Snooping the social media: the PCC and privacy

Here’s a fantastic article by Colin Meek at from yesterday.

It details how to use advanced operators in Google (in conjunction with a knowledge of field and metadata conventions) to unearth all kinds of private and public information in social networks.

This work has been carried out to inform a Press Complaints Commission investigation into social network sites, findings of which will be shared at an event next week.

Having read through Colin’s working, there are a couple of things I wanted to add.

Specifically – it is possible with a slight augmentation and an additional online resource to actually browse for the mobile phone numbers (and email addresses) of social networkers in Bebo and Myspace using Google (rather than just happen across them serendipitously).

I don’t know whether Colin has already covered this in his correspondence with the PCC, and kept it private (he may well have done), but just to make sure I’m going to be emailing Tim Toulmin, Director of the PCC, from my BBC account on Monday morning with these findings (I’ll copy Oliver Luft and Colin at in too).

Because its a pretty sensitive area, I won’t be publishing this information here – but any investigative journalists at the BBC who are interested can drop me a line and I’ll pass the info on.

This is all very prescient given today’s news about a complaint lodged to Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner concerning various alleged breaches of the country’s privacy laws by Facebook (surely one of the most secure social networks).

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