In the past few months, Facebook and Twitter have turned their feud from subtle one-upmanship to a full on public battle. Twitter wanted Instagram, but Facebook bought it. Twitter developed the six-second video app Vine, so Facebook gave Instagram 15-second video capabilities. Facebook keeps updating its interface to seem more like Twitter, but fervently denies the copycat moves. Back and forth they go.
However, Facebook competed with Twitter this weekend for a more unsavory trophy than it wanted to: the least secure network for user data.
The Download Your Information (DYI) tool reads the address books of users and provides suggestions for friends. It either finds contacts that aren’t on Facebook for you to invite or suggests people for the you to request as a friend. When this tool was compromised on Friday, more than 6 million users had their contact information inadvertently shared with other people.
Facebook claims that most the contact information was only shared once or twice with other users – and none of the information was given to advertisers and third parties. The shared information only consisted of email addresses and phone numbers, no financial information was compromised.
As far as security breaches go, this is hardly a blip on the radar. With more than 1 billion users, the probability that your information was shared was only .6 percent. Furthermore, the information wasn’t publicized or taken by given to hackers. Only one other person online was given your cell phone and email and it was someone you have already come into contact with. That’s a lot less worrisome than hackers distributing information to complete strangers all over the world.
Facebook immediately disabled the tool and apologized to its users. This may have only been a blip, but it was a pretty embarrassing blip.
In the battle between Twitter and Facebook, Twitter is king of flash-in-the-pan security breaches. 250,000 accounts were hacked in February, Burger King and Jeep have faced embarrassing hacks and the Syrian Electronic Army has been treating Twitter like its playground for months now.
While Twitter may be sprinting ahead with every publicly hacked account, Facebook has been the tortoise with a slow bleed of questionable privacy changes. Usually these changes involve giving advertisers more personal information or making the privacy jargon more ambiguous. Changing Facebook privacy settings have become a universal truth on par with invasive airline security and cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving.
So what are users supposed to do with this information? Should we all follow security updates as closely as we track our fantasy teams? Should we sign-off and hide from the Internet entirely? It’s as impractical to hide from the Internet for security reasons as it is to walk everywhere to avoid car accidents. Like driving, the best an Internet user can do is take safety precautions: change passwords regularly, set up double verification be careful with third party apps.
Who do you think has sketchier security? Twitter or Facebook?