Facebook’s New Timeline: How to Protect Your Privacy

Most television is free because it comes with ads. And most websites are free because the ads come with you.

The launch of Facebook’s new timeline has sparked many Internet users’ fear of their personal data being used in unethical ways. Early users spotted ways of figuring out who defriended you (which have since disappeared). F-Secure Security Advisor Sean Sullivan points out that you can still go through your Messages and wall posts and figure out if a friend has cut you off.

Many users were particularly alarmed to learn that Facebook was tracking users even after they log out.  Facebook says they have fixed this “bug” and is no longer tracking you if you are logged out, unless the site you’re on integrates with Facebook.

Past Facebook changes have triggered a backlash that quickly abated as the the site grew. Generally, the privacy concerns of the new Facebook in mirror the new Facebook. And there are some privacy tools that you can take advantage of including the “reset” button along with Profile Review and Tag Review.

If you’re afraid of snoopers on your timeline, make sure to edit your friends list, set your default privacy setting to “Friends Only” and only share with your friends.  If you want to take extra steps to secure your browsing from Facebook, here are two things you can do now.

1. Use a separate browser in Privacy Mode for anything you don’t want “anybody” to see.
When it comes down to it, we know what activity we’d like to hide. By separating your Facebook activity from your browsing, you’re removing the chances of your “private” browsing being tracked. In Firefox, you turn on Privacy Mode by pressing Ctrl+Shift+P. It doesn’t make you anonymous, but it will keep the information from being tracked on your computer.

2. Consider quitting Facebook.
If you’re still not comfortable, you can quit Facebook and perhaps start over with Google+. But before you do this, ask someone who uses Gmail and gets ads based on their most intimate communication, “Is this a company you trust not to track you?” Google’s +1 buttons are becoming as common as Facebook’s “Like”. Not to mention the endless Google ads and services that proliferate across the web. And if you’ve ever created any sort of Google account, you may be shocked at what a detailed history Google keeps of your activity. Go to https://www.google.com/history/ to check it out.

Cheers,

Jason

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Why You May Want to Disable Location Services for Facebook

When news broke that Facebook was at least temporarily using users physical location to suggest real world connections, a strategy that has been employed by the NSA, the backlash was sharp.  It wasn't difficult to imagine scenarios when identities could be inadvertently and uncomfortably revealed through group therapy, 12-step meetings or secretive political movements. The world's most popular social network quickly said it would not continue what it called a small-scale test nor roll the feature on a wider scale in the future. But Facebook is still using your location data for other purposes, Fusion's Kashmir Hill reports: We do know that Facebook is using smartphone location for other things, such as tracking which stores you go to and geotargeting you with ads, but the social network now says it’s not using smartphone location to identify people you’ve been physically proximate to. Hill notes that using location to match users up, thus acting as a tool to reveal the identity of nearby strangers, might violate Facebook's agreement with the Federal Trade Commission . So you should expect that your location -- like everything you do on Facebook -- is being used to turn you into a better product for its advertisers. That's the cost of using a "free" site but you can limit your exposure a bit by turning off location services for Facebook on your phone. Here's very simple instructions for turning off location services on your Facebook and Facebook Messenger apps on your Android of iOS device. Do you mind if Facebook uses your location to suggest new friends? Let us know in the comments. [Image by Lwp Kommunikáció | Flickr]

June 30, 2016
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POLL: What Changes To Twitter Would You Like To See?

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]

May 26, 2016
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5 Ways to ‘Uncensor’ Your Facebook Feed

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]

May 18, 2016
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