Tag Archive: Facebook


For the first time, Facebook has revealed details about how it tracks users across the web.

Through interviews with Facebook engineering director Arturo Bejar, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes, Facebook corporate spokesman Barry Schnitt and Facebook engineering manager Gregg Stefancik, USA Today‘s Byron Acohido was able to compile the most complete picture to date of how the social network keeps tabs on its 800 million users.

Here is what Acohido learned:

    • Facebook doesn’t track everybody the same way. It uses different methods for members who have signed in and are using their accounts, members who are logged-off and non-members.
    • The first time you arrive at any Facebook.com page, the company inserts cookies in your browser. If you sign up for an account, it inserts two types of cookies. If you don’t set up an account, it only inserts one of the two types.
    • These cookies record every time you visit another website that uses a Facebook Like button or other Facebook plugin — which work together with the cookies to note the time, date and website being visited. Unique characteristics that identify your computer are also recorded.
    • Facebook keeps logs that record your past 90 days of activity. It deletes entries older than 90 days.
    • If you are logged into a Facebook account, your name, email address, friends and all of the other data in your Facebook profile is also recorded.

Data about web searches and browsing habits could be used to figure out political affiliations, religious beliefs, sexual orientations or health issues about consumers. According to USA Today, this type of correlation doesn’t seem to be happening on a wide scale, but the concern of some privacy advocates is that selling data could become a tempting business proposition — both to social networks like Facebook and online advertising players such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo that similarly employ cookie tracking techniques.

Facebook told USA Today that it uses data collected via cookies to help improve security and its plugins and that it has no plans to change how it uses this data. It has, however, applied for a patent on a technology that includes a method that correlates ads and tracking data.

“We patent lots of things, and future products should not be inferred from our patent application,” Facebook corporate spokesman Barry Schnitt told USA Today.

Regardless of how Facebook is handling the data it collects through cookies, by doing so it has entered a very sticky debate about whether consumers should be able to opt out of being tracked by such methods. Aproposed law that would create this option was introduced in February.

While a recent poll found that about 70% of Facebook users and 52% of Google users were either somewhat or very concerned about their privacy, some argue that online commerce would suffer without online tracking.

Thanks: Mashable

 

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Internet safety is a topic that we are all commonly reminded of as we move to an increasingly digital age. Now, another reminder of how much we willingly share with those we don’t know has been shown, as reported by the BBC.

Using what is known as a ‘socialbot’, researchers were able to acquire information that a Facebook spokesperson rebuked as being “overstated and unethhical”. A socialbot is a botnet adapted for usage on social networks. The worst part of the socialbot’s power is how affordable it is. Dubious websites offer the bots for sale over the internet for as little as 29USD, or 18GBP.

A socialbot differs from a normal botnet in the sense that it can pass itself off as a normal Facebook user. A regular botnet is a type of virus that can infect a user’s computer, and can make use of this to send out spam or partake in digital attacks against other websites. The socialbot takes control of an existing Facebook account, and is able to perform normal activities, such as posting statuses and sending friend requests.

The research was performed by four members of the University of British Colombia, with 102 socialbots being commanded by one ‘master’. The master sends commands to the other bots, which they then act upon. These commands would likely consist of seeking profiles and adding them. In the space of eight weeks, the bots sent out 8,570 friend requests and had 3,055 acceptances. The research showed a relation in the number of Facebook friends a user had, and the likelihood of the socialbot being accepted as a friend.

Remaining within Facebook’s limitations for sending friend requests, the bots sent only 25 requests per day. Any more and the bots risked triggering the fraud detection and prevention system existing on Facebook. According to Facebook, the research is not reflective of how they prevent socialbots operating, as the accounts operated from ‘trusted’ university IP addresses. An IP address used by a real-life criminal operating socialbots would apparently raise alarm bells within the company.

Many people are now growing more aware of friend requests coming ‘out of the blue’, so to speak, and it reflects how people could be growing more aware of the people seeking to acquire more information, whether you intended to give them the information or not.

Thanks: Neowin

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Facebook has announced two new features to try and improve the security of your account. The first, entitled Trusted Friends, allows you to designate three to five friends that can unlock your account for you if you forget the password. The other less interesting feature, called App Passwords, lets you assign a unique password to Facebook apps.

With Trusted Friends, if you lose your Facebook password you can have codes sent to your friends that let you access your account. What isn’t spelled out is whether you need all of the codes from your friends to unlock the account or if a single code will work. While this is being touted as a way to access your account if you lose both your Facebook and email account, this seems more like a backdoor to let intruders into your account. Even if all of your friends need to send you their codes to access the account, you’re still trusting that they are going to be secure themselves. Anytime you have a backdoor into an account, you end up weakening security, not strengthening it.

There’s even less details about App Passwords. The concept is sound: Don’t share your Facebook password with 3 rd party applications. The actual implementation is still vague and given the company’s security track record, who knows if it will work as intended.

Interestingly enough, the security infographic that Facebook released seems to be using the term Guardian Angels instead of Trusted Friends.

Thanks: Neowin

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Facebook appears to have outed their long-rumoured ”Project Spartan” in a blog post. The post, since removed from a Facebook developer site but captured for posterity by TechCrunch, features a host of screenshots of a yet-to-be-released mobile app. It’s worth noting that, according to reports from company insiders and developers, Project Spartan isn’t an app in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s a complete redesign of Facebook’s mobile experience, built in HTML5 and designed, first and foremost, to run in Mobile Safari on iOS devices.

Facebook has reportedly been working with a host of third-party developers for months to ensure the full Facebook experience will be available to users when Project Spartan – or whatever name it is given -launches. TechCrunch has apparently confirmed with Facebook insiders that this is the elusive project and it is not far off launching. Spartan was pegged to launch at Facebook’s f8 event on September 22, then at a later, ”Spartan-only” event. Neither came off, but TechCrunch’s MG Siegler now reckons he’s got solid information pointing to a launch in the next week.

While there are a bunch of visual changes in the now-pulled screenshots, reports about the project have long said a new user experience isn’t really the point; instead, it’s all about taking control of Facebook’s mobile platform out of Apple’s hands and allowing Zuckerberg and co to make changes to their mobile experience without having to negotiate their way into the gated community that is the App Store.

Image Credit: TechCrunch

Thanks: Neowin

Facebook on Monday defended its practice of gathering data from “Like” buttons even after users have logged out, saying that the collection is part of a system to prevent improper logins and that the information is quickly deleted.

The comments from the social-networking giant come after Australian technologist Nik Cubrilovic published findings showing that unique identifiers were sent from “Like” buttons when users were not logged in, raising questions about the privacy implications of Facebook’s vast presence on the Web.

“Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit,” Cubrilovic wrote in a blog post about the issue. “The only solution is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or to use a separate browser for Facebook interactions.”

Here’s how the Facebook data collection works: When you log in to Facebook or visit Facebook.com without logging in, the site places small files called “cookies” on your computer. Some of these cookies remain on your computer even after you log out, and then whenever you visit a site that connects to Facebook – such as those with a “Like” button – information from those cookies is sent back to Facebook, providing a record of where you’ve been on the Web.

Facebook acknowledges that it gets that data but says it deletes it right away. The company says the data is sent because of the way the “Like” button system is set up; any cookies that are associated with Facebook.com will automatically get sent when you view a “Like” button.

“The onus is on us is to take all the data and scrub it,” said Arturo Bejar, a Facebook director of engineering. “What really matters is what we say as a company and back it up.”

In a statement, a Facebook spokesman said “no information we receive when you see a social plugin is used to target ads.”

Bejar said Facebook is looking at ways to avoid sending the data altogether but that it will “take a while.”

So why does Facebook keep cookies after you log out in the first place? Bejar said that it’s to prevent spam and phishing attacks and to help keep users from having to go through extra authentication steps every time they log in.

When a user logs in to Facebook from a new computer, the site will often make them take steps to prove that they are who they say they are, rather than someone attempting to log into an account improperly. Cookies allow Facebook to skip those steps when people are logging in from a computer they’ve used before, Bejar said.

But Facebook has been under fire lately over privacy, and the fact that Facebook is getting data at all after people have logged out is raising concerns. “This is not what ‘logout’ is supposed to mean,” Cubrilovic wrote.

This is not the first time people have questioned how much information Facebook gets from “Like” buttons.

In May, the Journal’s Amir Efrati wrote that Facebook would continue to collect browsing data even if users closed their browser or turned off their computers, until they explicitly logged out of Facebook. The current findings, which your Digits blogger confirmed on her computer, indicate that the collection continues even after users explicitly log out.

And earlier this year, Facebook discontinued the practice of obtaining browsing data about Internet users who had never visited Facebook.com, after it was disclosed by Dutch researcher Arnold Roosendaal.

Thanks: WSJ

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Mark Zuckerberg didn’t have his priorities in line yesterday. At the f8 developer conference keynote, Zuckerberg went in depth on the new profile feature, Timeline, and discussed the various ways OpenGraph has been changed to report on even more of your arguably meaningful activities on the Internet. It just so happened to be that one of those new capabilities that OpenGraph brings to the table is media sharing. This was talked about briefly, almost glossed over, and Spotify CEO Daniel Eck was brought on stage to give a perfunctory “Hi. We think this is pretty cool. Bye” before Zuckerberg quickly moved on to another order of business.

Many news outlets already had articles already halfway pre-written announcing the beginning of a Facebook music service, predicting that feature to be the highlight and blockbuster feature of the event. In fact, we had a bit of an editorial struggle here yesterday deciding who was going to devote an entire post just to the Music announcement. In the end, we decided it wasn’t worth it, given the dearth of actual information provided.

This is surprising because it almost seems like Zuckerberg didn’t realize how much of a grand slam he hit in making Faceify happen (That was Facebook/Spotify for the DIY-contraction challenged). I wrote a while back about the battle of the titans in the cloud music space, and wondered when someone –be it Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple, or Spotify –would create the one killer app to rule them all, a music cloud/subscription service that would include the features necessary to overcome the steep competition. Facebook was not on that list. At the time, the platform just wasn’t ready. Here’s what I said:

Nevertheless, the game isn’t over by a long shot. Facebook has been conspicuously absent from the fray, and considering their own presence in the infrastructure and content hosting industry, it’s only logical that they make a solid attempt at entry. They do have plans to partner with Spotify to offer the popular subscription service on their social network platform, and adding cloud music storage to that equation could be golden for them. However, that hasn’t been announced in any way, and is purely wishful speculation.

That all changed yesterday.

Facebook is taking the social music platform that Spotify started and giving it a shot of adrenaline in the heart. All of a sudden, your measly 10 Spotify friends who aren’t paying enough attention to your playlists to make it worthwhile have become your hundreds of Facebook friends that are basically forced to notice every time you listen to a track. They are then able to listen to that track immediately, implicitly creating feedback and creating a sharing loop that every social media outlet dreams of.

According to my feature list, Facebook comes out of this looking like a champ.

Subscription options – Facebook isn’t providing this service, but is smartly partnering with other services to make Facebook the hub of every music subscription model that would ever want a few million more users. Spotify is the headliner, mainly because of price, but you can bet that Zune Pass, Rhapsody, Rdio, and all the other players will be wanting a piece of this.

Streaming + Offline Storage – Regrettably, this is something Facebook will not be able to offer. However, that doesn’t mean that developers won’t be able to write apps for it. Whenever Zune Pass gets a Facebook app, there very well may be the capability to store your music offline, integrating nicely with Zune Desktop and Mobile software. Don’t rule this out yet.

Music Matching – Once again, this is going to be primarily up to the developers. Since Facebook isn’t offering the music itself, it won’t need to actually match your music. One could argue, though, that by matching up your music with others, and allowing you to stream other people’s libraries, Facebook is actually providing a matching service here. It’s kind of a stretch, though.

Mobile Access – Heck, ya. I don’t think Zuckerberg could have stressed the mobile aspect of the new Facebook features enough. The goal is to make everything announced for the web client available for mobile clients. Since Facebook is just a little ubiquitous in the mobile scene right now, mobile music sharing services will be all Facebook, all the time. This is one area where Google could have preempted the competition, but their sluggishness with Google Music (Beta) and their non-willingness to negotiate with labels or partner with third-parties caused somewhat of a feature-barren and non-social cloud music scene for them.

Library Organization – Developers will be on this like a hobo to a hot dog (as they say in the local vernacular). With all the Music in an accessible OpenGraph API, it shouldn’t be too difficult to offer ID3 tag assistance and album art finders. Some services may be better at this than others in the end, but you can’t have a great music sharing platform if everyone’s tags are different. Standardization is key here.

Pricing – This is the exciting part. Until now, each service has existed in its own walled garden, so to speak. Each subscription had its own client, player, website and pay model. Facebook will be the great equalizer. Now that all services will essentially be competing on the same stage, marketing to the same users, all pay models will have to face a Spotify-induced reckoning. Spotify, while bursting onto the Facebook scene, also announced that it was opening its free subscription to all of the US, and for six months, you can have unlimited music streaming. Spotify hopes that by the time the grace period is over, many users would rather pay the $5/month for basic access rather than limit themselves to 10 hours of music a month. The $10/month services will have to adapt to this or simply forget competing on Facebook. I love competition.

Overall, this was a genius move by Facebook. They are offering the most robust music sharing option to date, allowing for more options than the industry has ever seen on one platform, and they don’t have to actually store any music. They get all the data mining/hoarding benefits of applying music preferences to the OpenGraph treatment, and they are letting the already-entrenched subscription services do the dirty work for them. In the end, Facebook comes out a huge winner, at little cost to them. Services like Spotify and Rhapsody salivate at the chance to be part of Facebook’s 800 million strong user base, and Facebook now has the development platform in place to really make this happen.

Zuckerberg implied that the changes to OpenGraph will cause tectonic shifts in every industry it touches; I’m not one to fall for keynote hyperbole, but the potential for disruption here is enormous. The industry had it coming, and musical consumers will be the ultimate winners here.

Thanks: Neowin

Carbyn Has Built A HTML5 OS

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HTML5 —it seems to be the only thing anyone wants to talk about these days. And that excitement could get kicked into overdrive next week when Facebook unveils Project Spartan,their platform for HTML5 apps. But why wait? A startup that launched at TechCrunch Disrupt has already built an entire HTML5-based OS: Carbyn.

The great thing about Carbyn is that there’s nothing to install. Because it’s HTML5, it works in the browser. Well, any “modern” browser, as Google often likes to say —that means essentially anything but the older versions of IE. You simply open a browser and log-in to Carbyn and you’re ready to go. The team showed it to me running on both an iPad and a BlackBerry PlayBook. Soon it will work on smartphones as well, they say.

Once you load up the OS, you can pin any app to the main OS screen (again, all in the browser). Apps can be tailored for Carbyn from the ground up (still using all HTML5) or there’s a wrapper that can be used to make existing apps work. There’s a SDK for all of this, and the team says that they can get any app up and running in less than a half hour.

So how is this different from something like the Chrome Web Store? Well, that’s just a store for HTML5 apps, it’s not an OS to run them. They still run in the browser itself, and that means when you close one, you’re just closing a window or a tab. When you close a Carbyn app, you’re taken back to the Carbyn homescreen. But the key is that there’s much better multi-tasking thanks to their SDK which allows different apps to talk to one another in a way that traditional web apps can’t.

In many ways, Carbyn is more similar to the browser itself, Chrome. Or even closer, Chrome OS.

But the Chrome Web Store only works on Chrome and only on personal computers. Carbyn is meant to run anywhere (again, anywhere with a “modern” browser). “Google wants to promote their own products, we’re agnostic,” co-founder Jaafer Haidar notes.

Carbyn is probably a bit closer to Jolicloud,a startup we’ve covered a bunch. But they’re in the process of refocusing their product. And the truth is that they were always a bit different anyway. While the vision may have been similar, Jolicloud perhaps suffered from being a bit too early to the space. When they launched, HTML5 wasn’t on the tip of everyone’s tongue, so they had to build an OS around Linux.

As for Facebook with Project Spartan, Carbyn anticipates it will have the same problems as the Chrome Web Store in that it will be too closely tied to the parent company. “Hopefully Facebook doesn’t try to pull a Microsoft and create some proprietary hooks for HTML5,” Haider says.

Carbyn is now focused on partnering with some key developers to tailor apps for their platform. They eventually plan to take a cut of app store sales (the standard practice) or possibly do affiliate deals.

The Canadian-based startup has 5 employees and has been entirely self-funded up until now. They’re in the process of raising their first outside funding.

Thanks: Techcrunch

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When Google+ launched a few months ago, I got in relatively quickly and liked what I saw. I believed the social network would make a great challenger to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, mainly because of Google’s enormous existing audience (I still do, provided the company plays its cards right).

It’s now been a while since I’ve last visited or posted anything on Google+, but I figured that was just me.

Turns out I might not be the only one after all, 89n now says,based on some quick-and-dirty internal ManageFlitter data research.

According to its data, the average number of public –i.e. not private –Google+ posts per day has decreased from 0.68 per day between 19 July 2011 and 19 August 2011 to 0.40 public posts per day between 19 August 2011 and 14 September 2011.

This represents a decrease of 41 percent, which could lead one to believe the early adopters are quietly turning their backs on Google+. (Someone inform Scoble!)

Note that this perceived behavior occurs despite the recent roll-out of enhanced Google +1 button functionality,a Twitter-like ‘suggested user’ list and verified profiles.

89n says 7,280 people have linked their Google+ accounts to Twitter using its ManageFlitter service to date. The company says it checks these accounts for new public posts every 10 minutes.

Now, 89n isn’t exactly a research firm, and they offer little insight into their methodology for gathering and interpreting the data. I asked them to clarify, but in the meantime, how many of you have tried Google+ early on and find themselves not returning to post as much as in the beginning?

Update: yes, I know the data doesn’t cover private posting, which for all I know is up significantly. Nobody’s saying Google+ is dead, I’m simply asking if you find it to be true that public posting is declining, which 89n’s data suggests. Relax a little.

Thanks: Techcrunch

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According to a report at ReadWriteWeb, social networking giant Facebook hit a huge milestone in Internet history as it became the first website to attract 1,000,000,000,000 page views.

The statistics posted by Google revealed the top 1000 most visited website on the Internet. Not surprisingly Facebook took pole position with a monstrous 870,000,000 unique visitors – a reach of 46.9%. In second came YouTube with 790 million unique users and 100 billion page views, followed by Yahoo with 590 million users and 78 billion views. Interestingly Microsoft’s search engine Bing came in at eleventh place, being beat by Live, Wikipedia, Msn, Blogspot, Baidu and Microsoft’s own website; however it has attracted 12.4% of Internet users –9,600,000 users.

If the data collected is correct, it would mean that on average each user equates for 1150 page views individually – an astounding statistic.

The gathered data does however exclude ad networks, domains that are private (not available to the public) and adult websites, which means that there may be sites missing from the list that would otherwise be there if there were no exceptions made.

Unfortunately for Neowin, we weren’t listed however we hope to aim to get a place on Google’s list next year! (Or earlier)

Thanks: Neowin

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Slide (A company owned by Google) has quietly launched its new photo sharing service, dubbed “Photovine” which we covered a few weeks back. The service was previously in private beta, but is now available over on the Photovine website.

The service hasn’t been pushed hard by the search giant yet, nor has it received an official announcement, but it appears it is now available for download — but only if you own an iPhone. The very simple website at photovine.com does not allude to much about the service, but offers just a download of the app and a short video about the service.

According to The Huffington Post, Photovine is like “Instagram meets Piictu, with a bit of Twitter thrown in.” They go on to say that users share photos via “vines” (by creating one themselves or using an existing one) which are public albums with a theme that any user on the service can add to easily. It also allows users to share photos via Twitter and Facebook and to interact with other users on the service.

According to the Photovine team, they want to “rethink photo sharing from the ground up.”

It’s puzzling why Google allowed slide to only release an iPhone version, when the company usually ensures that its apps are available on both platforms at launch, so we expect we might see an announcement about an Android app in future. To give the service a try for yourself, download the app here.

Thanks: Neowin