Tag Archives: privacy

Who Controls Your Child on Facebook?

I hadn’t heard about the proposed SB 242 bill in California until reading about it on TechCrunch a few moments ago. As I quickly ran through the article, I prepared myself to see a whole lot of angry comments at the end. I wasn’t disappointed… people are angry. However, every single commenter is missing the bigger picture in my mind. How – exactly – is Facebook supposed to determine parental rights should they receive a takedown request?

As it is written, the bill would ensure that:

“A social networking Internet Web site shall remove the personal identifying information of a registered user in a timely manner upon his or her request. In the case of a registered user who identifies himself or herself as being under 18 years of age, the social networking Internet Web site shall also remove the information upon the request of a parent of the registered user.”

I understand where they are trying to go with this, really I do. The HUGE problem I see is that there is absolutely nothing written about ways in which “the social networking site” is supposed to figure out who the parents really are. Without exact guidelines, any person would be able to claim they are someone’s parent and demand that information be removed. Perhaps Johnny has divorced parents and the father isn’t allowed any rights at all. Should that father then be able to request Facebook remove something from the young man’s page? What about a teen who has no “parents,” and instead lives with grandma? Does that mean he can post whatever he likes, without the grandmother being able to do anything about it?

The bills as written begs for trouble. In order to make demands of this nature, there has to be clear-cut guidelines. There is simply far too much grey area here… too much room for abuse. I’ll go so far as to say it: there’s even potential there for stalking and harassment of minors. Katie could have a friend in high school who is out to “get” her for some reason. Said “friend” creates a new Facebook account and pretends to be Katie’s mom… do you see where I’m going? Where is the burden of PROOF? Do we even want to delve into the creepy factor here? I think not. You can figure that out for yourself.

I agree that there needs to be better ways to protect the privacy of teens on social networking sites. I disagree with all of the people screaming that parents need to parent their children better. If a parent cannot understand the complicated and convoluted privacy settings on Facebook, what hope do they have of keeping track of that of their child? Facebook – and sites like it – need to step up to the plate and make things much simpler on everyone involved.

Are Your Parents on Facebook?

Add to iTunes | Add to YouTube | Add to Google | RSS Feed

My Mom finally decided to create a Facebook account for herself. She plans to only use it to keep in touch with family and close friends, so she was worried about choosing the correct privacy settings. This is something that many of our parents are facing. They want to have Facebook so they can keep track of us, but they don’t want the world to see their information. Do you know how to guide them through setting everything up in a way they are comfortable with?

Obviously, we added all of the normal information to begin with, such as name and location. We learned that Facebook doesn’t “check” passwords against each other when setting up an account to make sure they are correct. We had to take a picture for her profile, and she decided to grab a picture with Wicket and Pixie – her grandpups!

When it asked her to find connections, that was simple. Mom is the last of our immediate family to give in and get a Facebook account. I helped her add my Dad, my brothers and myself.

Have you ever helped a parent (or grandparent) set up an account on Facebook – or another social media site? Did you find it challenging to make sure that they felt comfortable with the privacy settings?

Facebook Adding Comments You Make to Others on Your Wall

We’ve long had “Recent Activities” show up on our Facebook Wall, right? We had all of these little snippets littering up our Wall or Page, telling the world where on the site we’ve been. However, the only thing those little messages said was that we had been there. Nothing showed up on our on Walls about what we were doing there. That changed about five hours ago, according to reports trickling in from the community… and not for the better. Facebook is now posting the actual comments that you post elsewhere onto your own Wall.

My assistant Kat called me a few moments ago to tell me about it, and I had to go and test things out. I posted something simple to her Wall, as seen below:

You can clearly see from the address bar in the screenshot that that is – indeed – Kat’s Wall. (And yes, you can feel free to add her up as a friend, if you wish to!). I then headed over to my own profile page, and found what you see next:

I see what Facebook did there, do you? Yes, we’ve always had little notifications on our Wall. However, until a few hours ago that would have only said “You posted a comment on…” It didn’t actually tell the world what I said to her.

You may be scratching your head and asking why this is a big deal. I did the same thing when Kat told me. She then pointed out that her Mom has very few friends on Facebook for a reason… and her page is as locked down and secure as it can be. She doesn’t wish to share her information with anyone. Kat, however, does not have her Wall and information locked down. She is very social, due to the type of work we do. Imagine how upset her very private mom is going to be if the things Kat writes on her Wall starts showing up for all of you to read? Are you seeing where I’m going with this yet?

This is bad juju, Zuck. You thought people were screaming about privacy issues before, but you haven’t seen anything yet. If this doesn’t go back where it came from quickly, I have a feeling there will be a whole lot of screaming going on in a few hours when the world wakes up and posts to Facebook while having their coffee.

What do you think? Is this change something you like or does it give you the heebie jeebies knowing that the private joke your bestie puts on your Wall is going to show up on theirs, as well?

Have We Thrown Privacy Out The Window?

Add to iTunes | Add to YouTube | Add to Google | RSS Feed

PEHUB wrote an alarming article last Friday about a lady named Louise who they identified & tracked using Foursquare. When she was confronted with this information, how did she respond? Lamarr was shocked at her answer – are you?

Reporter Leo Hickman outlined how easily he was able to stalk a woman chosen at random, using only her Foursquare account, a glance at her most recent tweets, and the information that Google has gathered about her over time, including her photo. Indeed, when Hickman tells her who he is and how much he’s “managed to deduce about her life simply by using my phone,” Louise doesn’t jump out of her seat and vow to quit using the service immediately. Rather, she calls the revelation a “a little unnerving,” before diving into Foursquare’s “excellent uses for business,” particularly when — ha, ha — it comes to ”stalking” potential recruits.

This is disturbing, to say the least. Have we thrown so much of our privacy out of the window that we don’t care when a total stranger tracks us down? Do we really believe we are invulnerable to becoming a victim of a serious crime due to this? It happens, you know. I’m not being an alarmist. People’s homes are being broken into because they tweet and “check-in” to tell the world they aren’t at home. Others are being stalked and harassed. It’s only a matter of time until we see headlines about someone being murdered or raped because they made themselves an easy target after giving away too much information online.

Yes, it’s fun to check in. Yes, it can be argued that it’s good for business. However, where do you draw the line between keeping yourself and your family safe and having a good time winning badges on sites such as the ones Lamarr discussed in this video?

Want to embed this video on your own site, blog, or forum? Use this code or download the video:

Should Mark Zuckerberg Throw in the Towel?

Things didn’t go well for Mark Zuckerberg when he appeared on the D8 stage two days ago. From all angles, he appeared to be fumbling his way through the answers he was giving. He broke out into a cold sweat and had to remove his trademark hoodie. Bloggers around the globe took stabs at Zuck and his team based on his performance. Today, I have seen several posts where people are beginning to wonder whether or not Zuckerberg should continue in his current role with the company he founded as a college student. Likely the most prolific comes from Shel Israel.

Shel unabashedly tells Zuck that it’s time he steps down from his cushy CEO position. The letter to Mark points out the areas in which he is sorely lacking and gives factual statements in support of the claims made. It is written simply – yet powerfully. In closing, Israel tells Zuckerberg: “the tech industry has a long history of young entrepreneurs who were challenged to grow as fast as the companies they had created. Some succeeded and are still at the helms of their corporate ships. Others did not and wisely stepped down to allow firmer hands to guide the ship. It is time for you to do exactly that, Mark. You will be remembered as a brilliant founder. You will have planted seeds to a mighty tree that will live on.”

My first reaction when I began reading was one of shock: who is Shel to tell Mark how to run his company? Who are any of us to give that piece of advice, for that matter? As I continued to read, I found myself nodding in agreement much of the time. Facebook has grown by leaps and bounds. No one can deny that. But has Mark Zuckerberg grown with it? Each of the points made in the open letter are dead on target. Facebook may have billions of users, but how many of those billions aren’t very happy with the way things are going?

For any company to continue to grow and thrive, the people at the top must adapt and change with it. A CEO may start off with a set of ideals and visions. Those tend to change as time goes by and the company is forced to do things differently in order to keep up with the ever-changing demands and needs of their customers and users. We’ve seen big changes and shake-ups within some pretty major companies over the years. Much of the time, they were done in order to help keep driving the companies forward.

Even if Mark chooses to remain in his current role, it would be a great idea if he were to include more people in his inner circle. Bring in some fresh blood, Zuck. Don’t only surround yourself with people who feel the same way you do about the issues you face. You need a team who will think outside the proverbial box, one who will help bridge the huge gap you have created between you and your users. You need people at the top who are going to ensure that Facebook remains the powerful force you have guided it to be by helping it to change to meet the demands of your userbase.

Facebook's New Privacy Controls

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced yesterday that majors changes to privacy settings on the site would begin rolling out today. The world complained – and Facebook listened. Today, Zuck strode onto the stage at the Facebook headquarters in a grey hoodie to give those assembled the run-down on the new settings. To those in attendance, he appeared calm and confident. Somehow, though, I have a feeling that a bit of that cocky demeanor has shifted in recent weeks. Wouldn’t you lose a bit of your brashness if half the world was breathing down your neck? The changes outlined today are pretty major. That is an indication that Mark knows things were seriously screwed up, and he admitted as much during the press conference.

The changes to the privacy settings went into effect almost immediately once the live event started. As Mark reminded us of the Facebook philosophy that “the world is more open and connected when people are driven to share more,” millions of site users stared in wonderment at how simple it appears to be now. According to Mark, people want to share things… it’s human nature. Facebook wanted to make it possible for us to do so from the very beginning. He strongly believes that the best way to accomplish this is to give us control over what we share.

“We’ve gotten the sense that a lot of what we did – we didn’t communicate well and a lot of things got lost in that. We had to simplify controls and take things back to basics. Some things are valuable to share with everyone… but some things should remain private,” Zuckerberg stated quietly. His voice boomed a little louder as he said that it will eventually “get to a point where it’s so hard to control your information that people end up sharing far less, and that is something I never want to see happen.”

Beginning now, there are three major changes to the privacy control area on Facebook, all of which are outlined in a new guide on the site:

  • Changes will apply to all of your content retroactively. For example, if you change a setting today on your photos to only share them with friends, it will roll back and change all pictures you’ve ever posted to be only shared with friends.
  • These changes made today will apply to all new products going forward. If you later want to share your pictures with the world, you’re going to have to change the setting.

The default settings for all of your content can now be set with one single click. You will have “complete control over who sees your information,” says Zuck.

When it comes to your directory information, you will have less publicly available information, real privacy controls and the necessity for friends to find you. For third party apps, there is some excellent news: there is now one checkbox to turn off instant personalization. Mark says it would be “too confusing” to simply turn that off site-wide and start from scratch. Instead, you’ll have the option to click a box and opt-out of instant personalization. If you do, it will automagically delete all of your information from third party applications. This is fantastic news for many people out there who have been highly ticked off by the way their information was handled and processed by these apps.

All in all, the announcements are good. While Facebook didn’t switch everything to an “opt-in” process as many had hoped, they made every effort to keep their network of users happier.

Thanks to @scobleizer for getting this video of the press conference up so quickly!

Unlock Your Hotel Room with Your Cell Phone

I hate traveling. I love the places that I visit and the people I interact with when I get there. It’s the actual travel part that gets to me every time. There’s always such a rush to do everything, you know? Checking into my hotels is probably my least favorite task. God love ’em for what they do, but the desk clerks always make me batty. They’re always so helpful and happy. I know, it’s a good thing that they’re good at what they do. But when I check in, I’m usually frazzled and just want to pass out on my bed. Like all of you, though, I have to stand in line and then go through the entire process while talking to someone who is entirely too perky. InterContinental Hotels understands my frustrations, and is working on a plan to change things drastically.

Next month, InterContinental Hotels Group will start testing new technology at two of their Holiday Inn locations which allows guests to use their smartphones to unlock the doors to their rooms.

IHG exec Bryson Koehler thinks that the phones may be the perfect answer for weary (and harried) travelers. “The proliferation of smartphones is growing in such a way that we have to look at what people are already bringing with them to make their stay more enjoyable,” he said. “We don’t need to burden people with additional items; it just clutters up their lives. The beauty of the smart phone is that they’ve already got it.”

The test will begin in June at the Holiday Inn Chicago O’ Hare Rosemont and the Holiday Inn Express Houston Downtown Convention Center. To join the trial, participants will need to download an Open Ways app to their phone. Guests will call up the confirmation email on their screen and hold it up to a sensor on the door which will automagically unlock it.

What are your thoughts on this? If you have a smartphone and travel often, is this something you feel you would take advantage of?

You won’t need a smartphone OR a hotel stay to grab the hottest software and apps for your computers and mobile devices.

New Facebook Privacy Settings Tomorrow

Yesterday, we discussed the announcement from Mark Zuckerberg in which he admits that the company has made mistakes when it comes to your privacy settings. Millions of people cannot be wrong when they collectively complain about the way the popular social networking site handles their information and buries privacy settings – making them nearly impossible to find and manage. Zuck and company have historically made sweeping changes without telling members about it ahead of time. There’s always a bit of backlash, but none as loud as what we’ve seen in recent weeks.

Two years ago, Mark told Marshall Kirkpatrick that “privacy control is the vector around which Facebook operates.” When remembering that statement, it is almost impossible to believe we are dealing with the same person. Back then, he talked often of the importance of user privacy. He swore our information would only ever be visible to the people we accept as friends. Perhaps Mark has forgotten he said such a thing? With the way things stand on the site today, nearly everything on your profile is visible and searchable by default. It’s difficult to navigate your way through the various settings and controls to set things up the way you feel they should be, so many people don’t even bother.

The good news is that beginning tomorrow (May 26, 2010) Facebook will begin introducing new simplified privacy controls. Facebook’s vice president of product Chris Cox announced today at TechCrunch Disrupt that the changes will include improved controls. He didn’t give any specific details to the attendees, so I guess we will have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.

Facebook currently has nearly 200 different privacy options and 50 privacy settings. It’s no wonder that the average person gets hopelessly lost when trying to figure out where they need to opt-out. Why the hell do they have to opt-out, anyway? Shouldn’t it be more of an opt-IN scenario? I’ve said many times that you shouldn’t put things on the Internet that you don’t want others to see. However, I know that humans will be human. They will continue to post things that may not be in their best interest. In light of that, the settings should be easy to find, easy to figure out, and they should be all about choosing to opt IN when it comes to sharing information.

You Demand, Facebook Listens

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg really does listen when the world complains about privacy settings on the popular site. Now, he’s promising changes over the coming weeks to address the concerns, promising “a simpler way to control your information.”

Zuck comes right out and admits that Facebook missed the mark when it comes to hitting the privacy control nail on the head. It’s impossible to anticipate how more than 400 million people will want to interact with a website, and they know they guessed wrong. Facebook plans to make it easier for you to control your information by making it simpler to make changes to your settings. The letter also guarantees you an easier way to turn off all third-party services.

The biggest message we have heard recently is that people want easier control over their information. Simply put, many of you thought our controls were too complex. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark. We have also heard that some people don’t understand how their personal information is used and worry that it is shared in ways they don’t want. I’d like to clear that up now. Many people choose to make some of their information visible to everyone so people they know can find them on Facebook. We already offer controls to limit the visibility of that information and we intend to make them even stronger.

Did you really expect to see the words “I’m sorry” in the communique somewhere? As Jason Kinkaid put it over on TechCrunch: “expect them to try to push the envelope again in, oh, about six months. Hopefully users will be better educated about their privacy and how to control it when that time comes.” Zuckerberg doesn’t appear to be sorry about anything, nor does he feel they did anything wrong. Facebook pushed… they just didn’t expect their users to push back harder. While the company may make it easier for you to control your privacy soon, expect more unwelcome changes in the future.

Zuck himself says that “People want to share and stay connected with their friends and the people around them. If we give people control over what they share, they will want to share more. If people share more, the world will become more open and connected. And a world that’s more open and connected is a better world.” He and his team truly believes that the world needs to be more open – that YOU need to be more open. They will continue to push the envelope and look for ways that “force” you to be more open than you may even want to be.

Facebook and MySpace are Giving Away Your Information to Advertisers

Tsk, tsk. Did we honestly not see this coming? The Wall Street Journal has uncovered proof that both sites – along with several other popular social networking venues – have been giving away a hell of a lot of information about you to both Yahoo and Google… despite promising that they do not. Both Google’s DoubleClick and Yahoo’s Right Media were identified as being recipients of these little goldmines of information in the form of usernames. That information can lead advertisers to find out your location, your real name, your age and even your occupation. Both companies, of course, deny knowing about (or using) this “extra” information.

All around the Internet, it’s normal for advertisers to receive the address of a page where a user clicked on an ad. However, they normally learn nothing more about the user than an unintelligible string of letters and numbers that are non-traceable. With social networking sites, those addresses themselves usually include the usernames which can direct advertisers right to a profile page chock full of personal information. Along with Facebook and MySpace, there were several other sites found to be participating in this lovely practice: LiveJournal, Hi5, Xanga and Digg are also sending the username or ID number of the page being visited. Even Twitter was found to pass web addresses with usernames of a profile being visited on their site. For most of these sites, the data identified the profile being viewed, but didn’t always show the person who clicked the ad or link. Facebook went further than the others, as usual: in most cases, they signaled which username was doing the clicking along with the name of the person or page being viewed.

The big question of the day is whether or not these sites knew that this type of information was being sent. They, undoubtedly, are going to deny that they had any clue at all. If that is true, though, then I say they need better developers. Any code monkey worth having would have known how to interpret the code they had written, and what it was doing at any given moment.