Social Networks Siphon Personal Info

UPDATE: October 20, 2010

On Monday the Wall Street Journal broke about a Facebook privacy debacle. Many of the most popular apps, including FarmVille, have been transmitting personally identifiable data to outside companies. The data was being transmitted to ad networks to help them build user profiles in order to better target ads. In response, Google engineer Brian Kennish has created a Chrome browser plugin called Facebook Disconnect that prevents your browser from sending data to Facebook servers as you surf the web.  Source:The Daily Feed#47

It’s the Victoria Day long weekend north of the 49th parallel and our visitors are discussing the recent Facebook privacy scandal. Some say there are far too many sophisticated hacks and criminals who know how to manipulate anything Facebook, or any other social networking apps can come up with in the way of protection. Maybe membership is just not worth it.  Others say if you don’t want your information shared, don’t post it.

May 31 has been declared “Quit Facebook Day“, with just under 14,000 committed Facebook quitters signed up so far.  The site’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, broke his silence over the recent privacy storm in an email to well-known tech blogger Robert Scoble over the weekend, admitting he had made a “bunch of mistakes” and promising changes.  Sydney Morning Herald

Sexy Facebook video masks malware attack

Another Facebook malware attack is underway this weekend. Facebook users who click a “Distracting Beach Babes” video on their Facebook Walls and click the download link will be installing malware on their computers. Mashable

Facebook exodus

According to a new survey of 1,588 Facebook users by Sophos IT security firm, 16 % of those polled have stopped using Facebook as they cannot control their data,  60 % are considering leaving, and only only 24% of users aren’t  considering joining the exodus.  WebProNews

Privacy and the advertising siphon

The irony of the recent Facebook privacy debacle is that Facebook is actually attempting to give users more control, while third-parties are simultaneously stripping users of it. All Facebook

Facebook, MySpace and several other social-networking sites have been sending data to advertising companies that could be used to find consumers’ names and other personal details, despite promises they don’t share such information without consent.  Wall Street Journal

MySpace on May 17 announced plans to simplify its privacy settings as it seeks to differentiate itself from social network rival Facebook, which has eclipsed the News Corp.-owned social networking service.  MontrealGazette

Click an ad in a social network and you’re identified

Did you know this? When surfing the web if you click an advertisement the web will conceals your identity. But if you click advertisements on social networking sites, your username will not be concealed, and it will be traced to your profiles page(s) on social networks in order to and acquire your personal information.

Facebook went further than other sites, in some cases signalling which user name or ID was clicking on the ad as well as the user name or ID of the page being viewed. By seeing what ads a user clicked on, an advertiser could tell something about a user’s interests.  Emirates Business

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29 thoughts on “Social Networks Siphon Personal Info

  1. Pingback: Google Ad Probe & Facebook Security Breach « one cool site

  2. Pingback: From Facebook Wall to Mug Shot « one cool site

  3. Pingback: Social Security Numbers and Identity Theft « one cool site

  4. I tried getting in touch with the magazine, actually. They wanted an issue date, and if I’d saved a copy I might have been able to supply it. They welcomed me to come visit their archives, but since I’m no longer even in the country in which it was published… eh, a write off.

    They don’t maintain online copies, sadly.

  5. LOL, Yes they are timer. And yes Clarion, all of it made sense to me as well. I know first hand whereof you speak when it comes to publishing companies etc. Music Publishers anyway. As far as the article that you wrote, have you tried online searching the Magazine Name and Archives?
    Anyway, great stuff here once again.

  6. Personally, I’m sort of ambivalent. Possibly, I don’t live in the market saturated world of the western democracies, and as such, don’t really have to deal with how my personal information is used to market products to me.

    That having been said, if some stranger knows that I happen to prefer Led Zeppelin over Black Sabbath, guitars over violins, spray on over roll on, and a good steak over any vegetable in the world…

    It doesn’t really bother me. Should it? When I think of privacy, I think of all the things of real significance to me and people I care about, our relationships and the things that bring them value. My preferences as a consumer (and we all ARE consumers) don’t fall into that category.

    So… and I know that the traditional answer to this question has become almost sacrosanct in today’s world but… should it really bother me? I’m referring specifically to marketers, adverts, all of that, and NOT identify theft.

    I sometimes think this may just be another of those crazy things that pop up in our crazy world. Maybe I’m crazier than most, I see a lot worse out there to get worked up about.

    Now, about Facebook, and social networking sites in general… I GET it. I get that its a great ego boost to have people going wow over pictures of you and your friends: the online medium feeds our innate desire for attention and acceptance and social relevance in ways that weren’t ever possible before. I agree, it could very well be an addiction.

    But with things like WoW (which has how many million users now?) and all the rest that goes into our entertainment-by-the-minute generation, is it really any different because it feeds our egos rather than satisfying some other need? I love computer games, myself. RPGs. I run through them within a day or five of having acquired a new one. Is my addiction any better?

    There’s another element of it though, that makes me pause. First off, I’m not a marketer, I don’t remember ANYTHING from my requisite marketing class from bachelors degree in business, etc.

    But I’m a musician, and have played more or less professionally (if you can call it that, it’s never paid the bills), and a writer (that’s never paid the bills either, though I did get published in a magazine once – silly me, didn’t think it a big deal at the time and never bothered to save a copy).

    I’ve taken the time to study these industries and there are massive MASSIVE problems with how they work, as well as others like them. And basically, any industry in which the products are not homogeneous, where you can’t just sell a product off a shelf, and where personal creativity is the main thrust is exactly like these.

    There are always going to be more musicians/writers/comic makers/painters/sculptors etc out there than the established kingmakers can handle. The record companies, the publishing houses, they’ve got MOUNTAINS worth of material to filter through. And they do an average job of doing so, and even then, good work can easily slip through the cracks because of a hundred different reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the work.

    So here’s the thing: The internet and social networking in particular can change how these industries work. As a musician, or any sort of artist, media coverage is great, but if you’re ever going to go anywhere, word of mouth is what you desperately should be craving.

    And that can happen, online, through social networking mediums. The middlemen, the gatekeepers can be bypassed, reaching directly to the audience. I don’t know how a marketing man might describe it, but it gives me hope.

    I wonder if any of this makes sense…

  7. This is great information timethief. I appreciate the exposure of any sell out compromise situation. But, and I am sure I am not alerting you to any thing new…but, who’s really kidding who when it comes to the Viral Wars and internet security ? In fact, Internet, and Security, should never even enter the same sentence in my opinion.

    Anyone who has ever signed on to a scan your register for free add, only to find a screen wide balloon blocking their ability to click anything…without sending some money to a certain ( Internet Security) company who guarantee’s that they alone can alleviate the situation understands that He Who Controls The Codes Makes All the Rules…just an observation.

  8. I was on blogging hiatus for a while, and was so happy to come back and see that you’re up and running and that you have this beautiful, informative blog. You’re right- your comments are great, and often as informative as your posts.

    I’m not much of an ad clicker, but I do know that each time I’ve gotten hacked, malwared, etc. it was after a Facebook visit. I’m not too technically savvy, but it seems that somehow, allowing another site (WP, Shockwave Games) to connect to the FB site causes problems for me.

    I have a stalker on my computer. I see their IP address on Sitemeter. Each time I log in, they log in at the exact same time. If I do it ten times in a row, they do it too. This lets me know that they’re there, and probably up to no good. I’m not sure what to do about it, but it’s been going on for quite a while. So far, the only damage I see is that they’ve tried to change my Yahoo password. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that they got in through FB, as did the person who completely hacked into all of my files a few months ago.

    I’m not a big Facebook user, but I do like that I can update people on my blog posts. But what a cost!

    Thanks so much for your wise words here, Timethief. I’ll continue to lurk. :)

    • @moonbeam
      I’ve had one of the worst fibro winters ever and have unexpectedly lost two very close friends so I haven’t been blogging much in my personal blog but I do plan to pick up the pace there again very soon.

      The “stalker” you have is not likely to be a human being. The behavior you describe is tracking cookie behavior ie. some site has a tracking cookie on your computer and is tracing where you visit. If you run a full system scan your anti-virus security program will locate it and you can remove it. If your own program doesn’t do it you can use trendmicro free online housecall virus scan http://housecall.trendmicro.com/

      As for me, I use a Firefox browser either AdbLock Plus. I don’t see ads and have never clicked any except those on slogs which I report to their advertisers. If I’m interested in an ebook and it’s not offered free of charge by the author and is available only through a clickbank affliate purchase or a similar company then I don’t purchase.

  9. What a fantastic post. I’ve had a couple of major issues with my computer lately, and both times I felt that somehow, Facebook was to blame. I’m going to get off of it. Besides, I hate Farm Town. :)

    • @moonbeam
      It’s been so very long that we connected and I’m so happy to see your avatar. Yes, Facebook has been attacked and hacked over and over again and malware and viruses are a concern and will always be a concern. However, many members simply throw caution to the wind and click on ads and other games, etc. without giving any consideration to what maybe uploaded into their computers.

      The worst case scenario is for families and roommates or anyone else who share the same computers. I have friends with kids who introduced malware and viruses to the parents’ computers they used for work at home form Facebook. The result was a chain of computer catastrophes, lost income, and a lot of money spent to “clean” all the home and office computers of all the crap that had been installed and had spread into all the computers of those they communicated with from home and from their offices.

      Now both companies they work for have a “no social networking on our office computers” policy as well as a requirement that every home computer used by an employee be only accessible to them alone and not be used by anyone else.

      P.S. Thanks for the compliment on the post. Generally speaking my comments contain more information than posts do, and that’s probably why the blog has a larger number of comment subscribers than it does post subscribers. ;)

  10. I am slowly developing a distaste for FB. They have transformed a wonderful way of keeping in touch in to a catalogue for on sale information. It was certainly good while it lasted. I have not decided whether or not I would like to deactivate my account. I don’t post much, and my profile is totally private. (They probably do steal some things away though!) It has just been a very easy way to keep in touch with family through photos, messaging and events. I’m hoping for something new and better to come out. Or if every one I know would just get on Twitter and Flickr!

    • @Sarah
      I think there are many people like yourself who only use Facebook to keep in touch with family and close friends because I know many bloggers who do the same. However, the reality is that friends of friends of friends and those who aren’t ‘friends” at all can see your personal information and use it in ways you may not approve of. This is why there is an exodus. Basically members want to be able to control the viewing and use of their personal information, but given the construct of the site and the existence of the 3rd party apps people and advertisers more and more members are recognizing this is not going to happen.

      “Anyone with a FaceBook account, which these days is almost everyone with an internet connection, has undoubtedly run across most of these annoying FaceBook users.”
      Read more: http://webupon.com/social-networks/20-annoying-types-of-facebook-friends/#ixzz0osrQqBWW

  11. @TiTi

    The Internet is a scary place, at least I find it to be. Never been on Facebook or Myspace, thank heaven for that! Your post is a great heads up TiTi. I only subscribe to FriendFreed, Stumbleon, FriedEggs, and have one Twitter account. Does one need to be cautious there as well? Thanks for the informative post.

    Continued Success And Happiness……!

    • @Joer223
      Yes, one has to be cautious everywhere. You can be sure the 3rd party apps providers, marketers and advertisers and those who are the owners of social media and social networking sites are keenly well aware of the addictive nature of social networking.

      Be cautious about what you display on your profile pages, including personal information, geotagging information and images. Avoid direct messaging others on such sites as email is far safer. Know that friends of friends can see your supposedly “private” information and that there are people and programs running solely for the purpose of collecting your personal information and preferences for this or that consumer products, entertainment and activities. In other words, know that social media and social networking sites are filled with internet marketers, advertisers, scammers, spammers, identity thieves, etc. and be cautious about who you “befriend or make a follower.

      Know that every time you leave any data of any kind on the internet, including every personal post you publish on your blog it contains digital breadcrumbs that create a trail right to your doorstep. Know that every comment you leave on another site and every reply to a comment you reply to on your own blog may contain personal revelations that you may impulsively blurt out now and live to regret later.

      There is advertising everywhere on social networks. It’s what pays for bandwidth and the data mining operations. Don’t click the ads! Use a Firefox browser with Adblock Plus.

      Best wishes for happy blogging :)

  12. Didn’t know about the ads posted on Facebook, leaking out personal info. Thx for this latest tip.

    Frankly it’s abit annoying when now an organization has a listserve to make their announcements (which I like occasional group emails) AND a facebook where they have other info. Plus there’s their corporate website and blog.

    How many more info. channels do we have to inundate readers? I realize people prefer a particular media channel to get their latest info. and for social interactivity. But after awhile, it’s a huge pile of white noise or muzak.

    Not on Facebook…’cause it just doesn’t work for my personal good friends and family members. It’s good that a family member even responds to my non-urgent emails the next day. Already there is a digital divide in my own family: parents don’t know how to use computers and a sister of mine cannot afford to upgrade her old personal computer ’cause she’s trying to make her mortgage payments solo.

    So just occasionally emailing photo here and there is fiine. Hence, only 75% of my family even can see my blogs.

    Closest friends are content with email and so am I.

    • @Jean
      There are many examples of people caving in and throwing caution to the wind due to “noise” and confusion. Among the most effective propaganda examples we can point to are the Uncle Sam WWII campaigns. They were so effective that there are Americans today who think their country won that war all on its own. The same sloganeering is currently being used to ensure that their youth will be willing sacrifices on the altar of oil while brainwashed into believing they are serving their country in a noble quest. Commensurate with that is those back home who are blathering slogans that convey the impression American soldiers are in Iraq doing the noble job of keeping the American citizens back home safe from invasion when in fact America invaded Iraq.

      In this age of information overload the noise is so pervasive everywhere we go that many have simply turned off their gray matter and don’t filter any of it at all. I’m pretty sure Mark Zuckerman and company are well aware of how to use multiple information channels to create noise in order deliver all the information required. They have delivered it through multpile information channels – over and over and over and over again.

  13. I may be a bit too cynical, but I tend to think privacy is dead and it’s not ever coming back to life. I’m careful about what I do online, so it doesn’t bother me too much if marketers gather my personal information.

    • @Jean Sarauer
      I’m also cynical as you can probably detect. I am aware that what I share online is distributed everywhere and used for all kins of unintended purposes bu all kinds of unintended users. I never ever click ads on any sites – period. I use a Firefox browser with AdBlock Plus so I don’t even see them.

    • @izmaak
      Yes indeed all good ideas are appealing to the bad guys. Facebook is addictive and full of lonely people with addictive personalities seeking contact, connection and a sense of belonging. Social networking may give us a break from the reality of our life. As socializing with others is a desirable trait lauded and applauded in most societies we do not consider people who drink quarts or even gallons of coffee daily, and/or who are into excessive food consumption and/or who are so “needy” they think they need continuous “connectedness” to others by yammering online or on the phone for hours everyday with strangers they call “friends” to be addicts. But many they are.

      I have experienced people who call themselves “social media mavens” and/or “social networking experts”, who without doubt are exhibiting addictive behaviors and advocating that their “followers” follow them and develop the same disorders online.

      http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mr-personality/201001/the-psychology-social-networking

      In that Facebook community mix are legions of internet marketers and advertisers looking for clients and customers. You can be sure the 3rd party apps providers, marketers and advertisers are keenly well aware of the addictive nature of Facebook. Hence the 3rd party apps providers are inventing even more games like fake farming to keep the members addicted to continued participation on the site.

      Leaving Facebook cannot be officially completed until after a 2 week period without signing in has passed. I’m sure if the stats on how many Facebook members have initiated the withdrawal process, and then caved in and logged in during that 2 week period were revealed we would see some numerical data to back up my contention of social networking addiction.

  14. HI TiTi,
    The facts are alarming! I read about this…but never really gave it too much thought until now.
    I have liked facebook for a while now. More so cause i connected with really old friends…who in a normal world I would probably not have found. But that being said..i stopped using any third party app on it since the first month of me signing up. I just couldnt handle all the requests..and had heard about the so called spammers.
    You are making me rethink about facebook…seriously rethink.
    Someone mentioned to me last week that facebook is going to become a membership site..a fee for having an account/profile there. Is it true?
    Thank you for this info…really…an eye opener.
    Much Love,
    Z~
    p.s. i got myself a copyright…after reading your last post..phew!
    And did u get my emails?

    • @Zeenat
      You are not the only one I know who is considering leaving Facebook. I know several bloggers, who left over privacy issues previously. I cleaned out my account and deactivated it years ago.

      The most annoying thing about the Facebook updates is that every update is by default set to “opt in” and the “opt out” option must be activated by the members after the fact. Thee privacy policy is dense and most members go crazy trying to find out control who sees their personal data only to discover that it’s already been “leaked” while they are still trying to figure out how to opt out.

      http://www.facebook.com/policy.php

      The platform has been set up for data mining by advertisers via 3rd apps and most members just don’t get that. Changes to Facebook’s privacy policies have made users’ information far more public than ever before: much personal data is now public by default, some of which is being shared with third-party sites. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/12/facebook-privacy-policy-s_n_574389.html

      Leaving Facebook does not solve the privacy leakage problem. If one wants to remove all accumulated personal data before deactivation of their account they will discover that Facebook has made this difficult to do. Depending upon the length of time one has been a member this can take days to accomplish after the horse has already fled the barn so to speak.

      It took one blogger I know several e-mail exchanges with Facebook’s customer service representatives to erase most of her information from the site, which finally occurred after she mentioned she was looking into legal options for removal.

      Another blogger I know experienced another Facebook member dhe did not know photoshopping her image with her partner in life and business partner. The image was stolen from her profile page and altered to include a man she did not know in the image and posted on another profile page. Her attempts to get Facebook to remove it failed because they said the staff said they could not prove the original image was actually an image of her and her partner in the first place, even though she sent them additional photos of them for comparison purposes as well as the original photo that had been stolen.

      P.S. It’s the long weekend here and this is a big deal weekend north of the 49th parallel. I have sent brief replies to your emails. I will get back to them and do them justice as soon as my company leaves this evening. Thank you, in advance, for your patience. :)

      Love,
      TiTi

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