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How to protect your private information from Facebook’s ‘creepy’ new open graph search

310670770_5f30fb24d0Are you sharing your telephone number on Facebook?

You might be and not even realize it.

A few months ago I signed up for Facebook’s Login Approvals, which required my mobile number. Instantly my number was added and set at my default setting.

If my general privacy setting were “Public”, my number could be one of the 2.5 million phone numbers that Brandon Copley recently harvested from Facebook using the site’s new Open Graph Search.

The app developer from Texas admits that users can use privacy settings to hide their number but still believes this is a violation of users’ trust.

“Facebook is denying its users the right to privacy by allowing our phone numbers to be publicly searchable as the default setting,” Copley told TechCrunch. “This means that anyone with my number knows my Facebook contact information.  I may have not told my future employer about my Facebook account, but if I called them on my cell phone they can now know how to find me on Facebook.”

To make sure your phone number isn’t public, go to your profile and click on “Update Info”. Click “Edit” next to your “Contact Information” then click on the audience icon and select the level of sharing you want. I chose “Only Me”.This isn’t the only privacy surprise you should expect as Facebook’s Open Graph Search begins rolling out to the site’s one billion users

The simplest way to make sure you’re only sharing what you want to share is to use our new Safe Profile Beta app, which scans your profile and lets you know how much you’re sharing and how to lock down your profile. But keep reading for more information about the search and how to prepare yourself.

Open Graph Search will definitely change the way people look at Facebook. You can sign up for the waiting list here: http://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch

Your friends and their friends will be able to search your information in ways you may not expect. And this tool will likely become the “Google” of social—meaning people will go to it first to discover the people based on interests and location, which could get a bit “creepy.”

Some suggest this tool will make it easier for criminals to find information for phishing attacks or repressive governments to crack down on dissidents. You can see some examples of how married people who “like” prostitutes and government employees who “like” racism here: http://actualfacebookgraphsearches.tumblr.com/

However, the good news is that it’s restricted by your privacy settings most of your friends use Facebook pretty sanely, right?

“90% of users get the basics right and the other 10% are hopeless,” F-Secure Security Advisor Sean Sullivan told me. “When the 90% meets the 10%, de-friend the boneheads. Because soon they will reflect on you.”

Since you will not be able to opt out of Open Graph Search, you might want to take a few more steps to make sure you don’t end up on the bad end of a disturbing search made by a friend, family member or potential employer.

Here’s what to do now:

(If you’re one of the 90% of the Facebook users who gets how to use the site, you can skip to step three for tips that relate specifically to Graph Search.)

1. First of all, never post anything you wouldn’t want to end in your mom’s newsfeed.
This will save you from most embarrassment. This means, no pictures, videos or status updates you wouldn’t want to see on the cover of your hometown newspaper. If you do this, you’ll avoid most—but not all trouble that could result from being on Facebook or in its search.

2. Check your privacy settings and unfriend anyone who doesn’t seem to use the site responsibly
You can get fancy and restrict certain things to certain people, but Facebook’s basic privacy settings are “public” or “friends.” We recommend friends, unless you want to open your profile to end up in the search results of anyone in the world.

Find the lock near the upper right hand corner, click on it and select “See more settings” at the bottom of the menu that pops up.

Change every option for “Who can see my stuff?” and “Who can look me up?” pick “friends”.

3. Scrub you history
You can (and should) limit all of your old posts to just your friends. Once you do this, you cannot undo it. But you can go back and adjust each posts individually.

Click at the top right of any Facebook page and select Privacy Settings Find “Limit the audience for posts I’ve shared with friends of friends or Public?” and click Limit Past Posts. Click ”Limit Old Posts”.

4. Check your likes!
This is where Graph search gets “creepy.” Let’s say you liked a band three years ago or your competitor at work or a boy band as joke. Graph  Search doesn’t get the joke. What you’ve liked on Facebook is now much more important. And just as you unfriend anyone who worries, go through your likes and unlike any page you don’t want to be associated with. Unfortunately you need to do this page by page.

Go to your profile, click on “Likes.”

They’re organized chronically, so go back in time and unlike away.

5. Turn on “tag review” and take control of your wall.
The most annoying thing about Facebook is that people can tag you in photos you don’t want to be associated with. You can turn on “tag review” and prevent the photos from showing up to your friends but the tag will still be on the photo unless you “report/remove tag.”

Here’s how to turn on “tag review” so photos you don’t approve don’t show up on your profile.

Click on the wheel in the right-hand corner, click on your privacy settings and then click on Timeline and Tagging on the left menu.

Most people want to allow friends to post on your wall but if protecting your images is your priority, you may want to make it available only for you. Either way, it’s a good idea to select “friends” for “Who can see what others post on your timeline?” This will prevent strangers or even potential mates or employers happening to catch your page right as a friend posted some hilariously sick image on your timeline.

We recommend you turn on “Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline?” This won’t stop your friends from tagging you in something embarrassing but it will stop it from showing up on your wall if they do.

We definitely recommend you enable “Review tags people add to your own posts before the tags appear on Facebook?” This so called tag review will keep you from being in ridiculous tagged pictures or posts that show up in search results. Instead of just popping up on your wall the posts will show up in your activity log where you can approve a tag or asked for it to be removed. To get to your “Activity Log” to approve your tags, go to your profile by clicking on your name on the top navigation. Then click on “Activity Log”

Here’s a Facebook video on how to “report/remove” photos or videos you don’t want to be tagged in.

6. If you want to prevent your friends and family from being associated from you, hide them.
On your profile/timeline page, click “Friends”. In the new screen you’ll see an edit button.

Select “Only Me”.

To hide your family, click “About” below your name, work, school and hometown on your timeline. Under “Relationships and Family” select “Edit” and select “Only Me.”

7.       If this is too much work, consider moving somewhere you’ll have lots of privacy—Google+.

[Photo by Milica Sekulic]

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What is a supercookie and why is it more important than you think?

Many techie terms in the headlines lately. Supercookies, supertrackers, HTTP headers and X-UIDH. If you just skim the news you will learn that this is some kind of new threat against our privacy. But what is it really? Let’s dig a bit deeper. We will discover that this is an issue of surprisingly big importance. Cookies are already familiar to most of us. These are small pieces of information that a web server can ask our browser to store. They are very useful for identifying users and managing sessions. They are designed with security and privacy in mind, and users can control how these cookies are used. In short, they are essential, they can be a privacy problem but we have tools to manage that threat. What’s said above is good for us ordinary folks, but not so good for advertisers. Users get more and more privacy-aware and execute their ability to opt out from too excessive tracking. The mobile device revolution has also changed the game. More and more of our Internet access is done through apps instead of the browser. This is like using a separate “browser” for all the services we use, and this makes it a lot harder to get an overall picture of our surfing habits. And that’s exactly what advertisers want, advertising is like a lottery with bad odds unless they know who’s watching the ad. A new generation of supercookies (* were developed to fight this trend. It is a piece of information that is inserted in your web traffic by your broadband provider. Its purpose is to identify the user from whom the traffic comes. And to generate revenue for the broadband provider by selling information about who you really are to the advertisers. These supercookies are typically used on mobile broadband connections where the subscription is personal, meaning that all traffic on it comes from a single person. So why are supercookies bad? They are inserted in the traffic without your consent and you have no way to opt out. They are not visible at all on your device so there is no way to control them by using browser settings or special tools. They are designed to support advertisers and generate revenue for the mobile broadband provider. Your need for privacy has not been a design goal. They are not domain-specific like ordinary cookies. They are broadcasted to any site you communicate with. They were designed to remain secret. They are hidden in an obscure part of the header information that very few web administrators need to touch. There are two ways to pay for Internet services, with money or by letting someone profile you for marketing purposes. This system combines both. You are utilized for marketing profit by someone you pay money to. But what can and should I do as an ordinary user? Despite the name, this kind of supercookies are technically totally different from ordinary cookies. The privacy challenges related with ordinary cookies are still there and need to be managed. Supercookies have not replaced them. Whatever you do to manage ordinary cookies, keep doing it. Supercookies are only used by some mobile broadband providers. Verizon and AT&T have been most in the headlines, but at least AT&T seems to be ramping down as a result of the bad press. Some other operators are affected as well. If you use a device with a mobile broadband connection, you can test if your provider inserts them. Go to this page while connected over the device’s own data connection, not WiFi. Check what comes after “Broadcast UID:”. This field should be empty. If not, then your broadband provider uses supercookies. Changing provider is one way to get rid of them. Another way is to use a VPN-service. This will encapsulate all your traffic in an encrypted connection, which is impossible to tamper with. We happen to have a great offering for you, F-secure Freedome. Needless to say, using Freedome on your mobile device is a good idea even if you are not affected by these supercookies. Check the site for more details. Last but not least. Even if you’re unaffected, as most of you probably are, this is a great reminder of how important net neutrality is. It means that any carrier that deliver your network traffic should do that only, and not manipulate it for their own profit. This kind of tampering is one evil trick, throttling to extort money from other businesses is another. We take neutrality and equal handling for granted on many other common resources in our society. The road network, the postal service, delivery of electricity, etc. Internet is already a backbone in society and will grow even more important in the future. Maintaining neutrality and fair rules in this network is of paramount importance for our future society.   Safe surfing, Micke   PS. The bad press has already made AT&T drop the supercookies, which is great. All others involved mobile broadband providers may have done the same by the time you are reading this. But this is still an excellent example of why net neutrality is important and need to be guaranteed by legislation.     (* This article uses the simplified term supercookie for the X-UIDH -based tracker values used by Verizon, AT&T and others in November 2014. Supercookie may in other contexts refer to other types of cookie-like objects. The common factor is that a supercookie is more persistent and harder to get rid of than an ordinary cookie.   Image by Jer Thorp  

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Poll: What does clicking Like really mean to you?

Social media is here to stay and it definitively changes our way to communicate. One new trend is the ability to communicate instantly without writing or saying anything. Good examples are Facebook’s Like-button and the indicators for what you are doing or feeling. Facebook’s Like-button is no doubt the most popular and important feature in this category. You really can’t be a Facebook user without getting in touch with it. But the big question is what you really mean by clicking Like? It sounds simple, but may be more complex than you think. You do not only express support for the post you like, it is also a social gesture towards the poster. You show that you have read the post and want to stay in touch. Another interesting question is how to deal with good posts about bad things. We see them almost daily. Someone is writing an excellent post about something that is very wrong. You really dislike the topic of the post even if you think it’s good that someone brings it up. You agree about something you dislike. Should you click Like? Does a like target the post or the topic of a post? There’s no generic rule for this and we all act differently. More activity, likes and comments, boost a post and makes it more visible. So it would make sense to like the post as we want to spread awareness about the problem. But it still feels wrong to like something that makes you feel sick. So that’s the poll question for today. How do you act when you see a good post about something bad? Do you click Like? [polldaddy poll=8445608]   Safe surfing, Micke  

Nov 13, 2014
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