Tag Archives: privacy

Facebook invades privacy again

Facebook Friend FinderFacebook continues to test its users to see how much it can push you to expand its member base via its Facebook friend finder application that they have being heavily promoting lately.  But today I noticed that it's now pushing me further to use its Find friend feature by scraping my Instant Messenger screen names off my profile and adding it into the user name section with a prompt to just enter my AIM password.Facebook says that it won't store my password but I know from several months ago when I used its Friend Finder feature to look though my Hotmail address book, it scrapped every single name it could and continues to try to suggest that I know that person because they were found in my Hotmail account.  A large number of the names that Facebook scrapped from my Hotmail account were not someone I was ever friends with or would want to have part of my network because I don't actually know them personally, I had sent or received an email from them at some point.Facebook did a wonderful job of finding any person that I have ever had contact with via email and to this day continues to try to suggest them as someone I might know, when it is pulling the names/data from a database it gained from my Hotmail account. It's this type of invasion of privacy that makes me think twice before offering it to connect it with more of my external social data.I decided today that I would add in the my own user names for a number of IM profiles and see how quickly it had an impact using the username "I want privacy" before Facebook would start trying to get me to user its Friend Importer for the various IM services.Facebook IMIt took just a few minutes for the Facebook internal marketing database to take that information and deliver a very concerning banner at the top of my Facebook news feed, with my new username "I want privacy".  While I think that it looks like its matching my friends up who are also using Skype or have it listed on their profile, but no it seems that the friend finder uses random names to populate the suggestion box.  But it does seem that the friend finder suggestion tool is picking friends that you engage with via writing on their wall, commenting on their status updates or photos, so this might be yet another sign Facebook tracks and watches everything you do online!Facebook Privacy SkypeNot content with my point I made another change, but won't repeat what new username is shown in the screenshot below, but you get the idea.  Following this post I have removed all my IM screen names on my profile to reduce the amount of internal marketing Facebook can target to me, but its a shame that by Facebook's behaviour they are encouraging you to slowly remove all your personal details.Facebook Privacy StalkerSo the question is how much can you put up with Facebook using your own profile information for its internal marketing purposes, and its likely one of the many reasons that so many people who have been using it for years continue to leave and close down their accounts.

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Facebook Places fails

Facebook Places LogoFacebook has finally rolled out its location feature today, in what seems to be a stamp down on FourSquare and Gowalla's growing dominance of locational based badges and social networking, but are they going to ruin it for everyone? Facebook is a global platform so today's announcement that going just allow the product to their US members is more of a slap in the Face of their growing international audience, which according to official Facebook statistics, they are only concerned with offering their product to 30% of their users.  Once again Facebook is trying to set the rules in social media and well there is a good chance that you or your business is not invited!How can Facebook with over 70% of its audience outside of the USA, launch a new product that is just usable for their US members, and that's not counting the international audience that is currently visiting, working or living in the US.  It seems that the Facebook Places functionality is not just geographically limited to those who have created an account in the US and not those who have a current location as being in the USA.  Its not clear if this is a move by the company to segment user data via the initial settings, but doesn't make sense that accounts might be treated different based on their initial settings.  People change and move but it seems Facebook hasn't yet worked that concept into its platform... people share but don't ever move country....Facebook Places So What?So Facebook has started marketing the service as the ability to share where you are, what you are doing and the friends that are with you right now, but several other platforms already offer that functionality and don't violate your privacy on a daily basis.  The other idea of connecting to friends nearby is not a ground breaking option and is also very limited to those who are using an iPhone and can once again already be done by a number of platforms such as FourSquare, Google Latitude or Gowalla, so do we really need another me too app?Facebook AppFacebook Geolocation limited to iPhonesIt seems that a few other people were having some issues with Facebook places already even the US audience and has been intentionally held back as Facebook is trying to test to see if their severs can handle the service. Another aspect of failure around launching a product that clearly was not ready was a new version of the Facebook iPhone app was required if you wanted to use the service, it's not ready and its a concern that Facebook continues to be cutting out the testing stage before launching new products.  This seems to bring a level of concern that the platform might be a stable enough.  My early testing shows that might be a bit problem with the user adoption of its Facebook places product as its fairly slow to locate you running on Wifi, imagine how slow that will be on older iPhone models running on EDGE or 2G. But maybe Facebook doesn't really want to develop its platform so Google Android users can use it but a good question will be if it is available for the Windows7 Phone from day 1?Facebook has a perfect mobile audienceBeing that more than 150,000,000 active users are currently accessing Facebook via their mobile devices it shows a huge audience but the launch of this platform shows that it's not yet ready for market as its only available to iPhone users.  A larger number of mobile users are not using devices as advanced as iPhones that support W3 geolocation that limit its potential audience, it is also unclear with a larger number of Facebook users using SMS to update their status can be integrated into the Facebook Places platform. So even when they have 150 million mobile users its a struggle to understand how they could have failed to build a platform that allowed all their mobile users to utilise their places platform.Facebook just copied GoogleAs for naming a product after a competitor is not really a smart move from marketing perspective and its likely to confuse less technical users as the difference between Facebook Places & Google Places, and why the hell can't they just work together? By creating a new place for business to register and claim their online presence may lead the a low acceptance of businesses and defeat any future commercialisation plans that Facebook might have in the pipeline around local advertising.  The big difference is that Google Places receives a massive traffic exposure via Google Local results as shown below which is of massive commercial value to businesses but it doesn't appear that Facebook has matched what a competitor already offers.  If you are going to copy a competitor seek to at least improve on its product...Google Local PlacesThe search results for a known place on Facebook that has already recorded 2 checkins, doesn't actually show when you do a search for its business name, so is Facebook keeping 2 separate locational datasets?  This one of many early failure if they are trying to build a local business product if Facebook lists it as a local location I can checkin but I can't find the location at a later stage unless it's in your news feed. You can see on the side menu that its not possible to find or search for places you just have to find them via your iPhone/iTouch or if one of your friends checkins and it shows up in their news feed.  The failure to allow places to be easily found via the main interface is very strange as there is limits as to what you can do via your iPhone and most business owners would likely prefer if they make the effort to claim their Facebook place that it would at least show up in internal searches.Friend Chicken LocationsFacebook Places Stalks your FriendsFacebook has developed a new tool that allows you to select between mayhem and stalking your friends online, one of the first and only one of my friends who has tested the platform checked in last night.  By moving your mouse over the location you view the pop-up window that features a Bing map, a list of friends who have been to that location, the ability to like that business or get directors.Facebook CheckinClicking the local business link brings up far more information than any of their competitors such as FourSquare and brings concern around zero privacy features of Facebook places.  I can see who is at a particular location currently, who of my friends has been there and even exactly when my friend checked-in.  The problem is as the service grows the ability to understand friends movements is a little creepy this was highlighted in a blog post I did in June Finding Location, Losing Privacy, do you really want the ability for your movements to be profiled? Some of the early responses from twitter show those who understand the value of privacy understand the concept but see it as a problem. "Thinking #facebook places - good concept but not liking the privacy issues. Go original. Foursquare.com All the fun. None of the worry."Facebook Checkin PlacesUsing Facebook PlacesYou can see below that the way that Facebook provides a list of nearby locations is fairly useless compared to FourSquare, as it doesn't show useful icons of what the place is "food,art,drinks,deli,pizza,pharmacy".  To roll out a product that once again fails to match what the competitors having been doing for a while will likely lead the product to failure.  Also unlike Foursquare or Gowalla there is no real benefit to checkin, no badges, no discounts, no prizes, no points... its not offering the users a perceived advantage such as Facebook Credits for checking into a business.Facebook Places Locations ListFacebook Places allows TaggingI was alerted to an early privacy issue by @schachin, as the Facebook Places platform allows you to out friends with you via the status tagging feature even if they are not there "With #facebook places checking in is subject to YOUR Privacy settings TAGGING is based on your FRIENDS!".  The Huffington Post also did a detailed write-up on how you can avoid the embarrassment of being tagged by a friend as being somewhere you are not supposed to be and show everyone in an instant. You now have to worry about friends tagging you in photos, status updates and now via Facebook Places and you don't even need to be there to have your privacy violated. FourSquare got it right when it automatically associates your checkin with existing friends if you both checkin to the same venue, you should have to manually tag them as being with you at the same location.Facebook Places CheckinShare Facebook CheckinYou don't actually have much of a choice if you want to checkin to a location and not reveal this to all your friends, unlike FourSquare which has a always visible setting on your update to not share this checkin with your friends.  This continuing failure to accept users privacy rights seems to be a constant theme with Facebook with its share all and everything mentality, but why don't look to other services like FourSquare which are trying to build a wall around their users privacy and protect their users if selected. Unlike FourSquare which allows you to checkin and just not tell your friends it seems that Facebook doesn't allow this option, and really if they are looking to bring in FourSquare and Gowalla users via API, its going to produce some issues and complications for their users who are used to having control of their privacy.  Facebook only allows you to share your location or not checkin there is no halfway option which makes most people not inclined to use it.Share Location with FacebookLooking at the Places checkin screen shown above, the use of the language also implies that you enter into a long-term contract which is a little more worrying, and the language used to advise about the check-in functionality is a little scary "wherever you go".  So think clearly about if you want to be Facebook's guinea pig for its latest product test, my advice is to sit this feature out.How to Disable Facebook PlacesLifeHacker has posted a good article on how to disable Facebook Places, but you can also do it easily through your privacy settings as shown below, it is important that you consider at least checking the places feature to ensure its set that you just show your friends immediately, then I advised that you can goto your privacy settings and ensure its disabled.  An important not that if you are under the age of 18 or have changed your date of birth to make you under 18, you have an increased level of privacy settings enabled automatically that will limit updates to just your friends.

Facebook Privacy Settings

The privacy setting you are looking for to disable Facebook Places updates is hidden under "applications, games and websites".  You will see 5 Facebook privacy settings that you can select to refine your privacy settings:
  1. What applications you're using (Tweetdeck/Eventbrite)
  2. Games and application activity
  3. Information accessible through your friends (Places)
  4. Instant personalisation (Facebook connect)
  5. Public search (Bing/Google)

Facebook Privacy Settings Options

Once you have selected option 3 highlighted with the red arrow you are shown a pop-up window with the privacy settings.  All your Facebook information available is available to any applications, games and websites when friends choose to use them, so its important to limit what information Facebook obviously advises you to share more information to make the experience more social, but that's not always advised.  Consider if you really need to share all the following information with everyone, but you will want to ensure that the "Places I check into" setting is unchecked and then click to save changes.

Facebook Privacy SettingsThat's done you now know more about how Facebook Places works, how it might affect you and how to disable it so you reduce the risks exposed with sharing too much information online, and go back to using FourSquare or Gowalla. Think twice before electing to share your every step and visit even if there is a slight benefit for your social circles and not everyone cares to know what you are doing at every moment of the day!

Does business still value privacy online

One of the many very public issues that continue to dominate blogs, twitter, Facebook updates, newspapers, and government senators and regulators time is the failure to value consumer’s privacy. It seems that it is sometimes a mixture of commercial benefit and commercial advantage in some of the recent shift of companies towards anti-privacy and riches for shareholders.  The point around social media is that is growing more hostile and it seems that many businesses are started to fight with consumers rather than addressing the issue that is causing the outcry.  If just a few people notice the problem but it affects millions or hundreds of millions of users/members it should not be ranked as a low priority for a company, social media should highlight issues and give the company advanced warning of the incoming storm.

Privacy is one issue that is not taking a back seat and it seems a number of companies are working towards their third strike in their failure to build safeguards into the software prior to opening users/members social networks and data to the outside world.  Google is featured twice in this blog post the first is around their Buzz platform that was released without many of the safe guards usually built into Google products and managed to hit all the wrong notes with much of the tech crowd. It was not the usually suspects who complained about Google Buzz’s lack of commonsense and ability to censor or control what information was shared or made public such as contacts/friends .

Buzz Privacy Issues This feature was released on those using the free Gmail platform but was held back from the Premier Apps uses due to concerns about privacy and its effect on paid users as it was not yet fully tested and reliable. It is understandable that sometimes a technician may get overly excited in deploying new features but loss of consumer privacy should raise internal warning bells. Instead of the Buzz feature being paused it was gradually updated to include some of the many requested privacy features but still has a number of issues to address. Buzz still seems to be a product that has a long way to go to build back users trust but one that Google will continue to expand into other products until you can't avoid using it.

Google Streetview Privacy Issues The second Google privacy issue was only recently discovered in Germany and is an issue that has lay dormant for a number of years, further compounding the issues of a lax view of consumer privacy. The Google Street view team caught recording users MAC Addresses, SSIDs, residents browsing records and possible much more as part of their global program to map and photograph every house and building. This has caused problem in the past with military bases captured, private property invaded and now it seems big brother is confirming you live where you say you did on your personal profile.

Some security experts said that some of the data that could have been collected included emails and even passwords. Google is said to be in contact with regulators in the countries where it has been capturing data over the past several years. The claim is that none of this data has been used yet but was it part of something planned or would disclosure that it had used the data lead to more problems? This type of issue is a concern because it was flagged much later in the process and might have gone unnoticed until Google released a product based on this data if it wasn’t picked up when the German government raised concerns that led Google to a internal audit.

Selling consumer data MasterCard selling consumer data that it has built up over the years as part of its business intelligence service, that enables large marketers and business to know everything about you before you buy which doesn't seem right considering they are also charging consumers/banks to use their payment system.

Forced open exchange for social networks Facebook forcing open exchange with the aggressive but staged removal of many privacy features it sold initially as a key element of the service. Recently Facebook had removed the ability for profiles to keep private what groups/pages they were associated with which seemed to be a partial step before last months change to an open platform.

The users profile data that contained items of interest which was linked to a search that enabled you to find other Facebook users that had the same interest. It seemed that this fragmented model made it more difficult for advertisers to target as you could like "Movies" or "Films" which is technically the same activity/interest but would require advertisers to target both keywords. This targeting could be further complicated as users often used a mixture of singular and plural versions.

Facebook Ads

Facebook overcame this problem with its recent conversion of this profile data to a Wikipedia style "like" page that made for more targetable and refined profile pages for advertisers, with less options for Facebook users. The problem around the new automate "like" is that this information from these pages is now feed into your Facebook news feed and it is also publically visible.

Some of the steps required to maintain your privacy required a number of extensive steps such as removing all likes/interests from your profile page, ensuring your page is not index by search engines but also you change your date of birth to be under the age of 18. This change combined with other restrictive settings made your profile almost invisible outside your network of friends . The one problem is that Facebook actually flags these users who have set their privacy settings high with a different message that almost confirms they are a member by message along the lines of they maybe on Facebook but cannot be found via email due to privacy settings. This is a vastly different message if they are not a member, as it prompts you to invite them, I tried to get a screenshot of this, but it has to be generated via an account who has never been a friend.

There is a negative side effect for Facebook as Danny from SEL pointed out one of the top suggested terms on Google was "how do i delete my facebook account", and Facebook groups calling for a June 15 Delete my Facebook account day.  The update appears to be that Facebook is rolling in some privacy features that address some of the issues, but based on past behaviour its a matter of time before they revoke these privacy features and go back down the path of evil....

Your ISP onsells your data Your ISP is selling your browsing habits to the highest bidder as part of what started as a small side business has turned into a billion dollar consumer intelligence business. Most business uses some type of web analytics package that enables you to see details such as what site drove you to their site or what keywords you used on the search engine to find them. The difficulty that business faces is that they don’t usually know what you visited after you left but there are a number of ways that data is available for the right price. Market intelligence companies such as Hit Wise are able to provide much more detailed information on your site, your competitors or industry vertical. The reports offer an overall list of what were the sites visited prior and after as well a mass of other data points that can help business but this privacy violation is most likely covered by the agreement you signed with your ISP.

Photocopies keep records of everything you print/copy Photocopiers typically contain a hard-drive that capturers a majority of the documents scanned or printed from the device for various reasons. While it is advertised in the fine print by manufactures the extra costs to protect consumer privacy seems too high for managers who often make the decision not to address the issue and just hope its not discovered while they are working there when purchasing a new photocopier. The problem is that this issue is not limited to small business as it extends up to government departments who should take more care with their private data.

Business benefits from no unsubscribe option Diesel fails email marketing by failing to use unsubscribe features provided by eCircle, but it is likely that this problem is not unique to Diesel as business often tries to customise software internally to save money. There is a financial benefit for business in not letting consumers easily unsubscribe but long term it can be very damaging to their brand and reputation. The problem is that many of these decisions are made by marketing managers who typically only see 18-36 months ahead and by then they plan to move on before the activity comes back to haunt them.

It pays business to spam consumers You can buy software to crawl websites to capture postal, email and phone details for resell to marketing firms, who can then clean the data and add more data points before on selling to agencies and companies to target. This problem is not unique to websites, but can also be sourced from blogs who fail to use an effective comment management solution or even sold by blog owners. It is alarming to discover which big companies and agencies actually request to have this type of activity built into a marketing strategy. The issue for consumers and regulators is the lack of concern with the likely fallout as the spam fines are much smaller than the profit they will make on the activity as they get paid on numbers. So while consumer data continues to be more valuable when exploited than when protected don’t expect your details to stay private forever.

Facebook Profile Research Companies and marketers can easily and are starting to explore how to crawl your Facebook profile for research and analysis of consumer behaviour and understand friend networks to identify social influencers and early adopters. Some of this activity has been stopped by Facebook through legal action but the ease at which it can be done should alarm consumers.

Twitter Timeline Your Twitter timeline is indexed and available for companies and marketers to search and profile forever. To further compound the issue software can be used to search this data and then the data can be mined to show much more detail and even relationships between those who selectively RT based on company or keyword. While twitter does offer the ability for preferences such as protected profiles such as shown below for @BillClinton , which cannot be retweeted or read without the users permission it doesn't stop the whole problem. Twitter revolves around responses which if the original tweet is not visible may be read out of context or exposed to a larger audience if someone following you responds. As David Olsen also pointed out protected tweets can be ReTweeted but applications like TweetDeck warn you that if it is a protected account, which can save some mistakes by your followers.

Protected Twitter Page This issue was brought to light when an Australian young liberal made the mistake of taking a swipe at US President Obama calling him a Monkey on Twitter. The response did not address the privacy issues it just resulted in death threats, the Australian Liberal party revoking his party membership and Twitter closing his account down. While the issue highlights the problems with limited consumer privacy within social media the heavy handed approach highlights a bigger issue of censorship by commercial entities.

Social Media data can be mined The Twitter and Facebook data can be used to track who was the original whistle blower or which consumer inflamed the problem for the company. This appears to be happening currently with P&G who are spending significant resources tracking who is claiming their product causes rashes than resolving the social media issues. The problem of consumer privacy is also addressed with employers and even college administrators mining Facebook data to profile if the candidate is suitable or matches their ideal model citizen. The problem is that much of this invasion of consumer privacy goes unreported as candidates will just been advised they did not qualify or succeed and it will not be explained that it was due to their social media footprint.

Companies need to think of users long term As these companies user base continues to grow they need to be starting to think more long term how this may affect their users and not just what advertisers are asking for or being a defector censorship force. All these matters just continue to build and grow but it seems the fact that they occurred so easily and the speed at which they are being solved is much slower than the initial update that affected the users privacy settings.

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Make Facebook your homepage

Facebook continues to follow some annoying traits done by Search engines in the past with its recent request to set it as your homepage.  I must admit its one of the top 5 webpages that I load each time I open Chrome but not the only window I want to load.On visiting Facebook tonight I noticed a new notification window that had the following message.
We've noticed you use Facebook regularly. Set Facebook as your homepage to make getting here faster for you.
This statement I see it as an invasion of privacy more than anything, but this step has likely to further increase Facebook's dominance over Google.  But until Facebook fixes its onsite search, I'm sure Google still has some time on its cards to either buy Facebook or Twitter to stay ahead of its competitors.It is also too soon to know if this campaign is just targeting Chrome users or it is also showing for Safari, Firefox and IE browsers or just Chrome. So now the next step is the official launch of Facebook's email platform and Advertising network and it will be a true competitor to Google, but we will see how Google responds.

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Google Privacy Dashboard

google-dashboardAs Google expands the number of products, they also vastly increase the amount of data they collect about your online behaviour and activities. So they launched Google Dashboard to help you control the vast amounts of data you generate through your online activities.
Every email you send and receive, blogs you subscribe to, google news stories you prefer to read, what YouTube clips you watch, websites you visit and even what you buy with Google Checkout. Some of these actions may not be associate with your specific Google profile and you have to grant Google permission to associate much of this data with your profile.
Even Google understands that it is hard to keep track of everything so they now offer their users Google Dashboard which allows a top-level summary view of all your Google products that you use.
google-dashboard-productsYou can drill down to specific products to view more detailed data and to increase security they do not duplicate the database of all the data. This is a massive step forward for transparency of what data Google products have collected and also allows for notification of what is publically visible. This privacy dashboard appears to be a measure to reduce the growing worries about online privacy for consumers and how it maybe commercialised by some companies.
Google use a simple icon shown below to indicate any items in your Google Dashboard is visible to others. Using Google Dashboard can be a faster way to discover if any unwanted private or personal is public.
As TechCrunch points out you this Dashboard does not include any of their cookie-based data collected through DoubleClick or their other ads. You need to use their separate Google Ad Preference Managerads-preferencesMany of the ads you see online are based on ad networks such as Google, and they now allow you to ensure these ads are more relevant. By selecting your interests categories they can deliver more interesting ads but you can also elect to be opted out so ads are no longer associated with your browser.You can also elect to expand this opt out to include some of the many other ad networks outside of google by selecting to opt out of the NAI member network.naiBy opting out of an ad network program using the NAI Opt-out Tool this should not affect other any services provided by NAI members that rely on cookies, such as email or photo-hosting.The Network Advertising Initiative has adopted a policy that all NAI member companies set a minimum lifespan of five years for their opt out cookies.By opting out of a ad network does that mean that you will no longer receive online advertising but these ads will no longer be tailored to your online usage patterns and web preferences. The Opt-out Tool was developed for the express purpose of allowing consumers to "opt out" of behavioural ads delivered by NAI member companies.Your ads preferences only apply in this browser on this computer, so that if you use a different browser or delete your browser's cookies these preferences need to be reset.