Are you ready for the new Facebook Timeline?
Since the winter of 2011, Facebook has been slowly rolling out its new profile look to the nearly one billion people who use the world’s largest social network.
Facebook has indicated every user will be forced to move over to the new profile look called Timeline. All Facebook brand pages now have the look but Facebook is still rolling it out to profiles. (To get it now, go here and click “Get it Now.”) Some will be annoyed by this change, of course. They’ll note that the old profiles worked and there are some unforeseen consequences that raise privacy issues. This inevitable when Facebook makes changes that affect so many people.
But the world’s largest network seemed to learn a valuable lesson from its vanquished competitors Friendster and MySpace: change happens. Unless they continually give users fresh new social experiences, their users will move on.
The Timeline is definitely new. Looking at the Timeline from a social media security and privacy perspective alone, I say that the new Timeline and the updated privacy settings Facebook put in place in late 2011 are both improvements.
The average Facebook user is “friends” with well over 100 people. Add that to the 100 pages more users like and you have an account that is out of hand. Sensing this, Facebook has made it easier than ever to unlike the people and pages you no longer wish to connect with.
The rollout of the Timeline gives you the perfect opportunity to take control of your Facebook and edit your account. (It also gives you a space to post a cool cover photo, which is completely optional.)
Here’s what you need to do now:
1. Decide if you want to hit the “reset button”.
The goal of Timeline is to make your life story available to as many people as you are willing to share it with. Facebook has reduced its privacy options to three levels.
They’ve eliminate “Friends of Friends”, which leaves some of your posts in a limbo. To make up for this, they’ve added what I call the “reset button”. You can with one click turn all of your past public and “Friends of Friends” posts into “Friends Only”. If you do this, you can reverse it. You’ll have to adjust each post or picture individually.
If you are a privacy minded person, hitting this button is a great idea and a great way to start your new Timeline. To do this:
a. Go to the arrow in the upper right corner and select “Privacy Settings”.
b. Next to “Limit the Audience for Past Posts” click “Manage Past Post Visibility”.
c.Then click “Limit Past Posts”.
2. Audit your Friends.
The best way to get a better news feed free of spam and distractions is to only people who share content you’re interested in.
Now that you have the Timeline, you can access your friends list easier than ever. Best of all: by simply scrolling over their images, you can unlike anyone quickly. Here’s how:
a. Go to your Timeline and click on your Friends navigation.
b. Put your mouse over any of your Friends’ names. This box will come up.
c. Put your mouse over the “Friends” box.
c. You can choose “Unfriend” or if you don’t want the person to have any idea you don’t want his or her updates, just click on “Show in News Feed”. This will automatically unsubscribe you from their updates. You can get pretty granular about which updates you want. This makes your Facebook life infinitely more complicated.
Facebook is simplest when you think of friending as an all or nothing thing. Either you want to stay in touch with someone or you don’t. If you don’t, unfriending is the best bet.
Go through your entire Friends list and get rid of anyone you don’t want to be in contact with. You can always go back and friend someone again if you make a mistake.
3. Audit your “Likes”
Unfortunately, Facebook does not make it so easy to stop following the pages you’ve liked.
Click on the Likes button. If the page happens to fit into the categories of music, books, movies or television, you can easily put your mouse over the page name, then the “Liked” button and choose unlike.
If you want to unlike any of the other pages you’ve liked, you have to scroll down the Likes page. There you’ll see the pages you’ve liked listed by the year you liked them. To unlike these pages, you have to open them in a new tab and click and the “Like” button there. Then click unlike. This process can take a long time.
Why did Facebook make it so easy to unlike friends and not pages? You probably would guess, as I have, that they’re doing businesses a service. The ads business buy on Facebook often use people who like a page to target their friends. Facebook is a business and this is a design that helps that business more than it helps you. Still, it’s worth taking a look at the pages you’ve liked to decide which you want to get rid of.
4. Audit your apps
Facebook’s new Timeline aims to make the music and media you consume part of your profile. For this reason, some apps—such as Spotify and Goodreads—have the ability to post directly on your Timeline.
Apps, like most software, come with terms and conditions most people skip over. Often, we have no idea how much access an app has to our private data. That’s why it’s always a good time to edit your apps to get rid of ANY that you are not using. Here’s how to do it.
a. In the upper right corner of your Facebook page, click on the arrow
b. Select “Privacy Settings”.
c. Scroll down to “Apps and Websites” and click on “Edit Settings”.
d. Under “Apps You Use” click on “Remove unwanted or spammy apps.”
e. Click the little blue x on the far right for any app you do not use.
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
Today is Safer Internet Day – a day to talk about what kind of place the Internet is becoming for kids, and what people can do to make it a safe place for kids and teens to enjoy. We talk a lot about various online threats on this blog. After all, we’re a cyber security company, and it’s our job to secure devices and networks to keep people protected from more than just malware. But protecting kids and protecting adults are different ballparks. Kids have different needs, and as F-Secure Researcher Mikael Albrecht has pointed out, this isn’t always recognized by software developers or device manufacturers. So how does this actually impact kids? Well, it means parents can’t count on the devices and services kids use to be completely age appropriate. Or completely safe. Social media is a perfect example. Micke has written in the past that social media is basically designed for adults, making any sort of child protection features more of an afterthought than a focus. Things like age restrictions are easy for kids to work around. So it’s not difficult for kids to hop on Facebook or Twitter and start social networking, just like their parents or older siblings. But these services aren't designed for kids to connect with adults. So where does that leave parents? Parental controls are great tools that parents can use to monitor, and to a certain extent, limit what kids can do online. But they’re not perfect. Particularly considering the popularity of mobile devices amongst kids. Regulating content on desktop browsers and mobile apps are two different things, and while there are a lot of benefits to using mobile apps instead of web browsers, it does make using special software to regulate content much more difficult. The answer to challenges like these is the less technical approach – talking to kids. There’s some great tips for parents on F-Secure’s Digital Parenting web page, with talking points, guidelines, and potential risks that parents should learn more about. That might seem like a bit of a challenge to parents. F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen has pointed out that today’s kids have never experienced a world without the Internet. It’s as common as electricity for them. But the nice thing about this approach is that parents can do this just by spending time with kids and learning about the things they like to do online. So if you don’t know what your kids are up to this Safer Internet Day, why not enjoy the day with your kids (or niece/nephew, or even a kid you might be babysitting) by talking over what they like to do online, and how they can enjoy doing it safely.
The European Union is preparing a new data protection package. It is making headlines because there are plans to raise the age limit for digital consent from 13 to 16 years. This has sometimes been describes as the age limit for joining social media. To be precise, member states could choose their age limit within this range. Younger kids would need parental consent for creating an account in social media and similar networks. We can probably agree that minors’ use of the internet can be problematic. But is an age limit really the right way to go? It’s easy to think of potential problems when children and teenagers start using social media. The platforms are powerful communication tools, for good and bad. Cyberbullying. Grooming. Inappropriate content. Unwanted marketing. Getting addicted. Stealing time and attention from homework or other hobbies. And perhaps most important. Social media often becomes a sphere of freedom, a world totally insulated from the parents and their silly rules. In social media you can choose your contacts. There’s no function that enables parents to check what the kids are doing, unless they accept their parents as friends. And the parents are often on totally different services. Facebook is quickly becoming the boring place where mom and granny hangs out. Youngsters tend to be on Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Periscope or whatnot instead. But is restricting their access to social media the right thing to do? What do we achieve by requiring parental consent before they sign up? This would mean that parents, in theory, have a chance to prevent their children from being on social media. And that’s good, right? Well, this is a flawed logic in several ways. First, it’s easy to lie about your age. Social media in generic has very poor authentication mechanisms for people signing up. They are not verifying your true identity, and can’t verify your age either. Kids learn very quickly that signing up just requires some simple math. Subtract 16, or whatever, from the current year when asked for year of birth. The other problem is that parental consent requirements don’t give parents a real choice. Electronic communication is becoming a cornerstone in our way to interact with other people. It can’t be stressed enough how important it is for our children to learn the rules and skills of this new world. Preventing kids from participating in the community where all their friends are could isolate them, and potentially cause more harm than the dark side of social media. What we need isn’t age limits and parental consent. It’s better control of the content our children are dealing with and tools for parents to follow what they are doing. Social media is currently designed for adults and everyone have tools to protect their privacy. But the same tools become a problem when children join, as they also prevent parents from keeping an eye on their offspring. Parental consent becomes significant when the social media platforms start to recognize parent-child relationships. New accounts for children under a specified age could mandatorily be linked to an adult’s account. The adult would have some level of visibility into what the child is doing, but maybe not full visibility. Metadata, like whom the child is communicating with, would be a good start. Remember that children deserve s certain level of privacy too. Parents could of course still neglect their responsibilities, but they would at least have a tool if they want to keep an eye on how their kids are doing online. And then we still have the problem with the lack of age verification. All this is naturally in vain if the kids can sign up as adults. On top of that, children’s social media preferences are very volatile. They do not stay loyally on one service all the time. Having proper parent-child relationships in one service is not enough, it need to be the norm on all services. So we are still very far from a social media world that really takes parents’ and children’s needs into account. Just demanding parental consent when kids are signing up does not really do much good. It’s of course nice to see EU take some baby steps towards a safer net for our children. But this is unfortunately an area where baby steps isn’t enough. We need a couple of giant leaps as soon as possible. Safe surfing, Micke Image by skyseeker