The Security Implications of Social Networks

By Sherry Harowitz

Everyone’s familiar with the mapping of the genome, but you may not have heard about a more ambitious effort to map what scientists are calling the connectome, defined as a graphic representation of the brain’s synaptic connections. Such a microscopic roadmap, scientists say, might reveal not just inherited traits but also likes and dislikes; it may even give clues to future behavior.

It will likely be years before such a detailed grid of our personality is within reach, if it can ever be compiled, but there are already many ways in which social scientists are trying to map and predict human behavior based on macro connections—using our social networks. Though there may be some scary implications to all this, it is yielding many interesting security applications.

These efforts are facilitated by the proliferation of Web sites that emphasize personal connections. Through these venues, people voluntarily provide a wealth of data points about their own social interactions. As an example of how that information can be used, at least one company, Social Intelligence Corp., has a service where it offers to help clients weed out undesirable job candidates (and monitor current employees) by analyzing their social graph using only public information.

(To keep reading November's editor's note "The Social Side of Security," click here.)

♦ Photo by Marc_Smith/Flickr


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