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Abusing Social Networks for Automated User Profiling

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Executive Summary

Recently, social networks such as Facebook have experienced a huge surge in popularity. The amount of personal information stored in these sites calls for appropriate security precautions to protect this data. In this paper, the authors describe how people are able to take advantage of a common weakness, namely the fact that an attacker can query the social network for registered e-mail addresses on a large scale. Starting with a list of about 10.4 million email addresses, the authors were able to automatically identify more than 1.2 million user profiles associated with these addresses. By crawling these profiles, the authors collect publicly available personal information about each user, which they use for automated profiling (i.e., to enrich the information available from each user).

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