Tag Archives: privacy

I wrote in January about the faculty Facebook may possess for tracking your browsing history. I made brief mention of the fact that logging out of Facebook may not prevent further tracking. It’s this last point that caused a stir this week as Nik Cubrilovic’s post got picked up by the press.

His follow-up post describes Facebook’s response, but the ‘tracking’ cookie to which I was referring has not been removed. According to Nik’s post, Facebook admit this will remain after logout to track the browser, but for ‘safety and spam purposes’.

According to this WSJ article, ‘not all of the data is logged’. That’s good.

The bottom line for me is that Facebook are so powerful that they need to be as answerable to their populous as a government. That means a certain level of transparency and being clear about their intentions. If they go back on their word, who holds them accountable? Are our laws even adequate? Should Facebook be audited, or should we just trust them?

I don’t expect I’d be too happy about having my servers audited, but I’m not Facebook. When nearly half a billion people log into your site each day to give you their data, you have a serious amount of responsibility on your shoulders.

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I was just starting to think I should shut up about Facebook for a while after my last two posts, but then I enabled the new Timeline profile and saw this:

screenshot

Wow.

This adds a “Health and Wellness” Life Event to your Timeline.
(Timeline is new Zuckspeak for Wall, and Wellness is American for, erm.. Health)

Why would you tell a company that sells data that you were ill? … seriously, why?

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Picture the scene: I’m on the Tube and I see an attractive girl, so naturally I take a photograph of her without her permission or knowledge. Then when I get home I upload my photo to the public Internet for other men to look at. I also make a note of the location and time, and post that too. Can you imagine if a website facilitated and even encouraged that? There would be outrage, right? Continue reading…

People think I’m crazy for deleting my Facebook wall each day. When I’m put on the spot about this (usually after a few beers) I tend to rattle on like a deranged conspiracy theorist and generally make it much worse for myself.

One comment usually brings the issue home quite nicely though. I ask:

“How often to you mention being drunk, or being hungover on your Facebook wall?”

– the answer is invariably “often”

“What if in five years you can’t get life insurance because you’ve been profiled as a high risk for alcohol-related illness?”

Should I be paranoid?

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I recently came across this research into risk reduction strategies for using Facebook – particularly by teenagers. The main article talks about “Super-Logoff“, but it was a comment below the article that educated me about “Whitewalling“.

This page is left intentionally blankI love this. The simple idea that yesterday’s wall posts are yesterday’s news. Not only may they be irrelevant, but once forgotten who knows how they may come back to bite you? They’re still there, discoverable by other users and of course by the API.

These insights challenge my assumption that the next generation of adults won’t care about privacy. Teenagers may not have quite the same concerns as I do about these issues, but it’s fascinating to see how a website (designed by adults) leaves them to solve their own problems their own way.

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I recently saw this paper: “Facebook Tracks and Traces Everyone: Like This!
(download the PDF)

Short version

Every time you merely visit a site that displays a Like button, data is sent to Facebook which includes the address of the site you are visiting. Assuming you’ve also logged into Facebook, they have all the information they would need to associate these external page views with your Facebook identity.

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UPDATE: Please look at the date of this post. The information here is out of date and will become more out of date as time goes by. Twitter have addressed some of the issues I mention here, but the post will stay up and the DM cleaner tool still works.

Direct messaging is one of Twitter’s weakest features. On a platform that is fundamentally about public conversation, this is a one-to-one private messaging system – except it isn’t private – it’s just direct. The new Twitter has improved the messaging interface, but this is only superficial improvement; DMs are a flawed feature at a much lower level.

In descending order of interestingness and importance, here are a few things you may not know about Twitter DMs.

  1. All third party applications you authorize can read your DMs *
  2. Deleting a DM you’ve sent or received also deletes it from the other person’s account;
  3. Deleting DMs sends some Twitter clients into a confused frenzy;
  4. DMs don’t have a ‘reply to’ ID, so they can’t be threaded properly;
  5. The new Twitter interface only loads your most recent 100 messages;
  6. I’ve written a tool for backing up and deleting all your DMs – imaginatively titled DM Cleaner.

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Facebook Places rolled out to UK users today. This comes a month after the ‘global’ press launch a¬† month ago. That’s the thing about the World Wide Web, people get disappointed when you say your product is only available in the US. But anyway it’s here now, so our tabloids can unleash the hounds, our social media experts can blog their hearts out, and I can finally find out where my ex-girlfriend gets her hair cut.

Please hold for media storm on privacy ..

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The four NYU students pledging to build Diaspora captured my imagination today, and I’m not the only one.

There is so much to discuss around this and it’s not even out of the lab yet. In a rare display of focus, I’ll devote my first post on the topic to one of the more obvious questions – Can they (or do they need to) get 400 million people to migrate away from Facebook? Continue reading…