If you are new to the social networking world and want to get online fast, you may want to ask yourself: "Which is safer: MySpace or Facebook?" You really need to look at both websites, read up on the various news reports and studies, and even talk to others you know who have profiles up and running. Only then will you be able to make an informed decision.
Social Networks: Are They Really Safe?
What it all comes down to when determining which social network is the safest is understanding how private your personal information really is. Sure, you can sign up and adjust your account settings to hide your profile, but is it really private? To the normal Internet user, yes, it is. But to Internet hackers, a private profile just means a little leg work needs to be done to find security holes. Profile breaches have happened and will continue to occur no matter what measures social networks take.
MySpace Security Issues
Since its inception, MySpace has been criticized for not keeping its users safe from predators, stalkers, bullies, hackers, etc. The following a small list of some of the safety and security concerns with the website:
- In an August 2008 report by CNET stated that a glitch in MySpace's mobile security system allowed private messages to be publicly viewed. Another recent security hole allowed users to delete bulletins from group in which they didn't belong and to post messages in group from which they were banned.
- In January 2008, a file with millions of images from private profiles was lifted from MySpace and uploaded to Bit Torrent, a large, public file-sharing site.
- In 2007, there was a MySpace hoax in which a 13-year-old girl committed suicide after a fake user named "Josh" befriended her and then abruptly ended their relationship. "Josh" turned out to be members of a neighborhood family out to get the young teen. The fake profile was created by an adult.
Facebook Security Issues
While Facebook has been deemed "safer" than MySpace, it too has not been without security problems:
- In August 2008, a third-party application was found that allowed people to read comments on others' pages, even if they aren't friends.
- In March 2008, a security breach allowed individuals to view private photographs of many users, including those of celebrity Paris Hilton.
- More than 80 million users who opted not to have their personal information made public had just that happen during a test run of site's new beta format in July 2008.
- In August 2007, Facebook's source code for the main home page was leaked. This could cause problems for the social network as other security holes could be found and exploited.
- In 2007, an undercover investigation found that teenagers received sexual advances from others within days of setting up their accounts. In one instance, a law enforcement agent, posing as a 14-year-old girl, received sexually explicit messages from a 24-year-old male. A month after the event happened, Facebook had not removed the comments.
Which Is Safer? MySpace or Facebook
Despite all of the security problems MySpace and Facebook have had, site owners have made some strides to keep their users safe. And determining which site is the safest depends on what security measures you expect in a social network:
- In May 2008, an agreement was made between Facebook and the attorney general offices in most of the states in the U.S to monitor younger users more carefully and to establish age verification technology that would notify Facebook officials when an under-age user sends messages to an unknown adult.
- MySpace has a similar plan in place and has agreed to make all profiles of 14- and 15-year-olds private (and they won't be able to make them public). Profiles of 16- and 17- year-olds will also automatically be set to private, but they will have the option of making them public.
- Today's MySpace privacy settings include giving you control over who can see you online, who can view your profile and photos, who knows your birthday and how to block users.
Safe Alternatives to MySpace or Facebook
If you aren't convinced that MySpace or Facebook is safe, then consider these alternative social networks:
Stay Safe, No Matter What
It doesn't matter which social network you register with, being safe online should be a priority. Experienced hackers can easily break into your profiles and steal whatever information you have posted. Also, if someone seems too good to be true, they usually are. It is very easy to fake your life on the Internet. To keep yourself and your family secure, heed the following:
- Never give out personal information such as:
- Full name
- Phone number
- Credit cards or social security numbers
- Place of employment
- Name of school
- Passwords to online accounts
- Do not post questionable or inappropriate pictures of yourself, your family or your friends. They can be copied, altered and used in inappropriate ways all over the Internet.
- Don't agree to meet someone in person whom you've never met before unless a friend (preferably an adult) goes with you and you meet in a public place. Always tell someone (again a parent or other adult) who you are meeting and give him or her information about that individual.
- Don't add anyone as a friend or accept their messages if you don't know them.
- Report any and all suspicious behavior to an adult.
Use Your Best Judgment
It all comes down to using your best judgment when picking a social network. If something doesn't feel right about it, then don't join it. If you are asked for some information you aren't comfortable sharing, then don't share it. Social networks, even MySpace and Facebook, can be fun and enjoyable places if you know how to play it safe.