Science, Tech & Environment

A British spy, a Speedo and Facebook

"The World's" Lisa Mullins got the story from Sarah Lyall, London correspondent for the "New York Times."

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Meeting with your friends and bringing Barack Obama along, well, you'd definitely want to put that up on your Facebook page. But, as you may have discovered, people sometimes post a little too much information on the networking site.  

Eyebrows were raised when Shelley Sawers -- the wife of Sir John Sawers, the head of Britain's spy agency MI6 -- posted on Facebook photos of him playing Frisbee in a Speedo bathing suit. She also posted photos of where she and her husband live, and noted the names of some of their friends and relatives.

In her column for the "Times, Lyall said it's as if suddenly the internet were awash with pictures of CIA director, Leon Panetta, cowering half naked on vacation.

Lyall: "Well, it's a little bit embarrassing. By the time everyone else got to look at this page, it had been put under some kind of lock so you can't actually access it unless you have special permission from the page owner. So we have to sort of go on what the "Mail" on Sunday, the tabloid that broke the story, says. They say that the photographs that were on the site show the MI6 chief -- who takes over in November -- with his family, with his children, with his mother, that it reveals details about where they live. They ran a smattering of photographs on the page, and they didn’t seem so bad, they were like any normal people, you know, on various vacations. And the truth about it is, he didn't look so bad in his Speedo."

As for whether this was more of an embarrassment than a security breach, Lyall says there are some Brits who are taking it seriously: "Well, it divided people in Britain as whether this was a huge issue or it wasn't. Some members of the opposition said -- pointing out that this security agency MI6 was shrouded in secrecy until a couple years ago -- that the government barely admitted it existed. Never revealed the name of its chief, and certainly never let photographs of the person be disseminated.

"And they said, you know, that so much money has been spent insuring these people's safety, and their security, that this kind of wrecks every effort that's been made. The government itself, at least overtly, doesn't seem to be that upset. The initial reports were that the family had to take down the Facebook page. And then when I went in last night, it seemed ... that they put it under some kind of lock, but didn't take it down all together. So it couldn’t have been that bad, really."

David Miliband, the foreign secretary in Britain, said: "it's not a State secret that he  (meaning the new intelligence head) wears a Speedo swimming trunk. For goodness sake, let's grow up."

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