Facebook Privacy Policy Warning – Hoax

There are hoaxes and there are hoaxes.

I can still remember when I was a pre-teen running home from school at lunch so I could be with my dog because there was a rumor going around saying that a particular mall was going to cave in.  At lunch. 

Ok, so I was naive.  The mall was about 30 miles from my house, and who knows why I worried about what the dog was going to do.  How did they know it was going to happen then, specifically?

*sigh* Kids.

But rumors get currency, then the currency gets spent by spreading along the fastest method possible.  Gossip. 

At any rate, these things come and go.

In this day of click through approvals and websites that have you sign things called “Terms of Service” before you use them, you basically sign all your rights away before you even set up your profile.

Sound familiar?  You probably didn’t read it anyway, Right?

We’ve all done this before, most likely Many Times.

The latest one is that Facebook Privacy Policy.  Face it folks, once you put your face on facebook, you face losing face, as well as signing your rights away.

Oh sure, you have some control.  You could simply not post anything there and have a full life.  You know, like you did before you got addicted to this century’s CB radio craze. 

You could put copyright notices on all your pictures, and trust me that is a royal pain in the tail.  Just look at the pictures I have on this blog – they’re all “Copyright Noticed” as well as hidden text through them…

But that’s getting off the track.

The best suggestion I could give anyone who enjoys using Facebook, and I do, is to think before you share.  Look at what you are typing in and ask yourself “What would Grandma think about this?” or “Would I have to explain this to HR at work?” or perhaps “What would I say about this in an interview?”.

There are lists of questions I could mention here but the reality is that if you don’t want it known, don’t share it.

A Secret Told is a Secret Lost.  If you are curating your life, the time to make the selection is before you share it, not after.

If you think someone could use it against you, don’t post it.  That’s probably a good rule for life.

The notice is compelling.  It tells you that it “Couldn’t Hurt” to try it.  It tries to get you to simply copy and paste the text – which generally isn’t the best way to handle a “contract”.  Knee Jerk reactions are never the best thought out.

It boils down to you saying “I forbid you to act on anything I wrote including this post.”  Cyclical Logic much? 

Third parties perhaps, but Facebook?  That notice will have no bearing.

So forget the post, or delete it if you made it. 

If you are wondering about what I’m banging on about, I’ll put it here. 

Better safe than sorry right. Channel 13 news was just talking about this change in Facebook’s privacy policy. Better safe than sorry. As of January 3rd, 2015 at 11:43am Eastern standard time; I do NOT give Facebook or any entitles associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or post, both from the past, in the present, or in the future. By this statement I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute or take any other action against me based on this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308-11 308-103 and Rome statute). NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you prefer, you can copy and paste this version if you do not publish the statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as information contained in the profile status updates. DO NOT SHARE you MUST copy and paste this. I will leave a comment so it will be easier to copy and paste!!!

Happy Unbirthday or Why I Became 110 Years Old on Facebook

I admit it, I read too much.  It’s part of staying up to date in any sort of technical career.

I came across article after article about sharing online.  People share too much data about themselves. 

What they’re wearing, well that’s kind of harmless right?   No, not really if you have a stalker.  Look for that person in that shirt over there and …

What they are cooking for dinner?  I’m doing that all the time, but apparently I’m doing it right.  Why?  Well you can see what kind of furnishings you have in that kitchen.  Is there a house alarm on the window?  Good, you can break in there.

Oh look, beautiful vacation pictures!  They went to Hawaii, they won’t be back for a week.  Nice TV in the living room in the other picture. 

Not Anymore, Inspector Clouseau.

Get the picture?  Or rather you don’t?

It was one after another. 

An article was warning people about putting controversial items up on their Facebook feeds.  After all, if you are radical, your next company or even your current one won’t want you.  Nobody wants someone who rocks the boat, right?

I’ve been self editing that sort of thing for years.  I hardly ever post anything that is “out there”, usually everything is supportive, and I’m liking things more than anything else. 

That’s a problem too.  If you just Like things on Facebook, it has been shown that things get “weird”.  Your feed starts to show things that are more intense than the things you actually like.   For example, if you like animal causes like the local SPCA or Rescue, and I definitely do, you start seeing things for PETA.  PETA is “controversial” to many people because of their “radical” vegan outlook. 

“Nothing with a face” is their motto, and animals first.  They go a bit too far for me, I’m a carnivore, still.  But I do support that they are out there. 

You see the point, things keep getting more “radicalized” if you like absolutely everything.

One of the “data points” that came up recently was about identity and credit card theft.  If “they” have a few things like your name, birth date, and a few other obscure things, “they” can get you a credit card. 

For themselves.

How do they get that? 

You used to get a phone call from someone saying they were from the “Credit Card Bureau” and they would want to “verify a few details”.  You’re done if you answer that question. 

First off, YOUR credit card company would never call for that.   I have been called by one questioning whether I was really in Florida once, but yes, I was at the beach and it is a lovely day and I wanted to get something in a shop, so please do put that charge through.

One other time, it was after I ordered something from www.Rakuten.com and almost immediately started getting weird charges.  Five Minutes Later I got a call from my credit card asking me if these were valid.  Nope, and thanks!  They stopped that in the bud and I can not recommend http://www.Rakuten.com as a result

So one of the most important details they said you should never share?

Your Birthdate.

I immediately went into Facebook.  Facebook’s business is getting information from you in a “soft” matter.  It is what they are doing when you click on Like. They are building a profile of you.

It is what you signed up for, and personally I am OK with that end of it.

What I didn’t like was when I went in to hide my birthday as a recommendation of that security article, I couldn’t. 

Facebook would not let you hide your birthday from “everyone”.  You had to keep it visible to your friends.  That was the most limited you could go.  Mind you there are a lot of friends in Facebook that you collect through the years of use, and by now it really is “Years” of use, that you really don’t know.  Some of them you will never meet, and some of those that I will never meet I consider that a shame.  Some really neat people I have “met” over the years and “friended” that I will never run into, or never run into again.

Others, Who knows what they really are.  They go silent or something happens and they drop away.  You may have said something inappropriate or what have you. Can’t really say that happened much to me, but it does happen.

So I changed it.

I moved it from my real birthday to the oldest possible date I could.

January 1, 1905.

I’m expecting a nasty email from them at any day now.

So if you wished me a happy birthday yesterday, thank you, I know you care.  Or I know you had a knee jerk reaction to seeing the thing. 

I do know that those that wished me happy birthday yesterday were those who I know well, and I did appreciate the well wishes then as I appreciated them and their well wishes every day.

But it’s not my actual birthday and I am not 110 years old.

If I have to change it again, I think I will make myself 32.  I met my partner then, life was looking up, things were going into a time that just kept getting better.

I’ll stop there, I don’t want to share too much.

But Happy Unbirthday to me!

Was I right to do this?  I’ve been told I’m getting paranoid.  Perhaps I am.  I don’t know.  But I feel good about “This”.

If you are a friend and you perhaps feel a bit manipulated, I apologize completely. 

My bad.
Mea Culpa.

It was not my intent.

How to Stop Facebook From Auto-Playing Videos

Believe it or not, I don’t have an April Fool’s Joke.  I don’t believe in them.  It’s for the amateurs around us.

So while today is Amateur Day, I’ll give you a little helpful hint.

I enjoy videos.  I watch an awful lot of them, probably more than I should.

When I launch a web page and it has a video on it, that video should not automatically play.  If it does, I am searching for a way to close that web page as fast as humanly possible.

I usually do it while at least growling at the laptop, and most likely with a few “invectives”.

You know, four letter words.

So if you are looking at Facebook, and I do this far too much to support the groups around here that I support, here is a way to make your life a bit easier.

  • Log into Facebook.
  • Click the “Settings” gear in the right side of the blue stripe at the top of your Facebook webpage.  Lately that gear has been changed to a little subtle blue triangle, point down.   The link is here to put you directly on the page.
  • The resulting “General Settings” page has a list of  settings you can work with in the left pane of the web page.
  • Click on the Video Settings link on the left at the bottom of the list or just click on this link.
  • Video Settings has only one thing you can set here, the Auto-Play setting.  Click on the “On” or “Off” button to set it the way you like.


If Facebook is a Bad Way To Rate People, What Do You Do About It?

Standing out at 6AM walking the dog, some days you just end up having a conversation that stops you and makes you think.  I was talking with one of my Dog Friends about various issues and he asked me how do I handle Facebook.  He knows that I do social media for a number of small organizations and what did he think about it for hiring.   I told him that it’s not the best thing to rely on, but it can be one tool, even if it is imperfect.

If you are looking through job boards, you see some pretty strange requests.

Applicant must friend (specific name of C Suite Employee).
or worse
Applicant must present Facebook sign-on credentials upon interview.

First thing first… skip that ad.  It’s a sign that that particular organization may not be too aware of the current trends.

Second, if a company demands that you give them your sign on information, it’s a sure sign that they don’t realize the importance of computer security. 

Since most people have layers of sign-ons where they repeat passwords, or worse, use the same place everywhere, that’s a bad idea.   If person goes in, gives HR their sign-on for Facebook, then their Amazon account gets hacked and they end up paying for all sorts of identity theft and fraudulent purchases, the company is liable for all expenses – especially if the thief is connected to the company no matter how tenuous that connection is.

But since “we all” have a Facebook account, is it a valid indicator of how well someone would work out in a company?  Studies say that it is a “weak indicator”. 

Most people will blindly click “like” on a picture that flies by if they are amused by it or it touches them in some way.  The assumption is that you have a preference toward the product when you’re really just being supportive of the poster.

It will be an accurate indicator if someone is somewhat out of control.  Posting lewd pictures, violent videos, or drug use most likely will show that someone might need some counseling.   Get back to me after you work out your issues with those things and we’ll talk.   You will be skipped over, I know I’d do that myself.

For someone in a technical field, poor writing skills are a definite problem.  I’ve been given what was intended to be programming specifications for a major upgrade to a program that I have had to throw away because the systems analyst was using circular references, sentence fragments, and missing bullet points. 

Much easier to go directly to the internal client and ask what they really want.  Besides, it got me away from the desk and a really cool person to work with…

But the mastery of technical writing is beyond some people and that shows up quickly in a text medium like Facebook.  It may not be germane to the position, but it will easily show if someone is writing long missives that get lost somewhere in the wilderness. 

Ok, I’ll admit that I tend to write prose and Hemingway is not my own writing style.  I’m Not Terse.

The bottom line is that these same HR people are being asked about their hires after they get in.  Six months after you start a job, you’re on your way.  That is if you make it past that sixth month review.  HR is being asked how did your opinions fit with their performance.  What they’re finding is that “Facebook Profiles were no better at prognostication than more traditional predictors”.

No better or worse than the old school “Lets Talk”.

So what do you take away from this if you’re out there looking for work and busting your hump?

If you have questionable material, look in the mirror.  Why is it really there?  Do you really need a picture of yourself standing in front of a Confederate Battle Flag with a rifle?  What does that say about your future anyway, you’re planning on running a plantation in South Carolina?  Not very likely.

Got a love for the herb?  Pot leaves everywhere?  You’re not a good candidate for the C Suite either.  You probably should move to Colorado and set up that legal dispensary if you can stay sober long enough.

Most people simply aren’t that “out there”.  They don’t proclaim their love of the edge so much simply because it’s way too much effort.  Society prefers the middle of the road and those people from the edge get nudged back into being more “normal” anyway, in many ways. 

I’d personally wager it simply doesn’t belong let alone having that sort of thing on Facebook.

But if it is you, remember you’re being watched.   Whether you can do the job or not won’t matter if you get a skittish HR person minding the gate.  Whether or not it really is a good predictor it won’t matter because you won’t get in the door.

Why it is a problem is that wonderful thing we call a “Herd Mentality”.  You’ve excluded what you consider the “nuts” but you end up looking at people who are just like you.  Since people who write more put themselves out more, those people who tend to will be more likely to be excluded.  In the US, the study found, those people tend to be Women, Black, and Hispanic.  So therefore the assumption is that diversity will be lowered and you’ll end up with a white male in the position.

Great if you’re a white male, but not so great if you are a latina or black woman who happens to be better at whatever the position is for.

So the solution is to self-audit what you post, and periodically go into your Facebook preferences and delete old posting’s audiences.  You can limit the posting’s visibility by going into the Facebook Settings, Privacy tab, and under “Who can see my stuff?” select “Limit Old Postings”.

What that does is to go through all your “old stuff” and limit the view to only your friends.   It doesn’t delete the material, it simply makes it so their friends can’t see them.

Or simply delete your Facebook profile.  If you don’t do social media professionally like I do, it may be your best bet.

Facebook Forced You To Change Your Password? Blame Adobe

Actually, blame yourself according to these Security Guys.

You see most of us have a habit of using the same password in multiple places.   I’ve done it, especially with Job sites.  There just isn’t a reason to use a different password for a site that is pretty much a site you won’t visit again, or if you lose your sign on won’t really effect you.

Shopping is a very different matter.   If you are using the same password in one store as the next, you’re potentially letting yourself in for a lot of financial hardship.

Believe it or not, I actually agree with Facebook because all that blather I just gave you is why they locked you out.

I have a friend who complained about being locked out this morning from Facebook.  Then I remembered that this was the story about Adobe.   You see, Adobe got hacked.   The passwords and user names got passed around the internet and are being used to hack other accounts.   If you used one of those general passwords on Adobe, you really should consider your security.

I mean it’s not like you’re applying for a job there, are you?

The problem with that is that you end up having a list somewhere with website names and passwords written down on them.  Either done on a piece of paper stuck to the bottom of the keyboard, or on a computer file somewhere.

Yes, people do stick their passwords on the bottom of keyboards.  It was the first place I would check when I had someone stuck not able to get in to the computer that morning.  

Mine was on a PDA, remember them?  I had an electronic file that had the password hints on them.  

Now, if you’re home there are better places to hide those needed files.  A small chip can go lots of places, after all you can fit 128 GB on something the size of a postage stamp.

So give a thought to how many places you use your favorite password.   Might be a good idea to start changing them.

Dealing with Facebook Annoyances Using Adblock Plus

Audience is either Firefox Users or Chrome Users.

Facebook is the website you love to hate.

Teens are leaving it, adults can be addicted as a time sink, marketers think they can buy the world’s information at a song.

You can tame the beast some. 

Lately Facebook has made some changes to the way they present information.  It’s all about getting you to opt into more things – you know, to “Like” them.   That helps them build a profile about you.   Since you tend to give up that information freely, it’s pretty valuable.

But lately it got to be a bit much.  Since I manage a number of websites, and a number of social media presences online, I have to be on Facebook – all day.

First thing is you really need a good ad blocker.   The reason is that those ad services may be entertaining but they are watching what you do everywhere.  You may not have a problem with it, but I do.

I went to Firefox years ago and installed an adblocker.  The latest iteration of it is called “Adblock Edge”.  It will block both intrusive and non-intrusive advertising.   The distinction between that and “Adblock Plus” is that Adblock Plus has been paid by Google and perhaps others to not block their text ads.  That raises the question of what else are they not telling you.  Supposedly Adblock Plus is making the decision as to whether something is acceptable, and I’m not comfortable with that.

  • Simple, get Adblock Edge instead.  Adblock Edge will allow you, once you learn how to use the thing, to block any advert as well as things like frames and those reprehensible “Fancybox” and “Lightbox” things that seem to float over a web page.

I’ll let you look into that whole learning process.   It’s best that you look into it yourself, but the default settings on Adblock Edge are pretty good to begin with.  The simplest explanation is that you can right click on an ad, Select “Adblock Plus: Block Image” and tailor what you see.

The next step is to import something into Adblock Edge that works with Facebook itself.   There’s a big long list of things that they added that annoy me, as well as clutter their interface.  Frankly I don’t have time for most of it, but a long list of that stuff can be found in this article. 

Those annoyances are the “You May Like” or the “You May Know” genre of items.  They got to the point where they were more than half of what I would see on Facebook.   So when I saw the article, I followed the simple instructions:

  • First Surf this page.  It gives you a graphical representation of things you don’t want to see.

  • Second, select the link you want.  I selected the Block All in the first column but that may be a bit too much.  You can see the graphic and select the one you want by clicking on the green “+ add” button.

  • Third, add the rules to your Adblocker.  When you click on the “+ add” button, it will pop up the Adblock dialogue box for “Add Adblock Plus Filter Subscription”.  Click on the button to “Add Subscription”.

You’re done.  Facebook will be less cluttered – until they break that by changing things.

You can always hide those people or businesses by unfriending or unliking them, but that is a bit of a Nuclear Option.   This keeps the friends but loses the “chaff”.

It just got too hectic, so thankfully Technology came to the rescue.

The Giraffe Riddle, A Spoiler, and a Hoax

I will put the spoiler at the bottom in case you’re curious…

We have all seen it by now, or at least those of us who have Facebook up and running.   The riddle is asked, you answer, and if you get it wrong you’re supposed to change your picture to a giraffe for three days.

Ok, all in good fun, but No, even if I HAD gotten it wrong, I wouldn’t do the picture thing.   I’m tall enough as it is, and a little better looking than a giraffe.

Just a little.

Now, the hoax that is going around is some misinformation.  There used to be bugs in Windows that would allow a picture file (.JPG) to hold a virus in it.  Not any more, that’s been fixed.  You can pass messages stuffed in pictures in the background labels in the picture, you can pass the location of the place the picture was taken, and other random information.   That is part of the “EXIF” Header, and perfectly safe.  In fact there are programs that take advantage of it.  The process is called “Steganography” and sounds like a tyrannosaurus mated with a Polaroid camera and had a picture as a baby.  

You can read the whole story about the hoax on this link to a handy security blog site.

Now, the spoiler.

I read the riddle and immediately thought of the answer.  Followed by the typical “Oh gees how could they miss it?”.   Yeah and I was good at Trivial Pursuit too.  Everyone who was got a little smug collecting those plastic cheese wedges but hey, it’s all in good fun.

The answer?   Follow this link to CNN.   Gotcha!

Your Software Is Secure – Or Is It?

There’s a quote out there that goes:

If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.

That’s directly applicable to any bit of “Free” software you use.  If there’s an ad being shown, if it asks you to install a different browser or tool bar, if there’s an offer to download 10 free MP3s – You Are The Product.

Fair enough.

There are exceptions to that rule.  There are a lot of excellent pieces of software out there that are free with no strings attached.  No phone home tricks, no advertising, and no other gotchas.   Those typically are called “GPL” or “GNU Software” or “FOSS“.  I do most of what I do on Windows, however off that windows machine, I live in that FOSS world of Linux.  If I want a spreadsheet, I merely download Libre Office and I’m happily counting away my beans.

I guess the fact that there is no support network provided with most of that kind of software means I’m still the product but I’ll ignore that.

Once you leave that world of Windows or Mac OSX where you pay and expect complete discretion (and you would be wrong), or Linux where the power of Open Source means you have thousands of eyes looking at the software and putting out a warning that your operating system might be spying on you (Ubuntu), it gets a bit questionable.

The assumption is that with your shiny iPad or iPhone, Apple is looking into that for you.   It’s not completely clear that that is true, and rumor has it that it isn’t.

On the other hand, Android does warn you when your phone or tablet is being asked to sign away your information.   You can still allow it, but it does warn you.   The idea is that the user is expected to be an educated Android user and actually stop and look at the warnings.   On the other hand, when is the last time you took the time to read an EULA (End User License Agreement)

Exactly, even I just skim them.   If it says it’s GPL, I assume it’s OK, otherwise, you may get one  of those programs that says that if you send an email to a specific address, you “win” 1000 dollars US.   Yes, that happened, once, and it took five years for anyone to find it and collect!

The most egregious use of the person being the product lately is the Jay Z app called “Magna Carta”.  Download and install the app and you get to join in and help to promote his CD of his latest “songs”.

Great, if you like that sort of thing.  On the other hand people did start to read what the app wanted to do to your Android phone.   It basically demanded full control, including your personal details, it wanted to start at start up time, and demanded access to your Facebook and Twitter accounts.  The assumption is that it was going to go out and put postings to those accounts in your name saying how much you were enjoying his “songs”.

Rap.  Bleah.  But he’s making my point for me.   It does not say that Jay Z is doing something with all that information, it merely says that the software has access to it.  He is using people as marketing tools to build the social buzz on Facebook and Twitter.  He may never use any of it, and that access may not ever be used, but it begs the question:

Is that in your benefit?
When you go to your app store, look around and ask yourself do you really need it?   That app will probably slow your phone or tablet down whether it is on the iPhone or a shiny new Android Tablet because it will want to start up when you turn the thing on.

Is that in your benefit?

That app may want to know who you called today, and forever.

Is that in your benefit?

That app may want access to whatever is running at any given moment.

Is that in your benefit?

The answer to all of that is no. 

Especially that last one.  If you use a smartphone to do your banking, your banking details are POTENTIALLY exposed to any app that is running at that time.   Want to share your bank account information with me?  I didn’t think so, but would you with an app developer?  That answer should still be no.

The best thing you can do with that phone is to make calls with it and keep it clean of unneeded software.  That includes free or paid apps.  There’s too much risk these days.

Sorry to bring bad news but there are some questionable people out there.

Turn Facebook Sound Notifications Off

Ok, the little “bedoop” sound was Facebook being “cutesie”. 

Distracting little sound that fired off whenever you got a notification.  I guess you could tell I didn’t care for it. 

They’re up to stuff again, and we’re going to have a bunch of changes forced on us like the graph search and more advertiser friendly layouts to the pages.  It remains to be seen whether we can turn most of that off.  The ads, I will certainly look for a blocker for.  I run adblock plus on every browser I have on all five operating systems I run

We shall see.

But the little sound notification can be stopped.  It’s cute, but definitely not office friendly.  I do a LOT of research, probably as much as 6 hours a day and having my laptop make noises is not a good idea.

First, Log into Facebook.
Click on the little gear for your account menu.
Click Account Settings in the little dropdown that shows up.
Click Notifications on the settings in the left hand column.
In Notifications Settings, Select the first “View” for “How You Get Notifications”.  This is the “On Facebook” line.
You can turn off the little sound by ticking the box for “Play A Sound When Each Notification is Received”. 
Click Save Changes and then go back to being social.

After all, you may like the sound, and you can turn it back on by leaving that box checked.

It’s up to you.

For now…

Is Facebook Releasing Your Phone Number To Advertisers?

Actually from what I am reading, “Premium Advertisers” with Facebook are going to be granted access to your Phone Number and Email Addresses.  This is planned to happen by way of a program called Power Editor.  Pay them money and FB is giving access to your supposedly private information.

How do you combat this?

Dropping off of Facebook won’t stop that, the information will still be there.
Deleting your account may but will they actually delete the information?

What I did was to mess with the information.

Go into what I call the Steaming Pile of Slop called Timeline.

(Who on earth thought two columns was a good way to portray variable information should be horsewhipped with a book of Fonts and the Chicago Book Of Style.)

Find the button that says “Update Info”.

Page down until you find “Contact Info” and click on the Edit Button.

Change your phone number to Your Area Code 555-1212.  Such as 609-555-1212.  That will put you in contact with the information.  You know ‘411’?

Click on the button on the right with a down pointing triangle.  That is where you control who can see the information.  Change it to Only Me.

I did this to my email accounts too.  They don’t need all that either.

At this point the article that I saw on Gizmodo says it will be granted your name and phone number as well as your email.  Any advertiser who calls me will get a lecture to put it mildly.

No matter whether this program becomes real or if it is a rumor, now is a good time for you to go in to your settings and see if you really do want to be sharing something.  My personal opinion is that if you want to know something about me, ask.  I may actually tell you.

Of course the safest way to protect your privacy is to simply not put it online.  I’d say if you’re on Facebook, that ship had sailed a long time ago.