Easily View Hidden Facebook Friend Lists

Amid all the festivities of the Christmas season, the time off from other responsibilities has given me some more time to pursue one of my hobbies: hacking. (Or at least trying to hack – much of what I do would probably not be considered true “hacking” by many.)

Lately I’ve demonstrated how various data on Facebook, such as photo albums and events, can be accessed by anyone when most users would probably think otherwise. You can now add friend lists to that category of data.

You may recall that when Facebook rolled out their new privacy settings, many analysts complained about the list of who a user had “friended” becoming part of what Facebook classified as Publicly Available Information. In response, Facebook added a setting to remove the lists from a user’s profile, a move that seemed to quell some of the criticism.

But Facebook also made one point clear about friend lists: “This information is still publicly available, however, and can be accessed by applications” (Source: CNET). Since Facebook still considers friend lists to be PAI, I do not consider the details I’m about to publish a vulnerability and therefore feel free to disclose them.

Replace USERID in the following URI with a Facebook user’s ID number (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg’s is 4) and load the URI: http://www.facebook.com/ajax/typeahead_friends.php?u=USERID&__a=1 You’ll see a chunk of JSON that includes a list of the user’s friends, including names and profile links. The list is sorted by friends’ ID numbers. By the way, you don’t even need to be logged into Facebook for this trick to work. (Interestingly enough, I had come across a similar technique years ago, forwarded details to Facebook, then forgot about it; I wonder if this would have worked even prior to the new privacy controls.)

Once again, if you’re using Facebook, make sure you understand what information is available to everyone. (And have a merry Christmas! :)

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