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Social networking websites are turning out to be a curse for privacy for people. The biggest culprit among various social networking websites is Facebook, founded less than 5 years ago. What made Facebook click was not its US$ 15 billion value, not its software, its patents, or its smart people but its enormous database, an electronic catalog of interconnections and interests of its members with details of who knows whom. The daily updates of my friends' new friends and what groups they have joined are like tiny, atomized announcements, inviting people to contribute updates. Facebook's vast social network is invaluable for checking reputations. The same data can be helpful to sell stuff though earlier this year, Facebook found that telling members what their friends had bought was going too far. On the other hand there are websites that purely help make business connections like LinkedIn.com's with motto of "Relationships matter," jigsaw.com that encourages everyone to submit others' contact information so that prospective clients can "bypass gatekeepers" and "go straight to decision-makers."

Technology keeps changing the norms. As such few years ago, a public catalog of all the nation's swimming-pool owners was shocking, but today anyone can use Google Maps to look down into people's back yards. As such friends circles are likewise going to be more public and staying off websites like Facebook.com won't keep people private. With many public sources from which social network information can be culled including newspapers and blogs computers can connect people simply on the basis of whether they are mentioned in the same article. As technology creates opportunities for people to catalog who knows whom, people are uploading their family photos to online album websites such as Facebook.com and Flickr.com. This is not only helping them create a vast network but also infringing on privacy as photographs that should be private are being seen by other people. Here’s were see things start to go wrong, with the whole world finding out, where someone spent their vacation.

All this information sharing through links established by computers may not be real social connections. As privacy settings change limiting the abuse of personal information without resorting to internet censorship will slowly become even more difficult. Recently the news of sale of 1.5 million stolen Facebook accounts on the black market by a hacker created panic amongst users. Researchers at VeriSign iDefense Labs, an internet security firm, found stolen login details of people on Facebook.com on sale for as little as US$25 for 1,000 on a Russian website Carder.su. According to the firm, the hacker called ‘kirllos’ was offering login information for bundles of 1,000 accounts with 10 or fewer friends on sale for just $25 (£16) and with more than 10, for $45 (£30). However Facebook rubbished the claims, saying that ‘kirllos' was making wild claims; as when Facebook tried to buy details from ‘kirllos’ during its own investigation, the hacker was unable to produce anything. Its known that hackers use software that logs computer keystrokes or 'phishing' techniques that trick users into giving out their passwords, personal information like birth dates, addresses and phone numbers. The accounts are then hijacked to send spam and malicious programs or to commit identity frauds. Users concerned about their account privacy can do very little to contain the damage.

Despite this there is flurry of information uploaded on Facebook that should remain private. This has even resulted in marriage breaking down in Britain, where marriage counselors claim that social networking sites like Facebook have helped a number of bored middle-aged users in their 40s and 50s to reconnect with childhood sweethearts resulting in their lives being thrown into turmoil. Australian Family Relationships Clearing House manager Elly Robinson said online behavior was causing friction in households. She said "People will come in (for counselling) where one partner may deny their online behaviour has been any sort of problem, but the issue is … if it's upsetting one of those people in the relationship, it's a problem". Robinson further said "Relationships develop more quickly online because inhibitions are lowered, it's easy to exchange information, people are online 24/7, there's an (endless) amount of people you can link up with who are there for the same reason, real life pressures fade away … it's a bit of a fantasy world".

Relationships Australia vice-president Anne Hollonds said "The internet doesn't make people have affairs. It's become the pathway of choice for many people but I don't think that means the Internet is breaking up families". However she also said "But there's no evidence to suggest that had the technology not been available, you wouldn't have had an affair with someone else anyway". As everyone fantasies about love from the past and with the technology available people are using internet to reconnect with lost loves, ultimately causing trouble for their present families, something for which they should be always be responsible.

Just yesterday a software glitch on Facebook; let people's friends in online communities, see each others' private chat messages. This forced Facebook to temporarily shut down its online chat feature.  "When we received reports of the problem, our engineers promptly diagnosed it and temporarily disabled the chat function," a Facebook spokesman said in an email response to an AFP inquiry. According to Facebook, for peeks into private chat all Facebook users had to do was to manipulate the "preview my profile" feature in a particular way that led chat messages and pending friend requests to be made visible for a "limited period of time". However chat option was back for most Facebook users by 1900 GMT on Wednesday. The software glitch exposed the world's leading online social-networking service which is increasingly being scrutinized regarding infringement of privacy of its users.

According to a Consumer Reports survey titled "Social Insecurity"; most of the adult users of social networks have posted "risky personal information" such as birth dates or children's photos to profile pages. The survey indicated that 23% of Facebook's users "either didn't know that the site offered privacy controls or chose not to use them." Since its launch in 2005 Facebook has become an online repository of personal information and its important that the company should protect user data the way banks protect safe deposit boxes. According to Andrew Brandt, lead threat research analyst at computer security firm, Webroot "They shouldn't be leaving the vault unlocked even for a few hours," Brandt said, referring to the chat feature glitch. Internet users need to realize that any information they put online can escape into the wild. If you have embarrassing photos from spring break that could get you in trouble now or in the future, just don't put that stuff there. Brandt further said "Remember that everything that goes on the Internet essentially stays there. Even if Facebook hides it away, that stuff might be retrievable in the future."

Just last week, 4 US senators expressed concern to Facebook over recent changes to the social network that they say compromised the privacy of its more than 400 million users. In a letter to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, they said they worried that personal information about Facebook users is being made available to third party websites. They also said Facebook should make sharing personal information an "opt-in" procedure under which a user specifically gives permission for personal data to be shared. With social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and others rolling out new features issuing of guidelines on the use of private information has become necessary. It’s also known that Facebook on April 21, 2010 rolled out a series of new features that allowed partner websites to incorporate Facebook users data, helping the website to expand its presence across the internet.

Despite this Elliot Schrage, Vice President-Global Communications (Facebook) is adamant in saying that online privacy is taken very seriously at the company. He said "These new products and features are designed to enhance personalization and promote social activity across the Internet while continuing to give users unprecedented control over what information they share, when they want to share it, and with whom". With Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg famously saying “There is nothing private in social networking on internet.” It has really become important to draw a line where people can use social networking websites freely but still maintain a level of privacy.

Published in CMS
Monday, 17 May 2010 14:27

Log Out of Facebook

Has that time finally arrived when people will feel, its better off to delete their Facebook account? If so, then May 31 is perhaps the D-Day, when hundreds and thousands of Facebook users are expected to log out of the website, which is currently the worlds largest socaial networking website.

A website called Quit Facebook Day, has set the last day of May as the day when, everyone keen to leave the social network should finally take the plunge and hit the Delete key. Several high profile technology pundits and celebs are kicking the world’s number one social networking site to the curb. Just on 7th May Begonia Infosys, posted a blog related to perils of social networking, Facebook popularity and infringment of privacy. Looks like people have taken note of the seroius violations of privacy.

Begonia Infosys published what Elliot Schrage, Vice President-Global Communications (Facebook) said 93These new products and features are designed to enhance personalization and promote social activity across the Internet while continuing to give users unprecedented control over what information they share, when they want to share it, and with whom94. Begonia Infosys had said that with Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg famously saying 93There is nothing private in social networking on internet.94 its really important to draw a line where people can use social networking websites freely but still maintain a level of privacy. There are several reasons why people are logging out of Facebook, some of the important ones being

An Open Secret

With the Facebook’s recent introduction of a platform that, it by default gives third-party companies access to members’ names, friend lists and hobbies to “personalize” their surfing experience, everything is an open secret. This means that when a member logs onto a partner site, such as Yelp or Pandora, the content displayed is shaped by their own interests, as well as the activities of their Facebook friends. With everything being out in the open, there is no privacy, however this feature can be disabled using a manual opt-out which is essential.

Dangers of Facebook

According to a security expert website, Facebook users unwittingly expose themselves to 5 dangers that might be beyond their control. As their information is shared with third parties; their privacy settings revert to a less safe default mode after each redesign; malware from Facebook advertisements; fake profiles from scammers; bugs; hackings; spam; and real friends who unknowingly make them vulnerable.

Word of Mouth Campaign

According Google Canada reports that the top online search related to “Facebook account” is “delete Facebook,” while the fastest-rising related query is “deactivate Facebook account,” up 40% over the past 90 days. Worldwide, the search engine’s results on Facebook account deletion campaign has ballooned from 15.9 million to 19.5 million between May 11 and 13 alone. Rememeber that in a blog Begonia Infosys had reported that Facebook with a valuation of US$15 billion has 400 million members in total, still if in this pace people start logging out of Facebook, by 31st May 2010 the leading social networking website may lose out on the huge chunk of its subscribers.

The Rule Book

Some say privacy and security are considered dirty words at the Facebook. As the world’s largest social media networking website, Facebook has come under fire for its privacy policy that has left users exposed and vulnerable. Amazingly, it was reported that Facebook’s privacy policy is a whopping 5,830 words long, even bigger than the Constitution of the USA, which reportedly has 4,543 words. On the flip side, Facebook perhaps aware of the changing midset of users, is making it difficult for users to delete their social networking accounts.

Bugs and Hacking

Begonia Infosys had also referred to a survey that indicated that 23% of Facebook92s users 93either didn92t know that the site offered privacy controls or chose not to use them.94 Begonia Infosys also reported in its blog about the recent news of sale of 1.5 million stolen Facebook a/c on the black market by a Russian hacker. Researchers at VeriSign iDefense Labs, an internet security firm found stolen login details of people on Facebook.com put on sale on a Russian website Carder.su, by the hacker called 91kirllos92; who was offering login information for bundles of 1,000 accounts with 10 or fewer friends on sale for just $25 (£16) and with more than 10, for $45 (£30).

Despite this Facebook rubbished these claims, saying that 91kirllos92 was making wild claims. Facebook said it tried to buy details from 91kirllos92 during its own investigation, the hacker was unable to produce anything. Then there was the case of a software glitch on Facebook; that let people92s friends in online communities, see each others92 private chat messages. Eventhough Facebook temporarily shut down its online chat feature saying 93When we received reports of the problem, our engineers promptly diagnosed it and temporarily disabled the chat function94 the damage was done.

According to Facebook, for peeks into private chat all Facebook users had to do was to manipulate the 93preview my profile94 feature in a particular way that led chat messages and pending friend requests to be made visible for a 93limited period of time94. The software glitch exposed the world92s leading online social-networking service which is increasingly being scrutinized regarding infringement of privacy of its users.

Probably for this reason mainly, people are trying to do everything to log out of Facebook. Lets see what happens on May 31st 2010.

Published in CMS
Monday, 11 October 2010 05:30

Problems with Facebook and Twitter

Facebook’s growth has been phenomenal as the world’s no. 1 social networking site with over 500 million users beating Google’s orkut to become the most visited website in the US. Though Mark Zukerberg once famously said ‘Soon there will be nothing private in social networking’ the website has also lately being receiving lot of flak for its privacy policies. With people sharing various kinds of information on social networking site like Facebook, feverish marketing campaigns can sometimes result in a compromise on an account holders' privacy.

1.    Sometimes what happens is that a website will issue an updated private profile stating that if someone connect with an application or website it will have access to general Information including friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared to be shared by “everyone.” Privacy settings allow viewers to see only what can be seen on profile. If one is uncomfortable in relation to be publicly known, one should not log into facebook.

2.    Another problem facing Facebook is the glitches, for example e-mail addresses that Facebook users wanted to keep hidden were revealed publicly on numerous Facebook profiles due to software glitches even though it was later resolved by Facebook.

3.    Facebook is prone to phishing scam and hacking with recent reports of a hacker in Russia trying to sell details of over 1.5 million profiles to the highest bidder.

4.    Facebook suffered a major security scare few months back when a software glitch allowed people to snoop on to their friends' private chats, and even view their pending friend requests. It forced Facebook to temporarily disable chat.

5.    Fake or multiple profiles are a serious problem affecting Facebook as many people either have multiple profiles and present themselves as different persons in each of them or they impersonate as famous personalities.

6.    An attack on Twitter last month affected hundreds of thousands of users when a "onmouseover" security flaw which took people to sites whether it was related or not by just putting their mouse over the link affected thousands of users. One of affected was the British prime minister's wife, Sarah Brown and visitors to her Twitter page were sent to a hardcore porn site in Japan.

7.    Problem is some users appeared to have use the flaws social networking sites for fun, but it invites cybercriminals to unleash more malicious and harmful attacks on networks and computer systems.

8.    Sometime back a new variation of Koobface virus that directs users to a fake YouTube page where they are encouraged to install malware has been the cause of major security concern.

9.    Applications  like 'Facebook - closing down!!!' and 'Error Check System' that were downloaded by users allowed cyber hackers to access to their profiles and personal information, and unwittingly forward fake messages to their friends, also encouraging them to download the programs.

10.    Facebook being people centric and dependent on user interaction is pro e to attacks by virus that don’t look malicious initially.

11.    Facebook application and third party applications are not vetted resulting in their unfettered release in the  social network public domain.

12.    Problem with Facebook logins are related to the Facebook page loading only partially or not at all while the second category contain problems related to the Facebook login itself.

13.    While the first category of problems is easy to fix by clearing the browser cache or trying to access Facebook with another web browser. Also login problems associated with Internet Service Provider also results in problems connecting to Facebook and can be solved by waiting some time and trying to access the page again.

14.    Another problem associated to the Facebook login is that the login to be successful, it’s a must to have a Facebook plug in application software installed for access which is not the case with Orkut or Twitter.

Published in CMS
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