March 11, 2009

a case of borrowed identity

Since all types of librarians and information professionals have been blogging about facebook lately, I figure it's ok to add to the mix.

This past weekend, my boyfriend Joe got an unusual update on his facebook news feed. Facebook wanted to let him know that someone from his graduating class had just joined facebook. Interesting enough, this user displayed his name as Joe's full name, which admittedly, is common enough. Yet as the day progressed, the news feed updated Joe that this new user now had 10 friends in common....30 friends in common...and the profile pic of Joe2 was now a picture of him (the real Joe) and me. Whoa!

At first, we thought it was someone being clever...a goofy thing to do to a friend. But the more the imposter became friends with Joe's friends, the more we both began to feel uneasy. After texting a friend or two about it, someone let me know that a second Joe had added her on myspace too! She, and everyone else, figured that Joe had simply created another account - after all, it was the right name, right face...a little scary!

We surmised that the profile picture was taken from my myspace - which I keep public for the teens at the library to look at and add me. A coworker who had added Joe2 let us look at his profile, and the imposter barely added any information...

So what was the point of this? No one claimed responsibility with a 'gotcha!', no information was sent out, no new labels were attached... but the threat of those last two remains. Joe (the real one) eventually invited everyone he had in common with Joe2 to an event - telling everyone to delete the 2nd Joe. Joe2 suddenly made his profile pic and friends private, so we can only hope that our friends listened to the event's request.

It's pretty freaky how easy someone can be mimicked online. What kind of protection can we set in motion? Making things private helps a little, but it sure isn't foolproof. Information literacy - critical thinking - this should be emphasized when dealing with interactions online. I have a feeling stuff like this will become more commonplace, and people need to get used to being skeptical about whats going on in facebook.

So just who would be great at information literacy training/ instructional technologies? Why...public and school librarians!