Friendshake or Friendstalk?

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Facebook has introduced a new feature that allows users to identify any of their Facebook users that are nearby called Friendshake. Whilst it may have some useful application for making new Friends whilst out and about at a club or concert, or at a venue where you have arranged to meet up with friends, it also has a creepier side that makes every Facebook security alarm go off here at eConscious Consulting HQ, especially the Uncle Pervy and Psychotic Axe Murderer alarms.

Who knows if that hot blonde number you’ve been chatting to for a while, who’s also going to the gig/party/concert tonight that you’ve been telling them you are so excited to be going to, isn’t really a serial rapist looking for their next victim? They know where you will be and when, they know what you look like, and if you have the Friendshake feature and GPS enabled, they WILL find you. They’re good like that.

It’s a gift dropped into the laps of pedophiles and other nefarious creatures who use social networks to identify and target their victims, and who are experts at grooming and manipulating the young and vulnerable. It’s interesting that the next article we read today was about how Louisiana had just introduced a law stating the all registered sex offenders (RSO) must document their RSO status on any of their social media pages. It’s kind of a moot point on Facebook as it bans sex offenders from using its site in its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, Section 4 – Registration and Account Security, Item 6, which reads:

“You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender.”

 There are a couple of holes here in these safety measures though:

  • A registered sex offender may open a social media account in a fraudulent name.
  • What about the sex offenders that haven’t been caught and registered? I doubt they are going to first of all, read the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (I mean, who does?), and then say to themselves “Oh, bummer, I can’t have an account because I am a sex offender”, and pop out to the playground instead.

There’s another possible use of the Friendshake feature that also makes us feel a little uncomfortable. Let me set the scene; random person at some place where there are many people, switches on Friendshake and checks out everyone there that also has Friendshake open, grabs as much information about them as they can. They can see at least your name, profile picture, and possible any information that you have made Public.

Find Friends Nearby option is now available on Facebook’s iOS and Android apps. It’s here:

Menu > apps > find friends > other tools > Find Friends Nearby.

This path takes you to a page that looks exactly like the mobile web page.

Our recommendation for staying as safe as possible on Facebook (and other social media sites, where applicable):

  • Don’t enable GPS on your mobile device, unless it’s for a specific reason like um… navigation. Then turn it back off when you have finished.
  • Don’t enable GPS on any social media applications, but if you do, use it with awareness that you are letting all and sundry (and scheevy and axe-murdery) know where you are and when.
  • Don’t allow children and at risk persons to have GPS enabled smart phones or devices.
  • Practice good Social Media Privacy awareness (eBook from eConscious Consulting available soon).

We’ll follow uptake and evolution of this application and keep you posted.

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