Dating, Lying, Facebook

Stalker Kitteh

We were listening to the Bobby Bones show (it’s Sara’s new favorite morning radio show) on the way to work, when they ran a promo asking people to call in if they ever had or would use a fake name on a date to “protect yourself  because it’s so easy for people to find you on Facebook.

Clearly the notion here is that the more nefarious characters in this world may have an easier time tracking you down and stalking you because you’ve put your information on the internet, therefore you should change your social behavior and in the name of protecting yourself should lie your ass off in real life.

I never got to hear if anybody actually called in as it’s a relatively short drive to work, however it did get me thinking and one of the first things I said to Sara was –

“So let me get this straight, the idea here is that because you’re too stupid to change one behavior, you have to change your other social behaviors? Seriously, if I went on two dates with someone and then found out they were using a fake name, I’d be more inclined to think they THEY are the psycho!”

What social behavior am I talking about changing? It’s the one where you post every damn aspect of your life online. Sure it’s the cool thing to do, but if you’re worried about Jack or Jacqueline the psycho / stalker / voyeur / rapist / NAMBLA member turning up on your doorstep then maybe you shouldn’t be sharing all of your personal details online?

It’s really simple, lock down that Facebook profile (or other service) and before you post ask yourself if you really want strangers to have access this information?

Don’t want your ex-boyfriend knowing where you’re living? Don’t post your address it online. Why is he even on your friends list anyway?

Don’t want the husband knowing that you’re screwing his mate while he’s at home minding the kids and you’re supposed to be working the night-shift? Don’t post a picture of yourself sucking face with him at the bar! It’s such a simple concept.

While you’re at it, use a service like Google Voice so that you never have to give out your “real” phone number and have complete control over when and who can text or call you. Sara actually thinks that Google Voice should be marketed to people who date a lot, as it is perfect tool for blocking annoying calls and texts and making sure that only the people you want to contact you can.

Just because we use the internet doesn’t mean that we have to change all of our other social behaviors to compensate for what we post. Lying about who we are is a sad attempt to fix a problem by causing another problem, without ever actually addressing the root issue – not being responsible about what we post online.

As for this idea of weeding out the psychos by giving fake names, I believe it’s fair to say that the worst personality traits of people often don’t surface until you’ve been in a relationship with them for a long time, so lying at the beginning is hardly going to protect you from the worst of things. Not to mention that lying is never a good way to begin a relationship.

Today I Learned Why Facebook Is Ultimately Doomed

I’ve been reading a lot lately about why the Facebook boat is destined to sink.

Opinions and reasons are as plentiful and varied as the cosplayers at Comic-con (read Matt Silverman (Mashable) and Eric Jackson (Forbes) for two differing yet equally valid opinions), yet for me there can be no greater reason than diminishing user trust.

I’m not going to rehash all the usual arguments about difficult and misleading privacy settings, user interest decreasing over time, or that the service is simply trying to be too big and the off-putting complexity that presents to users. No, instead I’m going to post this picture…

TIL Why Facebook Is DoomedThe advert, as you can see is plainly for something on the naughtier side of the internet, and even though people have a right to do what they want online (within legal reason), what got me was that the name and face attached  to the advert were those of someone who I know. I’m not going to say who, for obvious reasons, but I will say that he’s got a wife and kids and I’m sure she wouldn’t (and probably not he) wouldn’t be happy knowing that his one-armed surfing preferences are being displayed to everyone on his Facebook contact list.

How can Facebook ever expect to maintain users and community when they can’t (either through ineptitude or unwillingness) keep our private habits from our friends, let alone advertisers?

Yes, the guy in question is partly to blame, but the flip side is that he, like the majority of Facebook users is not tech savvy in the way which the people reading this post are. He, like the rest of the unwashed masses simply don’t care about Facebook privacy.

I suspect he’ll start caring about it now if his wife sees the same advert in her sidebar, but like most people privacy doesn’t matter until it’s taken away and there’s a damaging consequence.

It’s issues like this, regardless of who caused them, be it Facebook, the user or a third-party that will cause the community to lose trust and without the community Facebook is worth absolutely nothing.

If Facebook wishes to survive long-term, it needs to learn to protect users and their data, not only from rogue advertisers and spammers, but also from themselves as unfortunately the masses are either unwilling, incapable (which I doubt) or simply don’t care enough to worry… until it’s too late.

Stupid Injunction – Privacy Vs Freedom Of Expression

Dan Bull released “Stupid Injunction” as a response to the ongoing debate which is currently raging int he  UK surrounding the balancing of privacy concerns versus freedom of expression.

As the names of public figures alleged to have taken out ultra-restrictive gagging orders continued to circulate freely on Twitter – and newspapers from Spain to Peru repeated their identities – Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the proliferation of information on the web had made a “mockery” of current privacy rules.

Mr Hunt raised for the first time the possibility of a new watchdog to ensure that social media such as Twitter and Facebook were subject to controls similar to those faced by the press and broadcasters, saying there may be a case for converging the regulation of traditional and new media.

In a signal that the Government could consider fresh legislation, he repeated David Cameron’s insistence that Parliament, rather than judges, should be responsible for ruling on the balance between privacy and freedom of expression.

Mr Hunt said: “We are in this crazy situation where information is available freely online which you aren’t able to print in newspapers. We are in a situation where technology, and Twitter in particular, is making a mockery of the privacy laws we have and we do need to think about the regulatory environment we have. In the end, I do strongly believe it should be Parliament, not judges, that decides where we draw the line on our privacy law.”

Alarm in Whitehall at the increased willingness of a small group of High Court judges, including media law specialist Mr Justice Eady, to impose gagging orders whose very existence cannot be disclosed has grown in the last 48 hours as the alleged identities of the super-injunction-protected celebrities circulate freely in cyberspace – while the mainstream media risks criminal sanction if it repeats the information.

Refining How I Use Facebook

A while back I made the move to set up a Facebook page so that I could lock down my profile and have a single place where I could chat with friends without my “public” stuff flowing over.

That has worked out well except that when I share posts from other sites (stuff that probably interested nobody but me) I tend to do so using Ping.fm ,which means it get shared in my private profile as well. It also meant a lot of duplication as shares were going to both my private and public profile.

I’ve just made a few changes to how Ping.fm is sharing so that the above issues are resolved.

From now on anything I share via Ping.fm will appear on my Facebook page and not in my private profile. I’ll still share my blog posts and stuff in there, but it won’t be full of tech stories etc… It will just be a place for me to chat with people I know.

In contrast my Facebook page should become a lot busier as my shares as well as posts will be going there as I attempt to fill it with great content that I find interesting and I hope that you will too :)

See Friendship: Facebook Gets Seriously Creepy

I logged in to Facebook this morning to post  “Happy Birthday” on the wall of my amazing and wonderful wife, Sara.

After I posted I saw a new link next to my post on her wall marked “See Friendship”.

Facebook See FriendshipI followed the link and was amazed to see a list of basically everything we have ever done together, that Facebook knows about. Pictures we’re in, events attended, comments we’ve made, shares, likes, everything.

It’s kind of creepy to be honest.

Facebook See Friendship Wall

What really struck me is that I can also see this information for anybody that I happen to be friends with.

It’s not just me and the interactions I’ve had with my friends. I could be Steven Hodson and Sara or you and someone else.

Facebook even provides me with a tool so I can search the interactions of people I know with each other.

Facebook See Friendship SearchThis brings Facebook to being on a whole new level of stalker tools.

I know all of these people are supposed to be in your circle of friends, but are they really? Do you know everyone you are friends with on Facebook?  A lot of people don’t and despite privacy protections many people still don’t know (or care about) how to lock down their Facebook profile.

Why on earth would most people want to know the interactions, in depth, between two people on their friends list?

I suppose there are a handful of legitimate reason such as, “I remember Sara said that to Heather before”, but most.. I’ll leave that decision up to you guys.

How does it make you feel to know that people can not just look up what you’ve posted publicly on Facebook but also look up and stalk your interactions with specific users?

Social Networks Spell The End For Superheroes Secret Identities

If Superman were real do you think that he’d be able to keep his identity hidden in today connected world?

Not having his alter ego online could send up a red flag that something is wrong and be almost as much of a risk as having drunk relatives posting stuff about him online.

Then you have to consider the legions of stalkers (Louis Lane and Lex Luthor included) who would be scouring profiles and running home brewed attempts at facial recognition in order to track down the man of steel.

It’s sad to say, but todays connected world would leave no place for a real superhero to protect their identities.

Supermans Social Networking Nightmare

Via The Joy Of Tech.

That Crash You Hear Is The Death Of Social Networking

That crash you hear is the death of social networking.

Those were the first words out of Sara’s mouth as I read aloud the highlights from the Wall Street Journals “revelations” that Facebook, MySpace, LiveJournal, Hi5, Xanga and Digg and other social networks were sending personally identifiable information, such as user names and user ID’s to advertisers.

The practice, which most of the companies defended, sends user names or ID numbers tied to personal profiles being viewed when users click on ads. After questions were raised by The Wall Street Journal, Facebook and MySpace moved to make changes. By Thursday morning Facebook had rewritten some of the offending computer code.

Advertising companies are receiving information that could be used to look up individual profiles, which, depending on the site and the information a user has made public, include such things as a person’s real name, age, hometown and occupation.

This couldn’t come at a worse time for Facebook, who are being pointed to as being one of the worst offenders. This adds ever more fuel to fire surrounding their current privacy issues which are large enough to have made it on to the front cover of Time Magazine.

But Facebook went further than other sites, in some cases signaling which user name or ID was clicking on the ad as well as the user name or ID of the page being viewed.

I am still flabbergasted that some sites are defending the move, saying that just because they allow you to sign up without using your real name (I sign up with my real name everywhere) the information sent to advertisers is not personally identifiable.

MySpace, Hi5, Digg, Xanga and Live Journal said they don’t consider their user names or ID numbers to be personally identifiable, because unlike Facebook, consumers are not required to submit their real names when signing up for an account.

The bigger advertising companies like Google and Yahoo have come out and said publicly that they do not use the data. Stating that they prohibit companies such as Facebook from sending it to them, but they do anyway.

Both Google and Yahoo strongly refuted the idea that they would ever make use of any such personally identifiable data. Yahoo VP of Global Policy Anne Toth said of the allegations, “We prohibit clients from sending personally identifiable information to us. We have told them. ‘We don’t want it. You shouldn’t be sending it to us. If it happens to be there, we are not looking for it.’”

Google and Yahoo have laid the blame firmly at the door of the social networks, implying either that the networks simply don’t care about the data they are sending out, or are too lazy to put in place the filters which the industry demands and that Google and Yahoo have asked for, instead choosing to leave the advertising companies worry about privacy concerns with regard to information they receive.

The trust has been broken. Facebook has pushed it to the brink and now the dam has burst, proving that above all else, social networks have put the dollar before your privacy.

Steven Hodson has it quite right, it’s now come out that despite assurance to the contrary and industry guidelines, the social networks expect us to bend over and take it up the ass where our privacy is concerned.

The Problem Is Choice

No ChoiceRealization comes to people in the weirdest of places and just a few moments ago, while standing in the shower attempting to decide which shampoo to use (as I guy, shampoo is shampoo, we don’t care and choice confounds us) I realized why Facebook is in such hot water lately.

The issue isn’t privacy, it’s choice, or rather, the removal of choice.

Do you know what the difference between a monk in a monastery and a prisoner in jail is?

Choice.

A monk will spend his entire life locked away, content,  in a monastery because he chooses too, but a prisoner will despise the confinement and want out because he is being forced to be there.

Facebook is making  prisoners of us. They are attempting to force a change that people aren’t ready for without giving us a true choice.

We make choices all the time, it’s part of our basic makeup that we need to be able to make choices for ourselves. Remove those choices and we know instinctively that something is wrong. Remove our ability to make choices and we get angry.

We need control, even if it is just an illusion.

Force radical change upon us, even if it is a good change and we get angry.

Zuckerberg apparently believes that we are moving into a “post privacy” era on the web. He believes that privacy is dead, that people want to share more and he wants Facebook to usher in this new era as quickly as possible.

I’m not so sure of his motivations. Dollar signs traded for privacy is rather more believable to me, but lets just say that Zuckerberg is actually being honest about this one.

As I see it, Zuckerbergs claims are balancing upon some very thin straws.

He’ll point to the increased amount of data people are sharing about themselves on Facebook as justification and proof. To me, that is deliberately ignoring the cause and using the effect to justify more of the cause. When people are sharing more data because you are forcing them too it doesn’t exactly support your argument especially when the majority of people whom you are forcing to share things aren’t even aware that it is happening.

Contrary to the claims of people who support Facebooks move, people still believe that when they post something it is essentially private. That only people they allow to see things will see things.

My brothers and sisters, 4 in their 20’s and one in her teens, are all on Facebook and after talking to them it’s ridiculously apparent that they know nothing about the changes that have been made or how it affects them.

Facebook has done a piss poor job of communicating change and is using the results of that change to justify it.

If we had a true choice the issues with Facebook wouldn’t still be dominating the tech headlines. Zuckerberg knows that there currently exists no viable alternative to Facebook. If an alternative did exist people would flock to it and Facebooks numbers would have tanked by now.

Zuckerberg is counting on this. Counting on peoples lack of understanding of privacy and Facebooks privacy settings. He is counting on the lack of an alternative platform for people to move to and using these things to force people to behave online in the manner which he wants, or at least the manner which fills Facebooks coffers. Zuckerberg and Facebook are forcing you to share.

Facebook is making a prisoner of your data and has removed your ability to chose what happens to it.

Oddly enough, if the changes Facebook implemented were explained properly and people were given the choice, I think enough people would have chosen to opt-in that it would have eventually become the excepted norm.

Facebook Culture And You: Zucker Up Or Get Lost!

Mark Zuckerberg

Trust Me!

Facebook doesn’t get user privacy.

Facebook doesn’t put the user first or understand why they should.

Facebook doesn’t care about you.

Facebook doesn’t care about it’s partners.

Facebook will screw you, it’s partners and your grandmother over if there is a chance of a quick buck.

Facebook will be the leper of social networking within the next 18 months.

Strong words I know, but I’m not being hysterical. I’m simply calling it as I see it.

The internal culture at Facebook is not one of a consumer first company. It’s an ego centric culture of “we will tell the consumer what’s best for them, even if it’s actually what’s best for us”.

Lets start with Mark Zuckerberg shall we? His ego is apparently second only to that of Steve Jobs (who in turn, has an ego second only to mine), but unlike Jobs, Zuckerbergs past is mired in controversy, shady dealings and accusations of downright theft.

Not exactly the kind of guy I’d want running my company (if I was lucky enough to own the next Facebook).

Jason Calacanis (the man I love to hate, yet secretly have a man crush on) said in his email yesterday that Zuckerberg has over played his hand and went on to list a string of accusations, shady dealings and actual rip-offs performed by zippy Zuckerberg that reads as a “what not to do” of business.

Jason outlines, in no uncertain terms, why Zuckerberg and by extension Facebook (cultured from the top down) just cannot be trusted.

The biggest mistake most new players make at poker is overplaying their hand. They spend so much time thinking of the ways they can win that they forget all the ways they can lose. Overplaying hands can affect even the most seasoned players, especially after they’ve won a couple of hands in a row.

Over the past month, Mark Zuckerberg, the hottest new card player in town, has overplayed his hand. Facebook is officially “out,” as in uncool, amongst partners, parents and pundits all coming to the realization that Zuckerberg and his company are–simply put–not trustworthy.

Until today I was of the opinion that Zuckerberg suddenly vanishing off the face of the planet would save Facebook and allow them get back to the core of what made them popular in the first place: being trusted, secure and private.

Alas, this is not to be and of such thoughts are pipe-dreams made.

The Zuckerberg culture of “screw unto others” has evidently become endemic and was never as evident as Elliot Schrage’s (Facebooks vice president for public policy) answers to questions posed by readers of the New York Times.

Take this question and answer as an example:

It used to be that I could limit what strangers saw about me to almost nothing. I could not show my profile picture, not allow them to “poke” or message me, certainly not allow them to view my profile page. Now, even my interests have to be public information. Why can’t I control my own information anymore? sxchen, New York

Joining Facebook is a conscious choice by vast numbers of people who have stepped forward deliberately and intentionally to connect and share. We study user activity. We’ve found that a few fields of information need to be shared to facilitate the kind of experience people come to Facebook to have. That’s why we require the following fields to be public: name, profile photo (if people choose to have one), gender, connections (again, if people choose to make them), and user ID number. Facebook provides a less satisfying experience for people who choose not to post a photo or make connections with friends or interests. But, other than name and gender, nothing requires them to complete these fields or share information they do not want to share. If you’re not comfortable sharing, don’t.

What Schrage is essentially saying here is: You choose to use Facebook so tough shit.

No mention of the fact that many of the hundreds of millions of people that use Facebook decided to do so when they were a trusted network. People that signed up unaware that Zuckerberg and Co. would expose their life and data to the universe at large at a later date, without so much as a “thank you m’am”.

I’m tempted to call out the utter failure of the New York Times to point out just how wrong Schrage is in some of his answers, but I trust that you can see that for yourself.

Trust used to be the currency of Facebook but in past months it appears that Facebook and Zuckerberg are on an all out adrenaline fueled money grab and our privacy is the currency Facebook is trading for that money.

The only problem is that the exchange rate between trust and privacy is very steep. It only takes giving away a little privacy to lose a lot of trust and Zuckerberg is rapidly running out of privacy to pawn off. Not to mention the well of trust is nearly exhausted.

If I were a more skeptical or cynical man, instead of accusing Zukerberg of being a sniveling, ego maniacal, greedy git, I’d say that he was deliberately trying to run Facebook into the ground.

Think about it.

Facebook is the big thing right now. Yet, everyone, even Zuckerberg, knows that Facebook can’t last forever. There will be a changing of the guard with regard to the dominant social network. It happens every few years but, unlike the dinosaurs, old zippy Zuckerberg knows the meteorite is coming.

He’s just not sure when, or from where.

Perhaps Zuckerberg sees that Facebook has now reached that critical mass of users, where the whining of tech bloggers and tech media isn’t enough to deter the mainstream and has decided to embark on a massive money grab, cashing in our privacy, so that they can cash out with as much as possible before the next big thing dethrones them and Facebooks value starts to plummet.

Whether it’s Zuckerbergs ego and sheer naivety or some dastardly plan to get as much as possible as quickly as possible before the Facebook killer arrives, one thing is certain:

Those of us who wish to continue using Facebook to connect with our friends, family and readers, will just have to buy a bottle of lube, bend over and Zucker up!