Home > Awareness, Cybercrime, Data Protection, Facebook, Identity theft, Privacy, Scams, Social Media > Facebook: introduced a new “way of living”

Facebook: introduced a new “way of living”

On August 29, 2011, Facebook gave the false impression that it will offer better privacy settings by default and empower the user to control his/her audience and the information made available to other users (see: “How to adjust the new Facebook privacy settings”).

On September 23, 2011, Facebook announced its new “Read”, “Listened,” “Watched” and “Want” functions, which will certainly add more depth of user preferences for content published by media sharing applications as well as from retailers. However, this will also provide more specific monitoring and reveal more information about what users read, watched, listened to and wanted.

Who wins?

Advertisers and Facebook win the advantage because they will deliver advertising tailored to specific users and they will always know precisely what a particular user likes, wants in terms of content (i.e. topics, videos) and products (i.e. brand names, vacations, etc). And that will be broadcasted live as the new “Ticker” function will be providing through Live Feeds, what a user does in real time, likes, eats, listen to, walks, visits, etc.

But what does the user get? The user will receive advertising, Live feeds about his “friends” and more targeted group suggestions, but ultimately the same user even loses the small amount of privacy they had with only the “Like” button. For more details visit this page.

Furthermore, these new features – announced during the F8 Conference and called “Timeline” – are in fact a visual representation of the user’s online activity, which along with the live feeds brought by “Ticker”, a new Facebook feature, provide a very accurate profile of a particular user.

“Timeline can help you summarize all of your stories,” Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) said during the F8 Conference. This statement infers that Facebook aims to scan the user’s activity and precise preferences by making it easier for him/her to voluntarily share their life events, the places they visited, the books they read, movies they watched and more information in a nice “container” and layout, which happens to be the user’s Facebook page. This layout will create a timeline, which basically represents a user’s life. Facebook pushes this visual timeline even further by including an image/icon of a small baby and includes the user’s date of birth. The user will even have the option to include where they were born…

(Credit: James Martin/CNET)

You could watch a video here. YouTube video produced by Facebook:

Read more

This visual timeline – or better-said user’s Chronicle – along with the place and birth date and other highly private information are huge data protection risks. Identity theft uses date of birth as one of the main sources of private information needed to commit this crime.

Anyone with access to a user’s Timeline (which may have low privacy settings), could find in all the information about that particular user in chronological order starting with the date (and maybe even picture) of when he/she was born and then continuing on up the line with pictures from primary school, junior high, college/university, friends/family, pets and all the other things they choose to share and this information is neatly organized in one useful package for cyber criminals to copy in an instant. That could become a one stop-shop for identity theft.

Indeed Timeline helps users’ summarize their own life stories and at the same time helps advertisers and Facebook get more revenue by delivering the advertising tailored exactly to a specific user’s interests based on the pin-pointed places the user visited, liked, read, watched and so on.

Furthermore, the new Ticker function, presents also real risks for crimes such as: (cyber)stalking, rape or assault if we imagine someone posting in real time where he/she jogs or is located (at 10 p.m. in the dark park alone), where the criminal could come to mug, assault or rape them.

This is how Ticker looks under my personal Facebook page.

This idea could eventually be taken so far to the point where users will be showed/told what they like, how they dress, what to eat, and where to go and thus having less or even no control on their own preferences. Once advertisers know someone’s preferences, they will deliver that particular advertising as being the user’s choice and it would then no matter what a user actually wants or prefers because the choices will be limited based on their preferences (previous online activity).

E-Crime Expert would like all Facebook users to be aware and educated on what these new changes mean and what their implications could be. As the number of Facebook users continues to grow (from over 500 million users when I was finishing my LLM thesis in December 2010, to over 800 million in September 2011) we are witnessing the new trends in the online “life” environment, which is increasingly taking over and substituting offline life. Facebook is making everything available with one click and eventually users will find themselves clicking without thinking or asking questions first. With the higher online activity, come higher risks and occurrences of e-crime and paradoxically for traditional crime as well (identity theft, stalking, child pornography and abuses).

So with the roll out of new features, new setting and other flashing things on the internet, its important to stop, think, research and review what these things are because as E-Crime Expert always stresses an informed user, makes an informed decision.

For more information on how Facebook’s “Timeline” works please click here.

Note: these new features will be rolling out for regular users, starting with September 29. Now, they are only available for developers.

If you have any question, contact: dan@e-crimeexpert.com

For more info, visit: www.e-crimeexpert.com

Have you heard about these changes? What do you think about these changes? 

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  1. September 24, 2011 at 19:05

    I watched the ‘Livestream’ on the developers #f8 page and was alarmed, to say the least!

    I was not expecting to hear anything about child protection per se, because of course Mr. Facebook would not want to publicly acknowledge the fact that there are SO many under 18 year olds registered on Facebook. (It is the responsibility of the parent, isn’t it, to stop their 11, 12, 13, 14, or 16 year old registering on an ADULT site.)

    But, scant detail was delivered about how one opts out of the new format. What if you don’t particularly want that ‘Ticker’ feature? I didn’t hear any mention of there being choice in the matter.

    It is through the friends of friends that leakages and risks occur, so my advice to a parent who is aware that their under-age child has registered on #FB, is to insist that the ‘friends’ list is scrutinised very carefully, and where the child is connected to strangers, they ought to be zapped, blocked, removed!

    Then, ensure that you the parent, are connected to the child’s account so that you can monitor what is going on in your child’s on-line life. Check all the security and permissions so that they are locked down securely. And, impress on the child the dangers of predators who would want to do them harm.

    Facebook is crawling with adults searching for vulnerable young children. Don’t let your guard down for one minute.

    My recent blog talks about protecting children from the threats that are ever present.


    My last word on this #FB Timeline is to ask the question: “Is Facebook attempting to give the Mormon Repository of Family History a run for its money?”

    I certainly won’t be contributing to it.

    ~ R

  2. Dan Manolescu
    September 24, 2011 at 20:08


    I agree that education and awareness takes an important place in keeping the Internet safer and the children/youth better protected. In my opinion, the awareness should be addressed to these children and youth in the same amount as to their parents, and also they should take some responsibility for their activity as well. Parents controlling their children online or on Facebook is not completely feasible nor is it enough because the children know very well how to hide from their parents such as setting up hidden accounts, posting from their friends accounts or computers. The children themselves have to understand the risks otherwise they will do what they are told not to do in spite/rebellion. In order for them to understand, they need to be taught internet safety just like they are taught health (sexual education) and traffic rules for example.

    The problem as you very well identified it, is that those providers (SNS like Facebook) should have their users as a central focus rather than money. But business is business and they are doing this for monetary gain not because they are a sort of charity or samaritans.

    Thank you for your comment.

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