Tens of millions of Facebook users are potentially being bamboozled by many of the social network's most popular apps, The Wall Street Journalreports. According to WSJ's investigation, these apps are sharing users' names, and even their friends' names, to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies.
But that's only the half of it. The issue supposedly even affects users who set their profiles to Facebook's strictest privacy settings, which means these apps are blatantly ignoring Facebook's rules. So what is Facebook doing to combat the problem?
"Our technical systems have always been complemented by strong policy enforcement, and we will continue to rely on both to keep people in control of their information," a Facebook official said.
And yes, according to the WSJ, these apps include Zynga's ever popular FarmVille, which boasts 59 million users, as well as Texas HoldEm Poker and FrontierVille.
"Zynga has a strict policy of not passing personally identifiable information to any third parties," a Zynga spokeswoman said. "We look forward to working with Facebook to refine how Web technologies work to keep people in control of their information."
Remember just the other day when Facebook removed the “Clear Chat History” button? Well, the outcry was loud enough that Facebook has announced that the feature will be restored. Users will have access to the option to clear their chat history at the top of the scroll area. This placement is not dramatically different from its original location.
Facebook even offered an explanation of their decision making process. According to the statement, "Based on the tests, we’ve decided to keep the ‘clear chat history’ link and to optimize it’s placement within the Chat interface. Given its low usage, we are placing it at the top of the Chat scroll ― where it is still easily accessible without cluttering UI space throughout the course of the chat."
Basically, Facebook backpedaled after the negative reaction. One has to wonder why they thought they could get away with it in the first place. People say things in chat sessions that they'd rather not have a record of.
It’s not very often that one sees one’s life posted on one of the larger news/technology aggregates/communities/linkdumps on the web. But there I sat the other day, idly browsing the web the other day, when up came a chat window from Future US co-star Andy Salisbury. Andy, as it turns out, had stumbled across a rather interesting picture in Reddit’s submission queue and was curious to know if I had any further details to share.
I clicked the link without really thinking much about what could lie beneath. And you can thus imagine my surprise in discovering that I was basically staring at the back of my car. Yes, my car. Somebody had taken a picture of my (extremely clever and/or witty) license plate and uploaded it for the world to see. The votes on Reddit were slowly a-climbing and, based on a quick scan of the third-party that was actually hosting the image in question, roughly 10,000 people or so had already checked out my car’s butt.
This week, a Federal Judge in South Dakota sided with ISP Midcontinent and quashed one of the many Hurt Locker subpoenas seeking subscriber information. The ISP had, on August 9, received the subpoena via fax instructing them to hand over the details on people connected to several IP addresses. Midcontinent Decided thatrather than comply, they would take the case to the local Federal Court.
The legal action stems from claims made by the US Copyright Group on behalf of a number of indie movie companies, including Hurt Locker makers Voltage Pictures. This legal group is issuing huge numbers of "Doe" subpoenas to force ISPs to divulge the real identities of those believed to have shared the film online.
While the ISP in question made a number of arguments as to why they should not have to comply, Judge John Simko decided to stop the subpoena right there because of "Federal Rule 45", which addresses how subpoenas must be handled with regard to geographic location. Simko believed that the Subpoena did not fulfill any of the four requirements, so it was quashed. The Judge also more or less called the US Copyright Group lazy for sending the document by fax instead of courier, or registered mail. Do you think this will affect other pending subpoenas in the case?
If you're the type to fret over data security and government censorship, Google has your back with their new Transparency Report. The report is likely a response to the search giant's recent run-ins with the likes of China over blocking services and requesting user information. The Transparency Report is broken down into two sections, Government Requests, and Traffic.
The Government Requests section offers an interactive Google Map with flags in each country that data is available for. By zooming in, we can see the number of requests for each country, as well as various court orders for removal of content. The data on the map is currently only from the last year, but more could be added as time goes on.
The Traffic section consists of a graph showing the amount of data passed through Google over time. Users can choose the country and Google service to view in the drop downs. The idea is that by looking for large drop-offs in traffic, users will be able to tell when the free flow of information has been interrupted. Do you think this kind of transparency will make governments think twice about limiting freedom online?
A few months back, when the Facebook privacy meltdown was on in full force, a few plucky young college students told us they wanted to do something better. The Diaspora project was put on Kickstarter in hopes of gaining a few thousand dollars in funding. In the end, the project received over $200,000 in pledges. Now the first developer release of the code for this distributed social network is available for download.
Users will be able to run a "seed" server in the Diaspora network to aggregate all their social data. The seeds can then talk to each other to form the network. All this would be governed by a user's personal privacy settings, and all connections are encrypted. In this way, all a user's data is kept under their personal control.
Diaspora is an open source project and the developers are inviting anyone with the skills to contribute. It's good to see that the founders have made it to this important milestone. Apparently all that Kickstarter cash went to good use. The dev preview is looking a little spartan, but the UI is clean. There is already a system for adding people as friends and sharing pictures. Have you had a look at the code?
It's official -- if you want to find a sexual partner erotic escort, you'll have to do so the old fashioned way, or at least away from Craigslist. The popular online classifieds confirmed that it will no longer carry sex-related advertising, The New York Times reports.
"Craigslist discontinued its adult services section on September 3, 2010, and there are no plans to reinstate the category," said William Clinton Powell, director of customer and law enforcement relations at Craigslist. "Those who formerly posted ads in the adult services category will not have to advertise elsewhere, and in fact there is evidence that this process began immediately."
Craiglist blocked access to the ads earlier this month by placing a black censored bar over the URL, but up until this week, had not discussed the decision or said whether it would be a permanent one.
The sex ads, which were on pace to generate $44 million in revenue this year, came under fire from advocacy groups and several state attorneys general, who recently sent a letter urging Craigslist to close down the section.
A survey commissioned by security vendor PC Tools and conducted by Harris Interactive may reveal a bit too much about how much Americans like to romp around the Web. According to the study, some 25 percent of U.S. residents are just fine being "plugged in" to the Internet while also plugging (or being plugged by) their sexual partner.
"While some of these results may seem amusing, they show that staying connected is a very serious issue to many, no matter what the circumstance," said PC Tools vice president of marketing Stephanie Edwards."
"It is also noteworthy how we entrust our computers and the Internet with our most intimate details -- even if we don't have the time or inclination to worry about computer maintenance or safety."
The survey is filled with amusingserious statistics, like 29 percent of people in the U.S. seeing no problem being online during a honeymoon, while 8 percent were okay with surfing cyberspace during religious services.
It should come as no big surprise that men (18 percent) were more concerned with women (12 percent) about others seeing the websites they visited, though not by much. And we suppose it also shouldn't be shocking that nearly a third said they would be willing to risk downloading malicious files by visiting a suspicious website or link.
Serving as an unsettling reminder that nothing you do online is ever 100 percent private, it's come to light that Google recently fired one of its engineers for allegedly spying on at least four underage teens.
His name is David Barksdale, a 27-year-old who is said to have used his former position at Google to access users' Gmail, Google Voice, and instant messages without their consent. In one incident, Barksdale is accused of viewing Google Voice call logs of a 15-year-old boy after he refused to tell Barksdale the name of his new girlfriend.
Google didn't go into great detail about Barksdale's alleged misdeeds, but did confirm that he'd been shown the one-way door.
"We dismissed David Barksdale for breaking Google's strict internal privacy policies," Bill Coughran, Senior Vice President of Google's Engineering division, said in a statement. "We carefully control the number of employees who have access to our systems, and we regularly upgrade our security controls -- for example, we are significantly increasing th amount of time we spend auditing our logs to ensure those controls are effective. That said, a limited number of people will always need to access these systems if we are to operate them properly -- which is why we take any breach so seriously."
Exactly why Barksdale decided to snoop on a group of teens isn't clear. News and gossip site Gawker.com claims to have communicated with Barskdale via email and came to the conclusion that at least part of the reason was to show off the power he had as a member of a group with broad access to the company.
Once again Google is drawing ire over its Street View mapping feature, this time from the Czech Republic, which has gone and banned the sultan of search from snapping pictures in the eastern European country.
Officially, the Czech Office for Personal Data Protection claims Google hasn't been granted the requisite registration to do what it's doing, and the office plans to speak with Google about it next week. However, this is the second time Czech officials have denied Google the registration to expand its Street View service since opening the registration case in April.
Spokesman Hana Sepankova told the German Press Agency that Google's application "failed to meet all required conditions that would secure that personal data could not be abused."