When a security researcher made personal profile information of more than 170 million Facebook users available to the public on BitTorrent--a peer-to-peer file sharing site--many questioned why he did not attempt to sell that information to an interested party. Names and profile data on that many Facebook users is a potential gold mine of valuable marketing data.
The list of companies that appear to have downloaded the Facebook data includes 65 organizations--many of which are household names like Cisco, Intel, Apple, and Symantec.
Microsoft was conspicuously absent from the list of corporations that have tapped the treasure trove of Facebook data. The blog post does point out, though, that "Just because a company is on the list, doesn`t mean that it`s a sanctioned download by the company itself to grab the user information for some purpose. It could easily just be some dude at the company who wanted to download the torrent himself to check it out."
The corporations that have downloaded the Facebook data may not even know yet why they did, or what they plan to do with it. But, the fact that a file exists which contains personal information for millions of customers that might prove valuable in the future is reason enough to go ahead and acquire the data while its still out there.
The Facebook data in the BitTorrent file doesn`t contain much in the way of personal information, but companies can still use it to start to build a database of Facebook customers. The Facebook profile URLs can be analyzed to see if there is any other information--such as personal e-mail addresses, geographic location, age, or other valuable data.
BDST: 1915 HRS, 31 July 2010