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On 18th May 2012, Facebook Inc. went public with an IPO (Initial Public Offering) of about $US100 billion. There was a lot of fanfare and hoo-ha and writing in the press. Comedians had a field day, the Twittersphere resembled a flock of Red-Billed Quelias foraging for food, and the rest of us just went about our normal lives. But did you give a thought to what the Facebook IPO means to you, the Facebook user?

When you are a super-large, global, public corporation, your financial imperative is to be profitable and to make your shareholders money. How does Facebook make money? After all, it’s free to all of us, to use when and how and where we like (well, not everywhere we like it seems), so the profits are not coming from us, right? Well actually, they are, kind of.

Facebook makes money by selling us, its users, to marketers and advertisers and data collectors. They want to know what we like, where we go, whom we see, and what we think of ‘stuff’. And we all readily give this information to the great Facebook machine. We Like a great variety of different things on Facebook, and clicking that <Like> button doesn’t just tell your favourite Paris restaurant that you like them, it also tells Facebook, and Facebook then sells that information to its clients.

But aren’t we Facebook’s clients? When it comes to Facebook, if you aren’t paying, then you are the product, not the client.

Facebook follows you not only when you are logged in to Facebook, but everywhere else you go on the web too, gathering information about where you go, what you look at, and where you check into. You can minimize Facebook’s ability to track you by[1]:

  • Opening Facebook in a separate browser window to the one you use to browse the web with.
  • By logging out of Facebook before browsing the web.
  • By not checking the Keep me Logged In box on the Facebook Log In screen.
  • By using the Safari browser rather than the Internet Explorer browser.

It collates all this data about you and it sells it to people who want to sell you something via adverts on Facebook.

If an advertiser of say, top of the line lingerie wants to advertise on Facebook, they know that not all of Facebook’s 900 million+ users are going to be part of their target market. Using the information that Facebook has about its user’s demographics and preferences, an advertiser can pinpoint the users that are most likely to respond to its advert.

Have you noticed those ads on the right-hand side of your Facebook page? Have you noticed how, if you have mentioned a certain holiday destination a lot in your status updates, or if you have Liked pages pertaining to holiday travel or places, or services, that those banner ads feature a lot of adverts for holiday related businesses?

Notice how some of the ads on the right-hand side feature the word “Dive”.

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This is called Predictive Marketing, and whilst it seems kind of cool and efficient (after all, it means you don’t have to see ads for things you would never use, and you do see ads for things that interest you), Facebook takes it to a whole new level with the whole of web data it collects on you, and is going to have to do so more ferociously now it has to feed the hungry wallets of its demanding shareholders.

Facebook has to keep its advertisers happy and stop them from jumping ship like General Motors (GM) did.[2] In order to achieve this, it’s going to have to make its ads more effective, and to make its ads more effective it’s got to gather more information on you, and to do that it has to get you to give out more information. And Facebook is the master at getting you to give up your data, often, without you even knowing you’re doing it. It’s sneakier than a New York gossip columnist.

One of Facebook’s disquieting new features is frictionless sharing. This means that applications can post status items to your Facebook timeline without your intervention, or opt in. The privacy danger of this is that you may accidentally share a page or an event that you did not intend others to see. Examples of these types of applications currently making the rounds on Facebook are video applications like Viddy and Chill. You may have seen posts in your Newsfeed saying something like “John Doe just watched a video “Three-headed zebra born in Japanese zoo”.” Now imagine if the topic of the video you watched was something you didn’t actually want all your Facebook friends to see? By just clicking on the video, the application can publish your activity on your news feed.

Also, I noticed recently when I looking at a page I had Liked – Sea Shepherd Conservation Society – that the right hand panel showed activity from one of my Friends who had posted something about Sea Shepherd. Every time I go back to the Sea Shepherd page, there is a different post from one of my Friends, or from me, in this panel.

We can see in the right-hand panel that my Friend posted about Sea Shepherd on the 6th January. This panel changes every time I come to the Sea Shepherd page.

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What Facebook is doing here is encouraging you to look at what your Friends are posting and become more interactive on Facebook. Which means that Facebook can gather more data about you. An inactive or non-interactive user is useless to Facebook. We can only guess what Facebook will come up with in the future to encourage us to give up more and more information about ourselves, our likes, wants, tendencies etc. Given Facebook’s somewhat shady history with respecting its user’s privacy, and its tendency to change privacy controls without notifying its users, we need to be more conscious of our actions on Facebook, and more informed about setting our privacy controls.

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In a recent post, we alerted you to the fact that when you tag a photo, status update or post on your Facebook, then the Friends of the people you tag can see and comment on that post.

https://econsciousconsulting.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/lets-play-tag-youre-it/

In this follow up post we want to show you how to prevent this using your Privacy Controls.

When you post a photo, video, or status update of any kind, you can use your Privacy Controls to customise who can see and comment on them.

  • When you post a Status Update (this can include posting a photo or video, or a Life Event) on your wall, click on the Privacy Settings button in the bottom right of the box next to the Post button. The Privacy Settings button usually defaults to Friends.
  • Click on the Custom link.
  • Uncheck the Friends of those tagged option.
  • Click on the Save Changes button.
  • You will see that there are also options for setting who specifically will, and will not see what you are posting.

This process can be used for photo albums, individual photos, videos, status updates and life events.

If you have any questions you would like us to answer regarding any form of social media security, please do not hesitate to comment below, or on our Facebook page at:

https://www.facebook.com/eConsciousSocialMedia

 

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You may not know this, but when you tag a Facebook Friend in one of your photos, or in a comment, or status update, all the tagged person’s Face book Friends can then see, and comment on that photograph, comment or status update, even if those people are not your Facebook Friends. 

This can have some serious implications for your social media privacy. You may have all your security settings at maximum privacy, and the security setting on that particular item set to Friends only, but if you tag a Friend in one of your photos, comments, or status updates, then that person’s friends can see it and comment, and copy it, and do what they want with it.

It’s kind of like practicing safe sex. You’re not just sleeping with your partner, but all the other people they have slept with too, and all the other people those people have slept with, and so on…

So, what can you do? Well, it’s simple. Don’t tag.  Unless of course you don’t mind the whole world seeing what you are tagging. You can also set your privacy settings so that any of your content that your Friends tag, has to be approved by you first. While you’re at it, you could set your privacy controls so that any content Friends tag you in, has to be approved by you first.

Here’s how to do it:

  • On your NewsFeed page (the one that’s not your main Profile page), click on the down arrow (upside down triangle) in the top, right-hand corner of the page, next to Home.
  • Click on the Privacy Settings item.
  • Look for the Timeline and Tagging item in the list.
  • Click on the Edit Settings link.
  • Set Who can see posts that appear on your timeline because you’ve been tagged? option to Friends (or to anything other than Public.
  • Set Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline to On.
  • Set Review tags friends add to your own posts on Facebook to On.
  • Set Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded? to No one.
  • Set Allow friends to check you in with mobile Places to Off.  
  • Click on the Done button.

After you have done this, anytime someone tags you, you will receive a notification that will show up on your main Profile page, as a red flag next to the Activity Log item in the top right hand corner of the menu bar, under your Cover photo (and to the right of your Profile photo). You can click on the red flag then approve or not approve the tags.