Facebook stalking for fun and profit

If Mark Zuckerberg can have his own personal stalker, why can't you? It's easy -- just ignore your Facebook privacy settings.

What do you give a man with $7 billion+ and 600 million close personal friends? How about his very own stalker?

An apparently disturbed individual named Pradeep Manukonda has been hounding Mark Zuckerberg and his sister Randi both on Facebook and in person upwards of 20 times a day, asking for money and allegedly threatening their safety.

According to TMZ (which does not stand for Terrorize Mark Zuckerberg, though it probably should), Brother and Sister Zuck obtained a restraining order against the man.

[ See also: Facebook ads use your face for free ]

Hey, when you’re rich and famous these things just happen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been approached by guys just like this (though usually they turn out to be process servers). And nobody deserves to be hounded simply because they’re successful.

But I also can’t help snickering just a winchy bit about chickens coming home to roost. When sharing is “the new social norm,” guys like Pradeep are part of the bargain.

There’s a fine line between being a public person and having a private life, which Zuckerberg should understand that better than anybody. (Don’t agree? Go see The Social Network and then let’s talk.). Just because you put stuff about yourself online doesn’t mean it should be fair game for everyone; you should be able to choose who does and doesn’t get to see it. That’s what people like me (and a few million others) have been saying from the get go about Facebook’s privacy controls. Though they are much improved, they’re still not as brain-dead simple as they need to be.

This situation reminds me of LifeLock CEO Todd Davis, who published his own social security number on his company home page to show how confident he was that his $10 a month service would thwart identity thieves. Guess whose identity got stolen and abused a dozen times? Yep, that guy. (Lifelock’s home page no longer displays Davis’ SSN. Maybe the $12 million fine the FTC laid on them for deceptive advertising had something to do with that.)

Though Zuck isn’t claiming Facebook as an antidote to stalkers, he is the poster boy for Life Sharing. Fact is, though, you don’t have to have Zuckerbucks to be the target of unwanted attentions. It’s clear this is a growing concern for a lot of people – how else to explain that rash of bogus “Find out who’s stalking you on Facebook” apps that appeared on the network last month? (They are bogus by the way – usually phishing scams, though they may also install malware.)

I think 2011 will be the year a lot of people pull back from all this naked sharing they’ve been doing and take a harder look at the stuff they’ve put out there and what they can do to get some of it back. And I believe Mark Zuckerberg will be one of them.

ITworld TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan is not stalking Mark Zuckerberg, no matter what people might tell you. But he’d happily ignore MZ for a few thousand Facebook stock options. Experience his juvenile sense of humor at eSarcasm (Geek Humor Gone Wild) or follow him on Twitter:@tynan_on_tech.

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