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    MIT Technology Review: Privacy Plug-In Fakes out Facebook

    MIT Technology Review talks about FaceCloak, a new browser plug-in that hides updates. The story:

    Now, researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario have developed a browser plug-in to help users keep their information private from prying eyes and from social-network providers as well. Urs Hengartner, an assistant professor of computer science, and his colleagues say the plug-in replaces sensitive information in a user’s profile and news feed with meaningless text that can only be unscrambled by trusted friends or contacts. Dubbed FaceCloak, the tool assures its users that sensitive data stays private. […]

    FaceCloak, implemented as a plug-in for Mozilla’s Firefox browser, allows a user to designate–using two “at” signs (“@@”), by default–what information should be encrypted and only made available to friends. A FaceCloak user holds a secret access key but also sends two other keys to her friends. Those keys are then used to access the real information, which is held on a separate server. While the same concept could be used on other social networks–such as Twitter and MySpace–Hengartner and his colleagues focused on the largest provider.

    Similar tools are being developed by other academic teams to address the privacy issues plaguing social networks.

    The researchers admit that there are still privacy problems concerning photos and the security of third-party servers.

    I’ve written before about how employers and colleges are using data culled from social networking sites when making decisions about individuals. Sometimes data from sites like Facebook and MySpace are used in criminal trials. Once data is published online, it’s difficult to control who sees it and how the data is used, so I urge discretion in online postings.

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