Facebook and the Never Ending Quest for Privacy

October 15, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                    return to JayVee Media Link LLC

Facebook has changed its privacy policy yet again. It was only a matter of time after the platform rolled out its Graph Search feature; nevertheless, a large percentage of the platform’s users are concerned about how they may be impacted.

As of last week all Facebook profiles are searchable. Previously they could be set so they did not show up in search. That capability has been removed for all except minor users in order to augment graph search’s ability and accuracy.

Importantly, graph search will continue to honor the privacy settings we configure for our timeline posts. And any person we have blocked will still be unable to see our profiles.

Facebook privacy shortcutsFor those who wish to retain as much privacy as possible, the best defense is to be more vigilant than before regarding profile settings. We must set them as we desire, and then check them often. Facebook’s continuous changes commonly cause a shift in those settings. Sometimes they are reset when we share others’ posts that were originally shared publicly.

Facebook post privacy settingsTo be safe, we must get into the habit of looking at the privacy setting of every status update we share before hitting the post button. The setting can be changed after we share, too. But it is best to look beforehand. It takes but a couple of seconds for an unintended reader to save our information if he/she so desires. We lose control over our post if that happens.

How do you feel about your personal Facebook profile being searchable? Will it affect your behavior on the platform? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Facebook Home: Where Your Heart Is?

April 22, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                              return to JayVee Media Link LLC

Facebook’s Home app suite began its official rollout last week, finally putting to rest the escalating rumors that an actual Facebook phone was being introduced. Home is currently available for certain Android phones; the app for tablets will be rolled out soon.  Talks are underway to deliver it to iOS users as well.  So what’s it all about?

Facebook Home app suite screen shotFacebook software developers created a system that essentially turns an Android user’s cell phone into a Facebook phone. The Home app suite overlays Google’s open source operating system (OS), thereby creating a Facebook-centric user experience for the phone’s owner. Facebook friends’ pictures and activity notifications take the place of the Android device’s default home screen. A movable feature called Chat Heads enables messaging with one or more friends to proceed easily from the home screen even while other activities are undertaken. And of course, Home allows a pass through to access the phone’s other apps and features. So in essence, the Facebook gurus created a Facebook phone without creating the actual physical object.  And they promise monthly updates to the app suite to fine tune its operation. Happily, if a user is dissatisfied with the Facebook Home experience he/she can disable it or even delete it altogether.

To get a better understanding of how Facebook Home operates, you may wish to view this video demonstration, shared courtesy of Matt Kapko of ClickZ. 

Facebook Home Chat Heads screen shotWhere is the appeal in the Facebook Home app suite?  Business benefits and possible adaptations for pages are yet to be seen.  The developers are currently focusing on interactions on the personal front.  On a personal level, initial reviews – and common sense – suggest that it is best received by Facebook “addicts.”  It is a dream come true for those who spend the bulk of their time online interacting on the platform.  A majority of the rest of the online population, however, aren’t too thrilled with Home. Many don’t like giving Facebook – or any other individual platform, for that matter – what appears to be total control over their phones.   A number of reviewers have also expressed concerns about possible privacy issues. Facebook does claim there will be no additional mining of private information via their Home app suite. But considering all the new permission requests it makes one has to truly wonder.

How do YOU feel about the Facebook Home app?  Will you use it if it is available for your phone?  Are there features that especially appeal to you?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Does Privacy in Social Media Exist?

April 1, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                      return to JayVee Media Link LLC

magnifying glass over binary codeNews of all the social media platform changes and feature rollouts over the past couple of weeks has caused an uptick of concern once again regarding the privacy issue.  The question is, does it exist, or is it an illusion?  It’s a vexing query, for sure.

Point one:  the use of social media for marketing is positively surging.  These days, if merchants do not have an online presence they are at a clear disadvantage.  It really is out of the question to not have online profiles in our marketing arsenals.

Point two:  successful targeting of potential clients online is dependent upon how well merchants’ platforms and tools are able to gather information about the personal preferences and other pertinent information of online prospects.  Plus, most platforms that offer advertising need to do everything they can to facilitate successful marketing for their business users.  This seems to pose a direct conflict with stated claims of vigilantly guarding users’ privacy.

Point three:  By its nature, the internet is wide open.  There is never a guarantee that confidential information posted ANYWHERE will remain private, regardless of how stringently privacy settings are maintained.  This includes information shared in private messages, and even emails.  The vast majority of us maintain at least one email account on a “free” service.  But free is not free!  These services make money by scanning and selling our personal information, some of which may be garnered from topics we discuss in our email messages, to advertisers so they can custom tailor their pitches to us.  Bottom line:  if we can’t take the chance something confidential will be found by unintended recipients, we should not post the information online.

Facebook privacy shortcutsWith all that said, as 21st century dwellers AND as marketers, eschewing an online presence really isn’t an option.  But we need to vigilantly protect our privacy as best we can.  We must carefully consider the messages we type before hitting “post.”  This is especially true for platforms like Twitter that don’t Facebook post privacy settingshave graduated privacy levels.  For those that do, like Facebook, we need to make sure we set our privacy levels to the degree we desire, and monitor them fastidiously.  To review, start at the top right side of our Timelines, and work with the options presented in the little “lock” drop down (next to the gear icon).  After setting those, proceed to “see more settings.”  Go down the line, setting each option to the level desired.  Finally, do the same thing for each post.  Generally, the privacy levels we set for our posts remain as the defaults until we change them.  But it pays to make sure, just in case.

The best of both worlds must of necessity exist in cyberspace.  We need to put some information out there to be found; but we also need to guard what should not be discoverable by those who are not in our intended circles.  It’s a tough balance to strike.  How do you manage to share information while simultaneously keeping a handle on what you like to keep private?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Facebook Makes Changes Again

January 28, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                                     return to JayVee Media Link LLC

Facebook is beginning 2013 by living up to its reputation:  the only thing constant about the platform is change.  Three new features and one rule change are rolling out so far, and it’s still only January!

Facebook "like as page" exampleOne feature that is being introduced is certainly convenient for page owners.  In the past, when we wished to like another business page AS our pages, we have needed to formally switch perspectives by utilizing Facebook’s “Use page as…” option.  The new feature enables us to “like as page” simply by choosing that option from a drop down menu that becomes visible upon clicking the gear image to the right of the page’s “message” or “like” button.

Facebook bigger picture area for shared linksAnother new element being introduced is a larger viewing area for pictures and preview text when we post a link that includes an illustration.  Considering the attention posted pictures draw, tripling the size of this preview in shared links will be very helpful as we attempt to pique site visitors’ interest and encourage engagement.

In case we should start thinking Facebook is getting too nice, a new rule was recently launched that spells aggravation for many business page owners.  We already know the cover picture no-nos:  no contact info; no calls to action; no promotions.  The new rule – JUST in case we were still finding a way to make them too spammy – limits text to 20% of our cover pictures.  How many of you are scrambling, as I am?

Facebook open graph search screen shotOf course, the biggest new feature for Facebook is what the platform’s big announcement last week was all about:  the roll out of open graph search.  The implications for business AND personal users can only be imagined at this point.  Search will undoubtedly be taken to an unprecedented new level of personalization.  This will be true both on platform as well as for any off platform businesses that utilize Facebook’s API.  For those users concerned about privacy, it’s a good time to make sure all of your privacy settings accurately represent your preferences.  Graph search will not access what is private; nor will it make public information you have set as visible to only your friends (search WILL factor in your information for your friends if that is how your privacy settings are configured).  For businesses, now is the time to optimize business pages to maximize the chances of being found by the open graph search feature.  That includes filling out the “about” section with as much relevant detail as possible, including links to websites and other social media platforms, and creating/sharing posts with good value that keep page visitors reading and engaging.

So many changes in so little time!  Facebook seems to like keeping us on our toes by making things easier and more challenging at the same time!  Which new feature will keep YOU busiest?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

The Privacy Issue Stirs Again

September 24, 2012

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                                    return to JayVee Media Link LLC 

covered up computer monitor with KEEP OUT signThere have been a number of social media news stories over the past couple of weeks that have brought the issue of privacy back into focus.  Businesses that have offline relationships with Facebook-using customers are now able to access those users’ profiles in order to target advertising messages to them.  Mobile marketers are making use of GPS software to customize apps for specific deals triggered by a person’s geolocation.  And of course we can’t forget the pilot program called Facedeals – cameras mounted at the entrances of stores that record people’s faces, check to see if they have approved the Facedeal app on Facebook, and then use that information to target instant ads to them.  These new capabilities must be a marketer’s dream come true; the internet allows access to more consumer data than was ever possible before.  But at what point does it become apparent even to the marketer that a line has been crossed?  And what option does a consumer have to protect his/her privacy from those prying eyes?

SO MUCH of our personal information is floating around in cyberspace these days.  It is virtually impossible to guarantee anonymity.  While we can’t insulate ourselves completely, we can take steps to limit access to our private information.  Ultimately, we are responsible for remaining vigilant.

It is very easy to let our guards down while cruising around on our social media sites.  When we do, we risk divulging more personal information than we should.  Even if we are talking to trusted friends, we must remember that the forums can be seen by other people we probably don’t know so well.  Would you shout private information to a friend across a crowded room full of strangers?  If not, then you shouldn’t do it on a Facebook or Twitter page, either.

JayVee Twitter page Edit Profile buttonMany social media users are unaware of the ways to change their settings for increased privacy.  The steps are not difficult, as they follow a menu driven order.  The trick is knowing where to look for the settings.  In Twitter, we can access them from our profile pages.  Click “Edit your profile.”  A list appears in the left column with a series of choices.  Click “account.”  Go down the list of settings, changing whichever ones will yield the desired level of privacy.  Save changes when done.  We can repeat JayVee Facebook profile with edit privacy option shownthis procedure for any other setting listed in the left column under “account,” making changes wherever we desire.  For each menu we change, save before exiting.  In Facebook, click the arrow to the right of the “home” button at the top of the page.  Click on “Privacy Settings.”  There we find an explanation of all the levels of privacy we can enact, and are given the chance to do so.  Save all changes before exiting.

It is important to remember that changing our privacy settings is not an airtight solution.  It gives us an edge; it is NOT a guarantee.  We still must remain vigilant about what we share. The safest rule to guide us: remember that once we click the share button we lose complete control over a post.  It takes only one person to save it, and its fate is out of our hands.

One further suggestion:  consider a paid email service.  Most are inexpensive; for that small investment they will not use or sell email addresses or other personal information.  Services are “free” for a reason.  They monitor our inboxes and keep track of our personal preferences in order to target ads to us.  They also place their ads all over our emails for THEIR advertising purposes.

Is it odd that a person working in the social media field would take such an interest in protecting people’s personal information?  I am receptive to the many ways unfolding everyday that allow us to more accurately target our marketing messages to potential consumers.  But I also feel there is a point where the information mining becomes too intrusive.  That line should not be crossed.

What are your feelings regarding all the new methods to collect personal information in the name of social media target marketing?  Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

A New Facebook Marketing Strategy; Awesome or Unsettling?

August 27, 2012

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                                  return to JayVee Media Link LLC

As an active participant in the world of marketing, I always appreciate novel approaches for attracting new and repeat customers.  Every so often, though, a new system causes me to pause and wonder if we may be overstepping our bounds.  I recently experienced that reaction, and am curious about YOUR take on this new marketing method.

I remember the privacy issues that were brought up recently when it was announced that Facebook had acquired face.com, a firm that pioneered the use of facial recognition technology.  Many users of the social media platform balked at the notion of having faces in pictures they uploaded highlighted, and seeing suggestions for tagging.  A little too intrusive was the general consensus.  If that was disturbing to so many people, I can’t help but wonder what they will think of this pilot program being rolled out:

Facedeal face detection demonstration

A camera system called Facedeals is being tested in various restaurants and bars.  The camera will capture and attempt to recognize a person’s face as he/she enters an establishment.  If authorization is granted via Facebook, the system will then connect with the person’s Facebook account. There it will check him/her into the location and gather profile information based on his/her “like” history and preferences in order to customize special deals for the location being patronized. It is important for me to note that the program was not developed by Facebook itself. Rather, it is the brainchild of Redpepper, a Nashville and Atlanta based ad agency.

This kind of tracking is already used commonly; to see it in action, take a look at the ads that pop up on the search pages and social platforms we visit.  It’s not a coincidence that they all target our specific interests.  I am simultaneously impressed and disturbed by the whole practice.  It’s nice to have special deals delivered to me virtually on demand when I fancy a service or product. But it also gives me a creepy, Big-Brother-is-watching feeling.  It is a bit much for me to think that cameras may be recording my face and attempting to identify me when I walk into stores – regardless of whether or not I authorize the app. How else is the system going to know if I did?

Would you authorize Facedeals to access your personal information on Facebook?  How do you feel about this new pilot marketing program?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Facedeals camera image

For more information, see this Laughing Squid post by EDW Lynch.

Internet Privacy – The Lingering Issue

April 2, 2012                                                               return to JayVee Media Link LLC

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli

An abundance of blog posts about internet privacy hit the web last week, illustrating the fact that the issue remains foremost and escalating in the minds of web surfers these days.  The demand for privacy is hitting a fever pitch, particularly stoked by the recent changes in Google’s privacy rules as well as loopholes uncovered in Facebook’s policy as the platform is changing its layout to the new Timeline design.  Growing concern is causing a considerable public outcry, demanding that privacy rules be tightened and strictly enforced.

Facebook: Exhibit One

Facebook and the privacy issue

Facebook received kudos late last week when it fought to crack down on the rising number of employers who were openly demanding the passwords of potential employees in order to do character evaluations.  But while its stand was met with appreciation, Facebook was still coming under fire for fissures in its own privacy walls that were ripe for easy exploitation.  Among other things, it was discovered that a loophole allowed users to stalk the profiles of other users.  The breach resulted from profile users being unable to un-friend ill intentioned others who continually deactivated and then reactivated their profiles.  Facebook has since patched that vulnerability.  Another concerning practice that is ongoing is that third party applications can mine users’ personal data even if the users didn’t give permission for the apps to do so.  If any of their Facebook connections use the apps, their information can be extracted as well.  With practices like this one still in play, the old saying “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” comes to my mind.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy that Facebook is going after anyone who would demand the access information of another regardless of the reason.  I just think the platform needs to clean its own house a little better in the process.  Unfortunately, as it moves toward a public offering, Facebook has taken its eye off being a social network and is instead opting to be more of an advertising network.  Hence, it seems unlikely that those policies will change any time soon.  In other words, what’s good for them is not good for anyone else.

Google: Exhibit Two

The consolidation of information across all the various Google services has been the subject of much talk for several weeks now.  The disturbing potential for trouble appears to outweigh considerably the stated benefits of improved, more personalized search results.  Interestingly enough, even some of those close to the Google empire believe that it is taking things too far.  In one instance, former employees of the corporation have launched a new company devoted to stopping Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and Facebook from tracking its users. Disconnect.me is dedicated to the principle that internet users should be the owners and stewards of their own personal data.  To that end, it is committed to expanding its service to block additional sites that track users and mine their private data.

Google and the Privacy Issue

Regardless of how you look at it, mining personal data is pervasive these days.  And the issue is only going to become more onerous.  As difficult as it is to accept, the only way to guarantee that your private information remains so is to diligently guard what you share and be mindful of your online behavior.  Privacy settings MAY slow down the data mining process.  But they are never a guarantee. As a detective with the Internet Crimes Unit of my county’s Sheriff’s Department once said, regardless of how stringently you set your privacy controls, once you click the share button all bets are off.

Are you altering your online behavior in the face of all the personal data mining reports that have swept across the internet lately?  What steps do YOU take to protect yourself?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Facebook, Google, and the Privacy Issue

February 4, 2012

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                 return to JayVee Media Link LLC

Between the rollout of Facebook’s new Timeline and the announcement of Google’s new privacy policy, most of the online community is sounding big alarm bells.  What’s the need for storing every detail of our internet lives, and what will they do with it all?

While I tend not to be alarmist by nature, I must admit the whole idea spooks me a little, too.  I plan to resist Timeline until I no longer have a choice, simply because I don’t care for it. But the idea that every single post I have ever offered up will be resurrected, and I will have a mere seven days to sift through years of activity, is daunting.  Why on Earth would the Facebook gods save all that stuff??  The same goes for Google.  I’m much more creeped out than happy that my searches are going to be custom tailored to my tastes as gleaned from past searches and reams of other personal data about me they have been collecting.  Too many ramifications above and beyond social media practicalities stand out in my mind.

The only thing to fear is…

A few years ago I attended a seminar on internet safety for adolescents and their parents.  We were scared silly as we watched the officers of the Sheriff Department’s Internet Crimes Division demonstrate how easily a would be predator could locate a child, narrowing down location to near pinpoint accuracy simply by asking three completely mundane, innocuous questions. Queries like “What time is it (narrowing down time zone),” “What’s the weather supposed to be tomorrow (approximate region within time zone),” and “What’s the name of your school’s soccer team (self explanatory, once location is determined)?”  These days, merely knowing an approximate location is all that’s required, given the wonders of services like Google Places, Foursquare, and others that in a regular line of reasoning could be considered a boon to us all.  Top that off with the fact that we all know how easily some of this world’s “shady” computer tech wizards can hack into systems; can breaking into these servers make tracking victims even easier?

The same goes for those malevolent perpetrators of internet scams.  How much easier might it become for them to ply their evil trade, what with all of our most sensitive data pretty much there for the taking by those unscrupulous beings?


Lastly, when you think of burgeoning governments that overstep their bounds and intrude into every aspect of citizens’ private lives, wresting control over them and ultimately stripping them of their God given rights, one has to wonder what potential lays in all of our minutest life details resting in the hands of officials who have strong bonds with those who occupy the highest ranks of rogue governments the world over. I’d be surprised if this was NOT among the fears propelling the people who repel the notion that all their personal life details being cached is a good thing.

Fears are not assuaged when Google says, “If you don’t like it, you can opt out of using our services.”  Really?  Is there a service anywhere on the worldwide web that is NOT connected to Google to one degree or another?  Even if you DO manage to find something, what is the guarantee that the Google honchos really did purge your personal data upon your departure from their network?

What Can We Do?

Bottom line to me: these privacy issues are here. They are inevitable. The only thing we can do is stay extra vigilant. Watch what you put out there going forward, and if possible try to keep track of what details in your past might crop up to haunt you.  It’s not a comfortable feeling when you have no idea how much of your private lives the world is privy to.  Do your best to avoid feeding the maw that would gobble up every detail, only to possibly regurgitate it all where you would rather it not happen.

How do you feel about this whole privacy issue? Is it a concern to you? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!