Random musings on whatever subject strikes my fancy, published every other day.

Tag: #DeleteFacebook Page 2 of 3

FNN – Facebook News Network

zuck44% of Americans get (at least some of) their news from Facebook.  [source]

Let that sink in a minute.

Then see what happened to one intrepid reporter who decided to see what Facebook and its hardworking algorithms would offer her in the course of 24 hours, by way of “news.”

Trending also insisted, beyond all logic, that 75,000 people were “talking about” the honeymoon photos of Katie Maloney and Tom Schwartz, who apparently “star” on the reality show Vanderpump Rules. (Wikipedia tells me she’s a server at the titular character’s restaurant, Sur – which stands for Sexy Unique Restaurant – while he is an aspiring model/actor). They put up some photos on Instagram of their time in Bora Bora, which E! helpfully set to music and posted on Facebook. And there was a day-old trend about a high school kid in Bamberg, South Carolina, (“19k people talking about this”) who slapped an elementary-schooler on the bus. The incident happened on 25 August, making it a week-old story.

By noon I didn’t care about what Facebook’s fancy algorithm thought I should know.

Well, she tried. But it’s hard to turn off a working brain just like THAT.

I thought this Onion story had captured the essence of the whole Facebook-News-Algorithm kerfuffle.

Horrible Facebook Algorithm Accident Results In Exposure To New Ideas

MENLO PARK, CA—Assuring users that the company’s entire team of engineers was working hard to make sure a glitch like this never happens again, Facebook executives confirmed during a press conference Tuesday that a horrible accident last night involving the website’s algorithm had resulted in thousands of users being exposed to new concepts.

But I was wildly optimistic.  Or at least, “New” ≠ “Better”.

How to Fix your Privacy Settings

Today I was confronted with yet another headline like this:


and I just shook my head.  Not because I am on Facebook; I am not and I hope never to be again.  But I know that some of you still are.  I wonder if you actually enjoy the six-times-a-year trips into the maze of “privacy” settings, only to discover that they have all somehow managed to reset themselves to the default and oh by the way nothing is where it used to be anymore and… doesn’t it just make you tired?  Facebook sure hopes it does, and they hope you will give up.

On that cheerful note, here is my best recommendation as an information security professional for how to fix your privacy settings.

  1. Get off Facebook.  Yes, I am quite serious.  If you are still on Facebook but you fret about your online privacy, you are no different from a person who whines about how they cannot run a marathon, but has not made the move from the couch to a 5K yet.  You are just un-serious.  If you’re worried about your name being squatted, deactivate your account instead of deleting it and then simply never log in again.  Your high-school reunion committee will get over it.
  2. Uninstall Flash.  Seriously, just get rid of this already.  Even Adobe realizes it will never have all its security issues fixed and is in the process of retiring it.  Not to mention, have you ever heard of the “supercookie” that flushing your browsing data doesn’t remove?  Flash is where those digital vermin live.  Don’t wait.  Enough of the web is already on HTML5 that you will be surprised how little you miss Flash.  It’s time to tear off the Band-Aid.  Here’s a great rundown of how to evict Flash from Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE and Edge on Windows, Linux and OS X.  So make like a Nike customer and JUST DO IT.
  3. Block Ads.  This one gets a lot of push-back from seemingly fine, upstanding web sites whose business model is built on ad revenue.  The problem is, the flood of nickels and dimes pouring in from those advertisers seems to have blinded them to what was in those ads, which recently have included lots of malware downloads and malicious scripts.  I went into more detail about this not too long ago, and as of now I can tell you that my current favorite ad-blocker is uBlock Origin (not to be confused with ublock.org).

Not too difficult if you can get past the fact that you’ll have to keep up with 1,847 random people (42 of which you have actually met in person!) by other means.  Or not at all. It may not seem like it now, but it could actually make you happier!

Facebook Scammers

I was surprised to see the mention in this story that Facebook scams are now a larger vector of computer infection than any other single attack method.  Now if you are a reader of this blog with any regularity, you know that I hate Facebook and refuse to use it any longer.  But, OK, I get that some people continue to use it despite my excellent advice.

If that’s you, I want to lay out some of the characteristics of these scams called out by the cited Cisco report, so you can be aware and appropriately defensive. Facebook scams include:

  • Fake news stories
  • Pages for questionable organizations
  • Games and quizzes
  • Legitimate(-ish) pages that serve malware in ads

The problem is, that by interacting with any of these you may be sharing MUCH more information about your online presence than you think.  Since Facebook updates its privacy settings protocol quite often, and frequently sets your settings back to harmful defaults, it’s all too easy to get tired of going and checking up on them every. single. time.  So you don’t, and then you click on a shady page, and the next thing you know some spammer has access to all 1,074 of your friends.

Not to mention, if you answered those “Security” questions on other sites truthfully, as many people do, your Facebook profile probably contains more than enough raw material to allow anyone to answer your questions.  By the time you get an email from your bank that your email address has been changed, it might be too late.


If You Think Facebook is “Harmless”

OK, it’s no secret around here that when it comes to Facebook, I am not a fan.  But I never thought that their disregard for users’ privacy would get this blatant.   Don’t go by me, though; I would never have thought that a person affiliated with the Nazis and the KKK could be a leader in a US presidential race in the 21st century.  So what the heck do I know?

Still, this article actually makes a pretty obvious point about Facebook’s new six-way “reaction” clickers.  By encouraging people to share more and more, in more and more quantifiable and discrete ways, Facebook continues to lead the “race to the bottom” in terms of online privacy.


Move the Group off Facebook

I had a situation recently where I joined a volunteer effort and they said, Great, welcome aboard!  We’ll invite you to the private Facebook group now!  I almost declined – as you know if you read this blog at all, I don’t do Facebook.  But I really wanted in to this group.  And, at the time, ALL group business was being conducted on Facebook.  Here is how I proceeded.

1) I did **not** re-activate my old FB account. That would have renewed my “friend” connections and re-opened the incoming channel of nonsense and worse.  This was why I’d deactivated it months earlier.

2) I created a new account and friended only the one person I needed to in order to enter the private group. Private groups are set up so that you have to be friended to someone in the group before they can invite you.

3) Once in the group, however, I was able to unfriend that person. I had explained to this person what I was doing and why, so no hard feelings there. And now, I had a FB account with zero friends but access to the group feed and resources. The ideal state in which to have a FB account is with no friends, because all of FB’s privacy- and sanity-damaging actions are based on who you connect with.

4) I created a #Slack team for the group and started showing people — especially people in the hierarchy! — how much better-suited #Slack is for conducting a virtual team than anything FB offers.  I set up a number of channels corresponding to the committees I was working on.  People took to it quickly and buzz around #Slack started to grow.

Net result, six months later: the group is off FB, fully on #Slack, and both its old private group and my FB account are shut down, existing only in backups. If there.

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