25 Things You Gave on Facebook to Help Get Your ID Stolen

There is a rage going on in Facebook involving this 25 Interesting Things About Me note everybody is writing. Problem is, it just gives people more materials to help steal your identity. Not the easy stuff like your birthday, social insurance number and such, but the hard stuff that gives life, historical and personality details to really become you.

The phenomena is called a meme, rhyming with theme. It is a unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols or practices transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. It is chain mail seen by all your Facebook friends or more. However, the personal element of tagging your friends to personalize it is what makes it work. Everybody loves it when people want to know lots of interesting things about themselves and have it seen by lots of others who “someone” has trusted to be “safe” by having them as their “Facebook friends”! The Notes platform where you share this is also common to everyone’s profile, unlike Applications which require you to join.

So that’s the phenomenon. How big is it? According to Time magazine this past Thursday on Feb 05, the week leading up to that alone saw about 5 million such notes or 125 million facts. Everybody is writing one, apparently. Even people I know who have never written such a survey note have written one. For the record, though, I have not written one. But I have one “Facebook friend” who has written two because s/he is “so interesting”.

Correct that. Had one “Facebook friend”. Toss! See my Practical Guide to Facebook Etiquette for purging “Facebook friends”.

On a conservative estimate of 10 minutes to write such a note, that was 800,000 hours of time that could have been put to other use. I think it’d be more like 15-20 minutes. They also did not estimate readership and time wasted there, probably because that would have been too speculative. However, I feel it’d be a safe bet that reading time would be far greater than the time it took all these people to write those notes.

The Time article had a great stance on the matter, though, to outline the 25 things the author wished her Facebook friends did NOT tell her about. I had a great laugh there. However, on a much more serious note, this is the very stuff people are looking for to steal your identity. It’s the stuff beyond the generic identifiers of you, like your birthday, address, phone and other numbers, which will give character to the ID they are looking to create. It makes it easier to tell stories about your life and be you without raising suspicions.

I’m not really looking at just people hacking into your various accounts to steal your IDs and money. Rather, I’m talking about the type who might have to call somewhere or do something in person pretending to be you. Or just use a story about you to con someone. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but you won’t be flattered if the imitation were used for something negative rather than to flatter you. Trust me. I know. I’ve had it done to me! Not for money, though. I just had a nice mainstream integrated lifestyle and persona one Asian youth struggling with adapting to life in Canada thought was the easy solution to overcoming his problems. Problem was he didn’t imitate me. He became me in a small city where word got around. Damage control was definitely interesting and I still wonder if I had got it all.

So there’s one interesting piece of information about me. At least I thought it was interesting. I’ve still got 24 bits on anyone who had written those notes, though.

As for people I know who have written those notes, I am fortunate to be able to say I have interesting friends with decent writing ability to convey really interesting notes. I wish I had the time to compile a list of 25 Things I Did NOT Want to Know about You (them), but I’ll just keep it in my mind.


Other Facebook issue posts on my site:

The Prejudices and Privacy Perils of Facebook Quizzes

How to Get Rid of Your Facebook Past

25 Things For Facebook You Can’t Steal My ID With

Una Guía de Netiqueta Práctica para Facebook


Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 7.9


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