Mail UK: Special investigation: It took just one hour for internet experts to find out almost every private detail of this woman’s life
The Mail in the United Kingdom has an investigation into how private details about an individual can be gathered easily online. The writer, Steve Boggan, challenged Internet experts to gather data about his girlfriend, Suzanne Halam, but they were only given her name and address. (Boggan had Halam’s permission.)
Picking Suzanne’s life apart, [security expert Chris Sumner] told me, had taken him just over an hour. This is because, in common with millions of people in Britain, Suzanne uses the social networking sites Facebook and Friends Reunited, and has signed up to the business networking site LinkedIn and Flickr, the photo-sharing website.
By also using the genealogy website ancestry.co.uk, Sumner was able to piece together the names of all but one of Suzanne’s relatives, including cousins. Using electoral rolls on 192.com and by searching on Google, he found the addresses of her parents and lots of her friends and colleagues.
From her LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, he found the names of Suzanne’s primary and secondary schools, and a college she had attended in Derby. He also discovered she had studied fine art at Central St Martin’s College of Art & Design in London. […]
He was not only able to list all 41 countries she had visited, but also the 162 towns and islands to which she had been. Sumner was able to tell me Suzanne’s exact movements by cross-referencing her TripAdvisor entries with photographs she had posted on Flickr.
When you click on a picture on Flickr, a small box gives you access to detailed information that is entered not by you, but by your camera. So, the date and time of the shot are included. Now that phones and cameras have GPS, there are even concerns that the location of where you uploaded the picture — normally where you live — might be visible. […]
Suzanne had voluntarily signed up to these websites and, bit by bit, put most of this information out there herself — and forgotten much of it. However, what I found even more disturbing is that much of what Sumner found was supposed to have been visible only to people whom Suzanne had accepted into her inner circle of ‘friends’ on each networking website. This turned out to be dangerously naive.
Over the years, standard privacy settings — notably for Facebook — have changed, so what you once thought was private has become public. You are notified about these changes, but if you forget to adjust your individual settings to return to the old level of privacy (which can be fiendishly complicated) then some of your private information becomes available for everyone to see.