Oops I lost my phone, Facebook Edition

Everyone on Facebook has seen it. The groups your friends join that have to do with someone losing their cell phone. Whether it’s in the toilet, left in a cab after a night of alcoholic debauchery, or just plain forgetfulness. Being the curious people we are, we click on the name of the group, to see who lost their phone this time. What is then listed is a bunch of random people you probably don’t know, listing their phone numbers. One I saw lately, listed a person’s phone number, and their boyfriend’s phone number, people I had no connection to. Just like we don’t want telemarketers calling us at home, which has brought about the existance of the ‘Do Not Call’ list, why do we want people getting your cell phone number who don’t have our conscious approval. Sooner or later, a malicious person will write a program scanning Facebook for events with the names of “I lost my cell phone” and scrape the numbers from the Event Wall, on sale to any one of the world’s nefarious buyers.

Being the security conscious person I am, my first thought is “Are you kidding me? You’re posting your cell phone number for anyone on Facebook too see.”  I figured there must be options in creating an event that prevent the whole world from reading your, and your friends' business.

So I went and created a test event, just to see how much you can secure the event and all it’s related content.

Step 1, Event Info: This means you can corral the event to a network you are part of, whether that be your city, job, or current/past place of education. Problem 1, if your network happens to be a large city such as New York City or Boston, that’s quite a lot of people. People you know, and a lot of people you don’t know. My suggestion, keep the network selection optional. From the start, I think an organizer should have the ability to select exactly what people can see your event, regardless of who you are inviting.

Step 2, Customize: This is where the meat of the privacy options present themselves. Under options you can choose to display, or hide, a host of information:

  • Enable the guest list (if invitees and/or the public, can see othre people you’ve invited)
  • The Wall (Like a bulletin-board for the event. Short notes of congratulations, transportation planning, or any other random things)
  • Photos (Embarassing pictures of you shotgunning a beer at an old fraternity event, baby pictures, etc).
  • Access: Open Event, Closed Event, or Secret Event.
    • Open Event: Pretty obvious. Anyone can see all the information, add themselves to the guest list.  Invitees can invite other people.
    • Closed Event: Only the location and time are disclosed, where the administrator of the event controls the guest list.
    • Secret Event: This event will not show up anywhere other than on the people you invite’s list (jsf: bingo!)
  • Publicize: Whether the event will show up in people’s search results.

These are pretty good options admittedly. If I were creating an event, I’d personally go with the ‘Secret Event.’ We all can relate to seeing some one’s created event, and not being on the invite list. “Hey, I should have been invited!” It’s the equivalent of publicly de-friending someone. You want to do it, but you don’t want the other person to know.

If I were creating an event where I lost my phone, that’s the way I’d go if I weren’t going to use a blanket private message. I’d create the event, and invite only people whose phone numbers I wanted. Using this method, the random Facebook user doesn’t see your event and go poking around for any personal information: phone numbers, addresses of events (and who will be there), etc.

But with all the logic Facebook can put into their event creation, it comes down to people being smart. Do you normally just give out your cell phone number, or write it on the bathroom wall in a bar? Because that’s what you’ve just done.

Be smart. If you’re invited to a Facebook event like this, private message your cell number to the person and write on the event wall, “Hey, I sent you my cell number in private message, find it there!” It’s not ignoring your friend, but it’s being a concious and intelligent consumer of Facebook.

Happy (and smart) Facebook eventing.

Jeffrey Forman
Jeffrey Forman

I do things that make the Internet work at work, and I play around with things that make the Internet work at home.