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10/29/2008
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Bono's Bikini Teens Perplex Facebook's Privacy

An American fashion student and her British friend's pose with the U2 front man call into question what kinds of rules should be standard on the social network.


Bono's Facebook Photos

Bono's Facebook Photos
(click for larger image)

With a network of over 110 million users, Facebook represents a high-profile target, both for cybercriminals and for security companies.

For the former, finding a Facebook vulnerability promises greater exposure for malware; for the latter, finding a Facebook vulnerability promises greater exposure for security software.

Last week, the U.K.'s The Daily Mail posted photos of two bikini-clad 19-year-olds, American fashion student Andrea Feick and her British friend Hannah Emerson, posing with U2 singer Bono and musician Simon Carmody in St. Tropez, France.

Typical tabloid fodder, but for the fact that the photos didn't come from a paparazzo; they were posted on Facebook by Feick and Emerson. Because nothing else of note was happening in the world, the photos became news.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, a U.K.-based security company, believes Facebook's privacy mechanics deserve some of the blame. In an online post, he notes that "joining a geographic network automatically opens up the user's whole profile to every other member of the network, no matter how stringent your previous privacy settings."

"The only problem was that American fashion student Andrea Feick was a member of the New York geographic network on Facebook, meaning that her profile was open for over a million people to view," said Cluely in a separate post. "Of course, this could all be very innocent and the girls could be family friends -- but that didn't stop the newspapers making hay about what Bono might be up to away from his wife Ali."

Thus, Cluley suggests, Feick's membership in the New York group on Facebook could have changed her privacy settings from allowing "Only Friends" access to her Facebook pictures to allowing "Networks and Friends."

Based on The Daily Mail's report, it's not clear whether the two women intended to share their photos as widely as they did. They may well have posted them without thinking about the impact that tabloid insinuations might have on their pictured companions.

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