A team of researchers from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, have highlighted the importance of knowing who you are befriending on Facebook. In an experiment that saw the creation of 102 fictitious Facebook profiles, the team were able to connect with a number of users who accepted friendship requests, and then harvest up to 250GB of data.
They found that the initial sending of random friend requests resulted in a 20% confirmation rate, yet once they were friends with someone, their friends were more inclined to accept a random friend request. When users believed the random person sending a friend request was one of their network’s 2nd-degree friends, the success rate jumped to 60%. Rather predictably, the bot accounts with photos of more attractive people (the profile pictures were pulled from the high-end of Hot Or Not) did the best.
A more technical explanation of what the UBC team did can be found within the original article I read on TechCrunch. But the point to take from this is if you don’t know someone, don’t confirm them as a friend. If a complete stranger came up to you on the street and asked for a potted history of what you’ve been up to for the last few years, along with some photos and private information to boot, you wouldn’t give them the time of day. Why should your someone trying to save your Facebook profile information be any different?