There is definitely good reason to be careful when using Facebook – and it’s not limited to that social networking application by any means.
Sharing information like your mother’s maiden name (commonly used by banks etc as extra security questions) with even your close friends online is asking for trouble.
And Facebook does make it easy to do this, allowing third party plug-ins and apps to invite you to record that information and then enabling you to make it available to anyone you categorise as a friend.
But you have to choose to do both of those things: you don’t have to record any but the most harmless information (ie that which is easily available anyway), and you can set your profile to limit the information made available to various groups of users.
I find the media treatment of this issue to be unsurprisingly hysterical, in both senses. One story revealed how using a name and address from a Facebook page, journalists were able to find information on other sites which they then used to open a bank account in his name, set up credit cards, etc etc.
Well, you don’t have to go to Facebook to get a name and address, you can get that from the White Pages.
And what about these “other sites”?
The real risk factor lies in how a person uses Facebook. Few people bother to give it much thought or explore the how-tos, even though I think Facebook does a pretty good job of making the consequences of actions and decisions as plain as can be.
There is undoubtedly a percentage of Facebook users who are unwittingly leaving themselves open to identity fraud, even if only at the hands of dedicated journalists.
The thing with Facebook is that, with 42 million users, even 1% translates to a huge number.
Personally, I enjoy using Facebook to share stupid, funny things with a certain number of my friends. Other friends prefer Myspace, while some business colleagues use LinkedIn in the same way but for more serious purposes. They all have their risks, and they all have their benefits.
As with everything else, use your common sense, read the rules, accept responsibility for your actions and be careful out there.