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Facebook Boiling the Privacy Frog (You)

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Facebook is preparing to give away your phone number and address to app developers and advertisers.

The frog is officially beginning to boil. Just check out all of the articles swirling around on the internet about Facebook’s latest attempt to release more of your information without your consent. This time they want to give out your phone number and address. They were pretty clear that the reason they want this information is to pass it on to developers of apps such as Farmville and advertisers that want to bolster their profile on you. They released the post late Friday afternoon – so late in fact that many news outlets didn’t pick it up until Monday. Many are accusing Facebook of trying to bury the news.

Here is what was posted:

User Address and Mobile Phone Number
We are now making a user’s address and mobile phone number accessible as part of the User Graph object. Because this is sensitive information, we have created the new user_address and user_mobile_phone permissions. These permissions must be explicitly granted to your application by the user via our standard permissions dialogs.

Although users currently have to give applications permission to access their information, there is a slight addition above to the type of information being shared. Look for  “Access my contact information”, with the subtitle “Current Address and Mobile Phone Number” (see image above). If Facebook were actually interested in making their data sharing strategy noticeable, at least they could have bolded the warning rather than the hey-don’t-pay-attention-to-me-faded-gray they used.

Of course, Facebook and their faithful application developers are banking on the assumption that most users are willing to give up their privacy in order to access Facebook and all it has to offer. But, what they fail to remember is that a phone number and address are much more sensitive pieces of your identity than your picture and email address.

When do the slowly growing invasions of our privacy by Facebook become too much to handle? When has the privacy temperature in the Facebook Database been raised to the point that users are boiling? Will users ever leave the site in order to protect their identities? Facebook is making these changes so slowly (and late in the weekly newscycle) that the average user doesn’t realize that this invasion of our privacy has gone one degree to far.

I guess the simple way to resolve the issue for now is to remove your phone number and home address from your Facebook profile so that there is nothing to share. The larger question is what will Facebook do next? You never know – such information leakage may be a requirement to use the social networking site.

John Sileo is an information survival expert whose clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, Homeland Security, FDIC, FTC, Federal Reserve Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield and hundreds of corporations and organizations of all sizes. He earns his keep delivering highly motivational identity theft speeches.

The Facebook Safety Survival Guide gives you extensive background knowledge on many of the safety and privacy issues that plague social networking sites, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, and others. Social networking, texting, instant messaging, video messaging, blogging – these are all amazing tools that the American workforce uses natively (and naively), as part of their everyday lives. This Guide’s purpose is to make their online vigilance and discretion just as native, so that they learn to protect the personal information they put on the web before it becomes a problem. Social networking is immensely powerful and is here for the long run, but we must learn to harness and control it.

Facebook’s Law Enforcement Phone Option | Sileo

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Facebook: Press 2 For Law Enforcement

I received an email last night from a well-known TV anchor wanting my input on a new Facebook issue.  He’d read that when calling Facebook Headquarters, the automated attendant comes on and gives you options to reach each department, and the second option was to press 2 for “law enforcement.”

It could seem odd to many, but it’s true. If you call the Facebook Headquarters (650-543-4800) and reach the switchboard, the 1st option is “For customer support, press 1” and the second option is “For Facebook law enforcement, press 2”. Law enforcement comes ahead of business development, marketing, press, and employment verification in the list of options.  When you press 2, the next message says: “This message is only for members of law enforcement. Please note that due to a very large volume of incoming calls, the current call back time is two to four business days. For a faster response, please leave your work authorized email address… A member of Facebook’s security team will email in a timely manner.” Which means that Facebook is very busy fielding calls from law enforcement.

The anchor, and the rest of us, want to know why!

Facebook receives all kinds of requests by law enforcement, as it is essentially a diary of each and every user. Don’t confuse it with a typical diary of the pre Web 2.0 era. The modern diary (or dossier, as I more commonly refer to social networking profiles) is a photo journal, video log, friendship org chart, location status, written history, browsing analyzer, that is so effective because it can be so addictive. In other words, the Facebook activity of an average user is a digital representation of  that user’s identity. So, to net it out, here several reasons law enforcement officers call Facebook:

  • Tracking listed sex offenders for inappropriate use of the Internet
  • Civil dispute subpoenas (domestic cases, child custody, harassment, etc.)
  • Evidence used in the discovery process (establishing intent, state of mind, relationships, etc.)
  • Cases of libel or defamation
  • Terrorist activity tracking and fundraising
  • Background checks for local, regional and federal governmental positions
  • Background checks on potential jurors (see tomorrow’s story about a juror who was dismissed because of a Facebook post)

This is a fascinating and under-reported aspect of social networks – they are providing an open book on people (for good and evil) that used to take investigators (and scammers) weeks or months to collect. All you really need is a subpoena, or to friend the person on whom you are collecting data.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.