Facebook just turned 5 years old last month. At a time when there should have been celebration, the good times were marred by news reports about sex scandals, phishing, and other malicious activity on the large social network.
On February 4, 2009, news broke of an elaborate sex ring involving at least 31 high school students and an 18 year old man who manipulated the students on Facebook. There have also been many reports of fraudsters who phished on Facebook and were able to get enough information to commit identity fraud.
With the news this week-end, from Clay Aiken about the “fake” Facebook site in his name, there has been much discussion about Facebook Identity Fraud. Is identity fraud a big problem and is there a way to close the accounts and punish the person who is the Facebook imposter?
There have been concerns in the past over Facebook becoming a hotbed for identity theft. With all of the personal information available on profiles, industry pundits feared social networking sites would be easy pickings for hackers. What they didn’t predict was ‘Facebook identity theft’, meaning someone virtually stealing your identity on Facebook.
There are many stories about celebrities, sports stars and even the every-day people who have discovered they have a Facebook imposter.
CNN reported that Moroccan authorities arrested an engineer for allegedly stealing the identity of the king’s younger brother on Facebook. It was reported that the imposter was very good and that he had many friends of the Prince signed in as friends.
For some reason the NHL has been having a huge problem with identity imposters. There are many people posing as these celebrity athletes. Their spokesman said that it plays into the old adage, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. If you think you’re in the real Jonathan Cheechoo’s friend list, you probably aren’t.
“People have asked me if I’m on Facebook,” said Calgary Flames right winger, Jarome Iginia. “I guess my name is on it. I don’t go on it so I don’t know too much about it. I don’t know what can be done, but I’m not on there.”
Players, Mike Fisher and Mats Sundin have tried to get their pages shut down. However, that is difficult to do. Shut one down and another one opens.
On July 24, 2008 the High Court in London ordered Grant Raphael to pay GBP £22,000 (about USD $31,500 at the February 2009 exchange rate) for breach of privacy and libel. Raphael had posted a fake Facebook page purporting to be that of a former school friend and business colleague, Mathew Firsht, with whom Raphael had falling out in 2000. The fake page claimed that Firscht was homosexual and untrustworthy. The case is believed to be the first successful invasion of privacy and defamation verdict against someone over an entry on a social networking site.
A newspaper writer discovered he had a Facebook imposter. To help solve the problem, the writer registered another profile and sent the imposter a friend request which was promptly accepted. The imposter was very busy. He invited dozens of people. He joined a housing group and added musical and political preferences to the site.
After about 2 weeks, the writer who is middle-eastern, was feeling uncomfortable with the political comments on the site, and felt it had gone too far. He contacted Facebook and his lawyer. The woman who answered at Facebook said; “It’s happened before, so you are not alone.” After contacting a customer service representative, he was told that he must prove his identity before they would close the profile. The writer demanded to see all the postings to see the extent of the damage done. Facebook would not provide that information.
“We will not share any user information unless that user permits it or we are required by law,” explained Facebook spokeswoman Brandee Barker, although the user in question had set up the fake profile. The writer’s lawyer contacted Facebook and was told that they would only release the information if it received a court order.
What does this all mean to Clay Aiken? Well, it looks like a lot of time and money would have to be spent to find the person who was his imposter. It must be frustrating to not know all the things that might have been done in his name.
It is sad that people cannot be respectful of the privacy of others. But, it’s like anything else. There is always someone looking to create some trouble for others.