

the list of Facebook users isn’t a breach of privacy, experts suggest
it highlights the importance of keeping an eye on your privacy settings.

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