Facebook’s Instant Personalization continues to concern people who worry about privacy on social networks. Here are the questions about it that I wish I’d been asked about it.
Q: What is Instant Personalization?
A: It’s Facebook’s pleasant way of saying that it automatically shares your account information with partner sites according to the privacy settings you’ve chosen.
Q: What’s “instant” about it?
A: Unless you’ve opted out, your data is now being shared. (This is true in many countries. Facebook hasn’t turned Instant Personalization on in Slovakia or Finland, for instance.)
Q: With whom exactly is Facebook sharing my data?
A: The original three were Pandora, Yelp and Microsoft Docs. In fall of 2010, Facebook added Rotten Tomatoes and Scribd. Then in winter of 2010, Clicker and TripAdvisor went live. More partners are coming.
A: Facebook is a business. We don’t know the financial arrangements behind these partnerships but they are all a part of Facebook’s broader strategy to spread its functionality or ‘like’ buttons anywhere on the Internet it can.
Q: Can they do this?
A: Yep. It’s in the site’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities AKA its terms and conditions. Grab a magnifying glass and a quadruple mocha, you’ll find it in there.
Q: Is this bad? Why am I shivering?!
A: Wired.com’s Threat Level blog called the recent implementation of Instant Personalization with Scribd a “privacy nightmare” because, among other reasons, it was difficult to opt out at first. Scribd has improved its opt out. But it’s still annoying.
Q: Why is it annoying?
A: Several reasons. 1. Facebook can partner with any site it chooses. Unless you opt of the function entirely, your information is automatically shared. 2. You may be friends with people—your boss, your mom, your employees—with whom you don’t want to share your movie or music tastes. Unless you’re paying close attention, you may be just doing just that. 3. The principle of it. Facebook says that its users can control their own information. This doesn’t meet that standard. 4. It’s too difficult to opt out. You have to drill down into the privacy settings to opt out of the feature entirely. Not being able to opt out of individual sites via Facebook’s privacy settings is especially annoying.
Q: How can I opt out?
A: I thought you’d never ask. To opt out completely: Go to “Account” > “Privacy Settings”. Under “Applications and Websites” click “Edit your settings”. Find “Instant Personalization” and click “Edit Settings”. Uncheck the box that says “Enable instant personalization on partner websites.” Once you do this, your information will not be shared with any partner site. You can also keep the feature on and block individual partners.
To opt out sharing with Microsoft Docs: Go to the Docs Facebook application page and click “Block Application”. Then click “Block Docs” on the pop-up.
To opt out of sharing with Pandora: Go to the Pandora Facebook application page and click “Block Application”. Then click “Block Pandora” on the pop-up.
To opt out of sharing with Yelp: Go to the Yelp Facebook application page and click “Block Application”. Then click “Block Yelp” on the pop-up.
To opt out of sharing with RottenTomatoes: Go to RottenTomatoes.com. Find the “Welcome” box with your Facebook profile picture in the upper left corner. Click “Learn More”. At the bottom of the pop-up just above the close button, click “disconnect”.
To opt out of sharing with Scribd: Go to Scribd.com. Find the “Welcome to Scribd – Where the world comes to read, discover, and share…” box on the top of the page. Click “No thanks” in the bottom right corner of that box.
To opt out of sharing with Clicker: Go to Clicker. Find the “Welcome to Clicker” box on the top right of the page. Click the “Disable” link.
To opt out of sharing with TripAdvisor: Go to TripAdvisor. Find the box at the top right of the page that says “TripAdvisor is using Facebook to show you friends’ trips and reviews.” Click “Disable” in that box.
Q: Is there any reason NOT to opt of Instant Personalization?
A: Sure. If you’re a responsible Facebook users who knows and trusts all your Facebook friends, connecting with them on various social sites could be fun and useful. But as Facebook adds more features like Places and shares your information with more sites, you’re taking a risk of sharing information you may not want to share. It’s not a driving while distracted by your cell phone risk. But it is a risk.
Note: The EFF monitors Facebook’s privacy policies closely and was a resource for this post.
Little changes can make a difference. For instance, Twitter's decision to switch a star for a heart as its "Favorite" button increased use of the button by as much as 27.82 percent. And it's clear that despite Wall St. demanding that site grow faster and be easier for new users to grasp to have some hope of keeping up with competitors like Facebook and Snapchat, the site is still sweating the small stuff. Here are the four changes to the service announced this week: Replies: When replying to a Tweet, @names will no longer count toward the 140-character count. This will make having conversations on Twitter easier and more straightforward, no more penny-pinching your words to ensure they reach the whole group. Media attachments: When you add attachments like photos, GIFs, videos, polls, or Quote Tweets, that media will no longer count as characters within your Tweet. More room for words! Retweet and Quote Tweet yourself: We’ll be enabling the Retweet button on your own Tweets, so you can easily Retweet or Quote Tweet yourself when you want to share a new reflection or feel like a really good one went unnoticed. Goodbye, .@: These changes will help simplify the rules around Tweets that start with a username. New Tweets that begin with a username will reach all your followers. (That means you’ll no longer have to use the ”.@” convention, which people currently use to broadcast Tweets broadly.) If you want a reply to be seen by all your followers, you will be able to Retweet it to signal that you intend for it to be viewed more broadly. These tweaks are in line with Twitter's tradition of paying attention to how people use the site and make it easier for them to do what early adopters are already doing. That's how we got hashtags, retweet buttons and @ replies. Now you'll be able to tweet a bit longer messages, something people do now with screenshots of text, and have more public conversations, something people do now by putting a "." before someone's @username so their whole feed sees the conversation not just people who happen to follow you and the user you're conversing with. Cool. These are useful little nudges that will keep people who already love the site engaged -- even though they may have some ugly unforeseen consequences. But will they transform Twitter and spark a new wave of growth? Not likely. What would without alienating the hundreds of millions of loyal users? Tough question and we'd like to know what you think. [polldaddy poll=9429603] Cheers, Jason [Image by dominiccampbell | Flickr]
Allegations that Facebook "suppressed" conservative news, first reported by Gizmodo, quickly snowballed into broader charges that Facebook "censors" viewpoints its employees doesn't like. Facebook is the first access point to the internet for hundreds of millions if not a billion people around the world. And for millennials in the U.S., it is their primary source for political news. Some have suggested that the site could actually tilt the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Hence Facebook takes these allegations and the damage they've done to Facebook's image among conservatives seriously. Users will never be able to control the "Trending" section of the site, which Facebook insists is handled objectively as possible through curators (and, apparently, a lot of help from Google). But you do have some control over your news feed, which is generated by Facebook's algorithm "Edgerank." There are things you can do to influence your feed in hopes of seeing a diverse flow of information that doesn't simply confirm your biases. Here are 5: Get rid of the noise. Go to https://www.facebook.com/friends/organize and add the people you want to get less news from to your "acquaintances" list. You'll see their posts a lot less often and -- best of all -- they'll have no idea you've demoted them. Let Facebook do less of the picking for you. On the left column of your home page, under Favorites, next to News Feed click the arrow and select "Most Recent". This won't turn off Facebook's algorithm completely, but it will make it more likely you'll see a diversity of sources in your feed. Trust someone. Find a few people you respect who have a different political leanings than you and ask them for one Facebook page to follow. Just one? That's enough. Once you like the page, Facebook will help from there by suggesting a few pages with similar leanings. Of course, you're relying on Facebook's recommendations. But if you don't trust Facebook at all, this would be a good time to delete your account. Prioritize the new blood. Click on the down arrow in the upper right corner of any Facebook page and select "News Feed Preferences" and then select "Prioritize who to see first" and then on the dropdown menu select "Pages only." Now click on those new pages you just added to your stream -- along with the other valuable news sources you think help keep you informed. 5. Teach Facebook what you like. When you see something you like, click on it, comment on it, interact with it. Facebook exists to keep you in Facebook and will reward your clicks with similar content. And if you get a post you don't like, you can tell Facebook by clicking on that subtle little down arrow, which will show you this: Yes, you're sort of "censoring" your feed. But at least it's you doing it. Cheers, Jason [Image by Turinboy | Flickr]
Many of you have seen them. And some of you have no doubt been victims too. Malware spreading through social media sites, like Facebook, is definitively something you should look out for. You know those posts. You raise your eyebrows when old Aunt Sophie suddenly shares a pornographic video with all her friends. You had no idea she was into that kind of stuff! Well, she isn’t (necessary). She’s just got infected with a special kind of malware called a social bot. So what’s going on here? You might feel tempted to check what “Aunt Sophie” really shared with you. But unfortunately your computer isn’t set up properly to watch the video. It lacks some kind of video thingy that need to be installed. Luckily it is easy to fix, you just click the provided link and approve the installation. And you are ready to dive into Aunt Sophie’s stuff. Yes, you probably already figured out where this is going. The social bots are excellent examples of how technology and social tricks can work together. The actual malware is naturally the “video thingy” that people are tricked to install. To be more precise, it’s usually an extension to your browser. And it’s often masqueraded as a video codec, that is a module that understands and can show a certain video format. Once installed, these extensions run in your browser with access to your social media accounts. And your friends start to receive juicy videos from you. There are several significant social engineering tricks involved here. First you are presented with content that people want to see. Juicy things like porn or exposed celebrities always work well. But it may actually be anything, from breaking news to cute animals. The content also feels safer and more trustworthy because it seems to come from one of your friends. The final trick is to masquerade the malware as a necessary system component. Well, when you want to see the video, then nothing stops you from viewing it. Right? It’s so easy to tell people to never accept this kind of additional software. But in reality it’s harder than that. Our technological environment is very heterogeneous and there’s content that devices can’t display out of the box. So we need to install some extensions. Not to talk about the numerous video formats out there. Hand on heart, how many of you can list the video formats your computer currently supports? And which significant formats aren’t supported? A more practical piece of advice is to only approve extensions when viewing content from a reliable source. And we have learned that Facebook isn’t one. On the other hand, you might open a video on a newspaper or magazine that you frequently visit, and this triggers a request to install a module. This is usually safe because you initiated the video viewing from a service that shouldn’t have malicious intents. But what if you already are “Aunt Sophie” and people are calling about your strange posts? Good first aid is going to our On-line Scanner. That’s a quick way to check your system for malware. A more sustainable solution is our F-Secure SAFE. Ok, finally the poll. How do you react when suddenly told that you need to download and install software to view a video? Be honest, how did you deal with this before reading this blog? [polldaddy poll=9394383] Safe surfing, Micke Image: Facebook.com screenshot