Security geek explains why he leaked Facebook data online

A security consultant has posted the personal details of over 100 million Facebook users in one downloadable file online.

The file is available from the popular file sharing site Pirate Bay and already thousands of users have downloaded it.

Ron Bowles, the guy who was responsible for leaking the data he collected from Facebook has now explained to the BBC how he got the data and why he did what he did.

Using a simple piece of code, he scanned all the Facebook profiles to collect data on everyone who didn’t have their privacy settings set to private, and this data would then form the basis of a useful tool for testing security systems.

Mr Bowes told the BBC that his original plan was to “collect a good list of human names that could be used for these tests”.

However, once he’d done it, he realised that others would be interested in the data and that if he could get hold of it, so could anyone else, and perhaps not for good reasons either. So Bowes decided to release it online to highlight the security issue.

Bowes is keen to point out that many people might be unaware that this data is already available publicly for anyone who wants it, all he did was “compile public information into a nice format for statistical analysis” he said, and likened it to the information available in a telephone directory.

Simon Davies from Privacy International told the BBC that what Bowes did was an “ethical attack” and said that it was an issue for Facebook now and that they have a responsibility to do something beyond the bare minimum about security.

This latest leak is bound to throw fuel on an already raging fire despite assurances from the popular social networking site who said in a statement to the BBC that “no private data is available or has been compromised” by the information.

Mr Bowes says he made it available to highlight the risks that Facebook users are taking.

“Since this is already public information, I see very little harm in disclosing it” he said.

Personally I think there are far greater security issues online that could have much more devastating consequences than what amounts to a list of Facebook users, it’s just the size of that list that’s disturbing.

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