Facebook users are now able to check up on potential Facebook friends with a new application called Friend Verifier which is able to check up on individuals to see if they – at some point – have ended up on a sex offenders registry, to prevent users inadvertently befriending potentially dangerous predators.
The application works by connecting with publically available sex offender registries in the USA to retrieve results. Previously the only way to get the results was to log into the sex offenders website. The creators of the software claims that this new Facebook app will raise awareness to the issue of predators on Facebook by providing this convenient interface between the Facebook user and the registry database.
And awareness it certainly has raised. The site creators already claim they have had over 300,000 hits since the application went live. The Facebook application seems to represent the most high profile and easiest way Internet users can search such public records such as the national sex offenders registry.
However, whilst it may be true that applications like these may become more commonplace in this world of ever increasing online sharing and socialising, it should be noted that applications like this should not be considered a replacement to the due diligence and common sense practises one should always use when using sites like Facebook, MySpace or even online dating sites. The possible downside to these sort of applications is that they may cause Facebook users to become more complacent with their own security and privacy.
Applications like Friend Verifier are not game changers. Just because an individual does not produce results from the application, it does not mean they are safe to trust. Applications like this – whilst potentially useful – may fool people into believing they are much more effective than they actually are – [in reality this application barely scratches the surface when it comes to archiving all the dangerous people out there on the Internet] – thus Internet users should still exercise the same caution they normally would have done before the application existed. For example only friend people on social networking sites if you know them in person and never meet people in the real world that you have met from the Internet. Remember not all dangerous people will appear on this application and in the context of social or online dating profiles; it’s hardly difficult to create user accounts with fake names and pictures.
It is important that an individual not believe using the Friend Verifier application constitutes sufficient due diligence and thus forgoes other safety practises they normally would put into place without the application. Friend Verifier should be considered an extra layer of caution, and should absolutely not replace any other common sense practise Internet users should already be putting into place. Something we’d like the authors of Friend Verifier to iterate on their application and website.
So if you do want to check up on some potential friend or work colleague who is giving you the creeps, you can find information and links to the installation page here.
What do you think? Are these applications ultimately good, or do you think they could make some Internet users too complacent? Do you think the authors of Friend Verifier should make it more prominent that using the application should not replace other aspects of due diligence?