Here we go again -- another story about the "perils of social networking" that's gonna freak people out about Facebook. A 26-year-old guy from Minnesota named Timothy P. Noirjean faces 13 felony charges after being accused of "tricking" young women into becoming "Facebook friends," then stealing their photos and personal information to post on porn sites.
Noirjean's scheme worked like this: After he contacted several women online and duped them into providing him with personal information, he "hacked" (that word makes me laugh, because it's not like this required some kind of in-depth computer coding) their Facebook accounts and others. He would then would pose as the account's owner to make contact with that person's friends and work on getting into those accounts, as well.
The tool troll young man was residing with his parents when the cops came in and seized his computer, according to the complaint. 13 women -- ranging in age from 17 to 25 years old -- were victimized. Supposedly, Noirjean (sounds like a French spy name, right?) gained access or tried to gain access to more than 100 accounts, but of course, that's probably a gross underestimation.
Sure, I feel awful for the young women who were victimized here -- particularly the ones whose "compromising" photos are now on porn sites and those who thought they were just talking to a real friend, who in reality, Noirjean was impersonating. That's super creepy.
But the ones who provided their personal info to "Steve Mills" (a pseudonym Noirjean used) -- the ones who triggered the whole chain of events here -- were being absolute morons. Giving out info like passwords or phone numbers to strangers is obviously the opposite of responsible Internet behavior.
Furthermore, anyone who friends someone they actually don't know is just asking for trouble. Sorry to be an antisocial (networking) buzzkill here, but Facebook isn't the place to be making friends with strangers. (I don't mean friends of friends or someone you've met briefly, but clearly, you're putting yourself at risk when you friend anyone you don't really know.)
Overall, I feel like labeling this situation a cautionary tale about social networking ("We're all at risk of being HACKED! Dun dun-DAAA!") is a mistake. The reality is that creeps have been committing privacy and sexual crimes for hundreds of years in all different ways. When it happens on social networking sites these days, it's more likely to make the news. That doesn't mean Noirjean shouldn't be punished -- of course he should!
But at the same time, the blame doesn't lie squarely with him or any other "bad guys." We're also responsible for guarding our privacy on the Internet. Doing so is as easy as remembering two lessons from kindergarten: 1. Don't talk to strangers, and 2. Try not to be friends with stupid people.
Do you think a few of the women victimized in this scheme should have been smarter about safeguarding their personal info on Facebook? Are you wary of strangers who contact you on the site?
image via David Goehring/Flickr