Posts Tagged ‘privacy’
Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
Friday, August 10th, 2012
It’s been barely 2 weeks since Mark Zuckerberg wooed investors and shareholders with his open and candid interview at the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference, and already Facebook has suffered another set back. After a brief hike in the share price, and what looked hope of recovery, Facebook has once again taken a blow.
This time, it’s privacy issues that are back on the agenda, and rumours of a potential security breach knocked confidence very soon after there was a 9.1% drop in the share price. It was the biggest drop since 27 July. Although few are directly making the link, this is further proof of the precarious and delicate situation that Facebook is in as they’re struggling to “get” mobile advertising, and getting ready to delve deeper into search and strengthen their ad network.
The rumours of the security breach started in France, where small numbers of Facebook users were complaining that private messages from the past were coming back to haunt them and were displayed on their Facebook Timeline. This prompted many users to delve into their archives to see if they too had been a “victim” of this “security breach”. Facebook later rebutted these claims and reassured users that private messages would remain private.
Facebook put the claims down to the differences in how we used Facebook in 2007, and how we use it now. Back in 2007, people used Facebook very differently, and the “private” messages users were seeing on their timeline were actually wall posts. Before tagging, likes, and timeline, users would regularly post directly to their friends wall, since this was more private that it is now. Add Timeline to the mix and messages that were once semi-private are now displayed for all the world to see.
With this rumour rebutted, another potentially more damaging story is starting to come to the surface. We all know that Facebook tracks our online activity to make our ads more direct and targeted, but what if they were planning to find ways to track our offline activity too? The Financial Times reported that Facebook has teamed up with Datalogix, a company that has been purchashing data about American households from store loyalty cards and similar programmes. By matching e-mail addresses and other identifying factors to Facebook accounts, Datalogix would be able to see if Facebook users purchased items after seeing an ad on the social media network.
While the reports would be private, and the data would be used to see which creative approaches are working and which aren’t, it sounds like the type of scheme that would send privacy savvy users running for the hills. Life Hacker has already published this guide on how to stop your data being shared in this way.
What do you think of these privacy issues? Could this be one step too far for most users?
Sunday, May 20th, 2012
There comes a point when Google’s attempts to be your best friend and confidante stops being helpful, and starts being borderline creepy. Google’s latest field test is yet another move towards strengthening the “knowledge graph” that will one day aim to make search both semantic and personal. With the World Wide Web currently bursting at the seams with information and content, Google wants to make it easier for users to wade through everything and hand pick the best of the best.
Users with a @google.com e-mail address who are currently using the site in English are now able to sign up to try the new style SERPs. The new result pages have some great features, such as group searches, which pulls together related search terms to help you find what you’re looking for. But Google is also trying out a new feature that will pull results from your gmail account into searches. Which begs the question – does anyone want, or even need their e-mails showing up in search results?
This is a feature that I certainly wouldn’t want – if I’m looking for an e-mail, I’ll search my inbox and sent items using the key terms I can remember from it. Likewise, if I’m using Google search, one of my primary goals is likely to be content discovery, so showing me content that I’ve already seen, or maybe even created is likely to be counter productive. With so many start-ups now trying to crack the problem of users trying to discover new content, it’s odd to see Google going in the exact opposite direction by bringing up old content.
The example that Google provides is based around planning a bike trip to Tahoe. The theory behind offering search results from your own e-mail account is based on the idea that your friends and family may have already sent recommendations to you via e-mail. So, rather than only provide itinerary plans and tips based on sites from around the web, you’ll see your personal results alongside the wider web.
This is likely to be an unpopular move with many Google users, particularly those who already feel that Google is intrusive and violates their privacy. By further blurring the line between personal and public, Google risks alienating their users. There’s already a vast array of information stored about users for advertising and market research purposes, and the more private users are likely to have qualms about their e-mails flashing up in search results. Imagine the difficulty you’d have lending a computer to a friend, or the nightmare of leaving your Google account logged in on a public computer!
What do you think of these changes? Should e-mails be showing up in searches?
Tuesday, May 8th, 2012
While the hot news this week is all about the Facebook IPO – with every tech news outlet on the planet debating the issue of ‘to buy or not to buy’ (with the majority ruling that you shouldn’t buy, but probably will) on this side of the pond a group of Austrian activists may be gearing up to throw a spanner in the Facebook works.
Mark Zuckerberg - Image from Mashable
The question now is, if this issue was put to a worldwide vote, would Facebook users be informed enough to vote, or would they even care enough to vote. The chnages would be binding if more than 30% of users voted in favour, a policy which is set out by Facebooks own statement of rights and responsibilities.
I reported last week on a study which said that privacy controls were ignored by a huge 13 million American users. While we don’t have any data from Europe or the rest of the world, it wouldn’t be too far fetched to assume the same.
With the new proposed data use policy being a hefty and jargon-filled document, it’s easy to see how the average social networker could be completely unpeterurbed by the potential privacy risks.
Share your thoughts below – would you like to see this issue go to a worldwide vote?
Monday, May 7th, 2012
Occasionally, a news story will show up in your news feed that will leave you staring at your computer screen in disbelief. And I’m not talking about the who’s dating whom stories, or what’s going to happen in next weeks Coronation Street. When the headline “Facebook Privacy Controls Ignored by 13 Million Users” cropped up in my Google reader, I genuinely couldn’t believe a word I was reading. Are there really than many of the Facebook population oblivious to the dangers to sharing too much information? Really.
According to the report by Consumer Reports, this is exactly the case, with 13 million Facebook users in the US alone unaware of, or ignoring, privacy settings. Consumer Reports technology editor Jeff Fox had this to say:
“Our investigation revealed some fascinating, and some disquieting trends, but ones always worth knowing for consumers who wish to keep their personal data under better control”
So why exactly to privacy settings matter?
Imagine this scenario, you’ve just moved in to a new house, you’re excitedly snapping pictures of your front door and local to share with friends on Facebook. You organise a housewarming party, and give your friends the address on a public event. Then you plan a weekend away and tweet about ‘how many sleeps’ till you’ll be jetting off somewhere sunny. And while you’re away, someone helps themselves to all your stuff.
Likewise, in the US, if you shared or liked a health condition or treatment information page , this could spell trouble when it comes to getting health insurance.
So how do you lock down your data to keep yourself covered?
If you’re curious, Facebook will now allow you to download all of the information you have stored on the website in one convenient zip file (be careful with this file!) This will no doubt be an eye-opener when you discover exactly how much you’ve been sharing with the world.
Head straight to your Facebook account and click on the ‘privacy settings’ option on the top right. Facebook has made it easy to either bulk protect your content, or customise it as you wish.You can select from ‘Public’, ‘Friends’, or ‘Custom’.
If you’ve recently been thrown in to Timeline, you may want to limit your old posts, which will be a bulk action applied to all older posts.
Also, be sure to keep checking which apps you still allow access to your Facebook data. If you haven’t used it in 3 months, you probably won’t use it again, so it would be advisable to revoke the access.
Sunday, February 12th, 2012
Reports coming from across the pond suggest that the FBI may be the next person to friend you on Facebook; but you won’t have any choice in accepting or declining this request. Just as we all got a little more savvy about what information we share and with whom, the FBI has decided they want to create a backdoor in our social networks to enable Government surveillance.
Image from dbaldinger.com
This move would be intended to replace the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, which covers telecommunications companies, but not Internet companies. As worldwide communication shifts in favour of social networking, VoIP and e-mail, the FBI wants to make sure they’re still able to snoop, and they’re asking Internet companies in the US not to resist the new law.
The FBI has drafted a proposal which would cover Social Networks, VoIP, and e-mail providers with over a certain number of users; Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook would all be affected. These companies would be required to make alterations to their code which would better enable them to wiretap suspected criminals.
Back in February 2011 the FBI reported that networks were ‘Going Dark’, which poses a problem for surveillance. As technology advances, the way we communicate is changing, and as a result we’re less easy to monitor. In the UK we saw an example of this during the 2011 riots; rioters were utilising the blackberry messenger service to fly under the radar and arrange meeting places and communicate on the whereabouts of the police.
This is scary enough for Americans, but what does this mean for the rest of the world? If my social networks and e-mail account are owned and housed in the United States, does that mean they’ll have a backdoor to snoop around my personal information too?
Let us know what you think of these plans below.
via: CNet & Mashable
Friday, February 3rd, 2012
Facebook is a big fan of rearranging the furniture. And with every change comes the outcry from its users; status updates are dominated with complaints, groups pop up, it’s the end of the world as we know it… And then everything blows over and we’re suddenly cool with the changes. In fact, we usually can’t remember what Facebook was like before.
For some websites, like Digg, radical changes to the look and feel of a site can result in a catastrophic loss of your loyal followers. And yet Facebook seems immune to any such exodus; everyone uses Facebook because everyone uses Facebook.
It’s only been around for 8 years, but it’s had countless facelifts in this short time. Here’s a look back at how the old FB has changed over time, starting with its humble origins as ‘The Facebook’.
Before Facebook dropped the ‘The’, it had a pretty basic design, but the iconic blue and white design and the basic information it provided was essentially the same. It’s easy to forget that it actually started out as a way for students in US colleges to connect and share information. No Pages. No Newsfeed. No Like button.
In 2006 a basic Newsfeed was added; but we didn’t have the opportunity to litter it with inane status updates until 2008, when the publish feature was added. Facebook gifts were removed in 2007; remember when you could send one of these to a friend on their birthday?
Between 2008 and 2010 we saw what felt like endless additions and modifications. We got the ‘like’ button, which everyone immediately hated, and called for a ‘dislike’ button too. We got apps, which divided the Facebook population into Farmville players and non-Farmville players. (This also opened up Facebook to new and exciting avenues of advertising.) We also got brand pages, which was probably the point at which everyone accepted that you must to be on Facebook. It gave some businesses the opportunity to move away from the traditional website structure and be a little more social in their approach to marketing.
In 2011 there was a major upheaval of the Facebook Feed; rather then giving users chronological updates, a ‘top story’ was selected (using a seemingly arbitrary method) and the rest was neglected at the bottom of the page. A ticker was also added, at the right of the page, which gives real-time updates. This was fairly unpopular, since we seemed to be seeing a lot less Facebook activity from the people we care about, and a lot more random junk on our Newsfeed. But the most unpopular change was still to come…
The introduction of the Timeline in place of traditional profiles has caused numerous problems for users, not just because it essentially allows Facebook to dig up and display your past. Whether you want to complete your life story using the Timeline feature, or if you’d prefer to hide your less flattering moments, it’s going to be time consuming to get your profile the way you want it.
So is the Timeline just another feature that we’ll eventually learn to love? Or is this just one step too far?
On March 1st 2012, Google’s privacy policies are changing; they’re getting rid of 70 previous hefty documents and replacing them with one, easy to read, transparent policy. We’ve all seen, possibly skimmed over, but most likely ignored the pop-ups informing us of this. So what exactly does it mean and how will things change?
We all know that Google stores personal information about our online activity; if you’re curious to see what Google thinks your interests are, try taking a look at your Ad Preferences in Google settings.
I don’t know which was more eye-opening; that my interests can be so accurately categorized, or that I spend so much time browsing for shoes.
When the new policy is introduced, the information gathered about you from each of their services will be combined to create a more personalised user experience. From the moment you log in, Google will be combining information about your searches made in YouTube with your activity on Google+. The result will be a more personalised experience, which could provide some fairly useful features in the future. From learning your common spelling errors, to letting you know if you’ll be late for a meeting, Google promises that the user experience will only get better with time. The more Google can learn about you, the better your browsing experience will be.
The new policy aims to take the ‘heavy lifting’ out of web browsing, and lighten the load for Google’s users. But if you’re not happy to have your Calendar talking to your E-mail account, then I’m afraid the only option is to stop using Google’s services. There is no opt-out, other than to go cold turkey.
Not all of Google’s services will be using this policy—Google Books, Google Chrome and Google Wallet all have separate policies for legal reasons. Which raises some interesting questions about online privacy—are you happy for your personal e-mail account and your public social media account to be housed under the same policy?
And should Google be offering a way continue using the services individually?