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Your life is an open book if you use Facebook

Facebook has drawn flak from consumer groups for not taking user privacy seriously enough.

As the world’s most popular social networking site, Facebook has more data on us than any other private company, and a lot more than most governments.

So it can be both disconcerting and dangerous when the website — whether as a matter of policy or by mistake — lets out a lot more information than we would like.

Unfortunately for Facebook and its users, that’s happening all too frequently. As the magazine PC World so succinctly put it after the last debacle: “Another day, another Facebook security snafu.” The latest glitch was revealed on Wednesday when Facebook said it had fixed a security bug that allowed user’s to snoop on their friends’ private chats and view the pending friend requests by others.

In March, a bug exposed the private emails of many users and limited their ability to hide other contact information.

In December, Facebook changed its privacy settings, sparking a new Facebook protest group that now boasts more than 2.2 million members.

The new settings automatically share members’ information, unless they take specific steps to opt out of the info giveaway. That meant that your name, profile picture, gender, current city, networks, Friends List and all the pages you subscribe to were made publicly available and searchable for anyone on the web to see.

Prior to that there was Beacon, a Facebook information system that mined data from member profiles to send them targeted ads and displayed users visits to external sites on their Facebook stream.

Though a mass public outcry prompted Facebook to quickly abandon that idea, its newly-announced OpenGraph initiative is proving just as controversial.

Given that the aim of OpenGraph is to accompany Facebook members on their travels to every corner of the web, the problem could get much more serious.

The OpenGraph initiative allows websites to adopt the Facebook Connect sign-in system so that users activities on other sites are shared with all their Facebook friends.

Some aspects of the idea sound good in theory, because they will make the web more personal. But it also means that you could unwittingly expose your web activities to your wife, employer or anyone of the hundreds of people who might be “friends” on Facebook but who in reality are just as likely to be mere acquaintances, work colleagues or rivals.

That possibility scares privacy advocates. The Electronic Privacy Information Centre, an advocacy group, filed a complaint on Wednesday with the Federal Trade Commission.

“Facebook continues to manipulate the privacy settings of users and its own privacy policy so that it can take personal information provided by users for a limited purpose and make it widely available for commercial purposes,” Marc Rotenberg, the group’s executive director, said in a letter to the commission.

Facebook, which overtook MySpace as the platform of choice largely because of the control it gave users of their profiles, insists that it is fully focused on its members’ privacy needs.

The study of 2,000 online  households found that two-thirds of them used Facebook or MySpace. Of those, 52 per cent of them posted personal information that could pose a threat to them and their families, the report found.


May 8, 2010 Posted by | My Intrests | , | Leave a comment

Next, a Kin: Microsoft to try new consumer phones

The new KIN 1 is seen at a Microsoft news conference in San Francisco, on Monday.

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The new KIN 1 is seen at a Microsoft news conference in San Francisco

Microsoft Corp. unveiled two cell phones on Monday that are meant for social networking-savvy teens and twenty-somethings, in an attempt to revitalize its mobile business and regain ground on iPhones and BlackBerrys.

Microsoft said its new touch-screen phones – a short, square-shaped handset called Kin One and a longer, more rectangular one called Kin Two – will be sold exclusively in the U.S. by Verizon Wireless. They are being made by Sharp Corp., which has produced Sidekick cell phones, whose software comes from Microsoft-owned Danger Inc.

In the past, Microsoft has mostly sold its mobile software to other companies to put it on phones they make. This will be the case with its recently announced Windows Phone 7 Series software, which is expected to be on handsets by the holidays. The Kin phones mark a departure, as Microsoft has sway over the creation of their software and hardware.

Verizon said it will start selling the Kin phones online in early May and in stores shortly thereafter. In the fall, carrier Vodafone Group PLC – which owns Verizon Wireless in partnership with Verizon Communications Inc. – will start selling the Kin phones in Italy, Spain, Germany and the U.K. Microsoft has not yet announced prices.

Microsoft needs help in the cell phone market. Its software has been losing share while Apple Inc. and Google Inc., which makes the Android operating software, have gained. Microsoft software ran on 13.1 percent of smart phones sold in the U.S. last year, according to research firm In-Stat. That put Microsoft in third after BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. and Apple.

Roz Ho, leader of the Microsoft team behind the Kin, said the company has been working on the Kin devices for several years, trying to create a handset for people who especially want to connect with others over social Web sites such as Facebook. The phones are also meant for people who want a handset that works simply, without forcing them to hunt through menus and icons, she said.

That setup could also present a risk. Unlike most popular smart phones, the Kins won’t have access to application stores that let customers download add-on software programs. Ho said her team studied consumer habits and then built the activities they used most often into the Kin phones.

For instance, in a demo for The Associated Press, the Kin’s home screen showed a live stream of updates to social networks and Web sites that can be clicked on and responded to. Users can send photos and other material to people by dragging it onto a little circle at the bottom of the screen. A finger swipe across the screen can then bring up a page with applications such as photos and music.

The music player will be based on Microsoft’s Zune software, which also will be incorporated into the Windows Phone 7 handsets that multiple manufacturers will be able to use. That software was announced first, at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, in February, but will hit the market later. Microsoft and Verizon said they don’t think consumers will get confused.

The Kin handsets will not be obviously branded as Microsoft products. They will sport a sizable “Kin” logo on the back and, in smaller type, an indication that they are Windows phones from Verizon and Sharp.

Gartner Inc. analyst Ken Dulaney doesn’t think the lack of a dedicated application store will hurt the Kins’ chances. Instead he’ll be watching how Verizon prices the devices and accompanying data plans. He’s hoping to see the Kins cost $49 or be given free with a Verizon contract.

“By pricing it properly, they can give themselves some room to grow and differentiate themselves from Apple. If they put themselves in the same ballpark, I think they’re going to get hurt,” he said.

Both Kins are black with screens that respond to multiple finger gestures, similar to the “multitouch” technology on the iPhone. The shorter Kin One has a full QWERTY keyboard that slides out from the bottom, while the Kin Two has a full QWERTY keyboard that comes out from its side.

Both include Wi-Fi access and cameras capable of taking higher-resolution photos than most handsets: The Kin One will include a 5-megapixel camera, while the Kin Two will have an 8-megapixel camera. The Kin Two will also be capable of shooting HD-quality video.

Neither has a memory card slot; instead, the phones will upload content such as photos and videos to a Kin online storage service to free up memory.

Microsoft already does something similar with the Sidekick phones – it stores phone numbers, photos and other personal data on servers it runs. This resulted in an embarrassing incident late last year, when a server meltdown caused data to disappear from some users’ phones. T-Mobile temporarily stopped selling the phones, and some customers even sued.

Microsoft managed to restore most of the missing data, and gave $100 gift cards to affected customers.

The Kins’ arrival doesn’t signal the end for the Sidekick. T-Mobile, which owns the brand, said it will introduce new hardware and software and consumers should look for updates “in the months ahead.” But those new units will not use Danger’s software.

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April 20, 2010 Posted by | My Gadgets | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Facebook told to add ‘panic button’

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Facebook has said it would install links to child protection organisations on its reporting pages.

Facebook has been asked to add to its pages a child safety “panic button” that will guide users how to handle cyberbullying and inappropriate behaviour.

Officials of the social networking site, which has been criticised for defying calls to add a specialist link to every page, were asked by child safety groups to “turn words into action” during a meeting in Washington.

Jim Gamble, director of Britain’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop), who wants such a link on every page of the website, said the matter was urgent after the murder of a teenager by a man she met on the site.

Speaking after the meeting, Gamble said Facebook was “one small step from doing the right thing” but had not agreed to his demands outright.

“What I am pleased about is there is a commitment from them to improve what they provide to UK policing,” he was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“There is no doubt they are looking to improve their position around child safety and we recognise that. What I am looking for is turning words into action.

“In our view they are experts at creating a fantastic online environment but they are not experts in law enforcement, the power of deterrents and the reassurance it brings for mums and dads.”

According to the report, chief constables from across England and Wales, including Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, have signed a letter supporting the addition of the extra safety feature on every pages of Facebook.

Meanwhile, Facebook, which had previously said it would not install a “panic button” on its main pages for users to report suspected paedophiles, has not agreed for it, but said it would install links to organisations including Ceop on its reporting pages.

But Gamble said he could not understand why Facebook would not agree to adopt the button on every page as it was a free way to “help save some children“.

The “panic button” in question is already used by other websites, including Bebo. Clicking on it takes people to a site that details how to handle cyberbullying, hacking, viruses, distressing material and inappropriate sexual behaviour.

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April 17, 2010 Posted by | My Intrests | , , , , | Leave a comment

People’s addiction to networking sites(Facebook, Twitter) on rise: study

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A Facebook login page is seen on a computer screen in Chicago. File Photo: AP

People’s addiction to social networking sites is fast on the rise, according to a study which said an increasing number of Facebook and Twitter users check their accounts first thing in the morning while some look at their social media messages even while having sex.

The study conducted by consumer electronics shopping site Retrevo said 53 per cent of people surveyed check their Facebook/Twitter accounts as soon as they get up in the morning, even “before getting out of bed”. Nearly 31 per cent say “this is how I get my morning news“.

“What is it about social media that causes people to spend so much of their precious time trading information with friends, family and even giant corporations? Of course, we already know the answer; it is fun and can be rewarding both socially and financially,” Retrevo’s Director of Community & Content Andrew Eisner said.

The Gadgetology study asked consumers how they felt about being interrupted at various times and occasions for an electronic message. While 33 per cent said they did not mind being interrupted by message updates “during a meeting”, 76 per cent said they can take a break from their meal to check their accounts.

Seventeen per cent said they would read a message on Facebook or Twitter during sex, while 63 per cent said they would check out a message while in the toilet.

Thirty-four per cent of the respondents said they would check their social networking accounts first thing in the morning, before switching on the TV. About 30 per cent of those surveyed said they check or update their Facebook/Twitter accounts whenever they wake up in the night.

People under the age of 25 were more likely to lose sleep keeping an eye on their friends’ posts during the night, the study said. iPhone owners stand out in this study as more involved with social media. They use Facebook and Twitter more often and in more places.

“With over 31 per cent of social media users saying checking Facebook and Twitter first thing in the morning is how they get their morning “news”, could we be witnessing the first signs of social media services beginning to replace ’Good Morning America’ as the source for what’s going on in the world?” the study said.

In more evidence that social media is becoming addictive, 56 per cent of its users said they need to check Facebook at least once a day, while 29 per cent said they can go only a couple of hours without checking their accounts.

Thirty-five per cent said they have to check their accounts at least a few times in a day. The sample size for the survey was over 1000 people across the United States.

According to Facebook, it has more than 400 million active users across the world. Some estimates say Twitter ended 2009 with over 75 million user accounts.

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March 26, 2010 Posted by | My Intrests | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Facebook beats Google

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Social networking star Facebook surpassed Google to become the most visited website in the United States for the first time last week, industry analysts showed.
Facebook’s homepage finished the week ending March 13 as the most visited site in the country, according to industry tracker Hitwise.
The “important milestone,” as described by Hitwise director of research Heather Dougherty, came as Facebook enjoyed a massive 185 percent increase in visits in the same period, compared to the same week in 2009.
By comparison, visits to search engine home increased only nine percent in the same time — although the tracker does not include Google property sites such as the popular Gmail email service, YouTube and Google Maps.
Taken together, and amounted to 14 percent of the entire US Internet visits last week, Dougherty said.
Google has been positioning challenges in recent months to Facebook and the micro-blogging site Twitter by adding the social-networking feature Buzz to its Gmail service.

In what could signal an escalating battle between Facebook and Google, the leading social-networking service celebrated its sixth birthday earlier this year with changes including a new message inbox that echoes Gmail’s format.
Facebook boasts some 400 million users while Gmail had 176 million unique visitors in December, according to tracking firm comScore.

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March 18, 2010 Posted by | My Intrests | , | Leave a comment