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Thursday, September 15, 2011

When Facebook Ruins Friendships

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2011 at 8:30 AM


My best friend of 40 years says she saw a Facebook post from me to her old boyfriend on his profile about where he could go and see who was looking at his profile. Never in my right mind would I do this. Several of my friends posted this info long ago and I knew it was a fake and never reposted or hit the link. I don't even remember what it actually stated.

My question is could my name/Facebook have been hacked without my knowledge and then used to post this fake snooping link? If so, wouldn't this show up in my Facebook profile, as every time I've posted anything it shows up there? Also, I've looked at her old boyfriend's profile, as he has nothing set to private and there is no post from me. He is very inactive -- has only used his Facebook about 10 times in the last year so it was easy to look through and see that there was nothing posted from me as I have never contacted him. I hope you can help me as a 40-year friendship is going down the drain because I cannot convince my friend I did not do this.

It's quite possible your account was hacked. I'd change your password just in case. Also, log into your page, and on the Account button in the upper right corner, click on Privacy Settings, then Apps and Websites and see whether it contains any apps that look fishy or that you know you didn't download. If so, delete them. It's good to do periodic checks of your account to ensure that your privacy hasn't been compromised by the endless scams that sweep Facebook. Just today I found two weird apps that I'm pretty sure I'd never authorized, matter of fact. E-clicker? What the fuck is that?

The "who's looking at your profile" scam is one of the most common on Facebook, and it keeps coming back in different iterations, affecting tens of thousands of Facebook users in a matter of hours. As I wrote in my brief interview with Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant from the Net security firm Sophos:

AP: What actually happens if you are scammed? Do these apps do something with your data? Will they have access to your info forever or just until you remove the app?

GC: Most of these scams are designed to earn money for the scammers by earning a slice of cash each time you complete an online survey. Some of them also ask you for your cell phone number and then sign you up for an expensive subscription that you may not notice until you come around to paying the bill.
The rogue application you give permission to access your profile can post to your Facebook page (thus spreading the scam virally to your friends and colleagues) but it also means that it can peruse other aspects of your profile. So there is the potential for some personal information to be stolen (however, as far as we have seen, most of these scams concentrate on earning money through the surveys).
Once you've removed the app they won't be able to access your info.  But, of course, by the time you've removed the app it may be too late.

It's really surprising to me that your 40-year friendship would be on the rocks due to something as innocuous as a Facebook link, even if you hadn't been spammed, which you probably were. As to why it's not showing up on his page, it's possible that the old boyfriend saw the spammy link and deleted it. Also, since rogue apps send out mass links to your contacts, it wouldn't necessarily show up in your activities.

Tell your friend to chill the fuck out. The link she saw was spam, and it was just a link, not an invitation for her old boyfriend to watch you wrestle in jello or something. The bigger issue is your friend's insecurity. If she's not assuaged by your rational attempts to persuade her of your innocence, then it might be worth your while to simply de-friend the old boyfriend. Because he's barely active, and you're apparently forbidden from interacting with him anyway, then just end your misery and de-friend. Normally, I'd be all righteous about it, since you're clearly in the right, but sometimes it's better to simply disengage from people's weird hangups. And in this case, the sacrifice is minimal. Best of luck!

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at 

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley and @ExhibitionistSF or Facebook

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