Thin social line between security, privacy

Thin social line between security, privacy

Summary: A news report this week says social networking site, Facebook, may contact people whose profile identity is suspect. But should social networking sites have all our information?

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TOPICS: Privacy, Security, India
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Every time I log onto Facebook, it asks me for my phone number. I skip that step. And each time I do that, I am reminded that my security status on this social networking Web site is low.

I fail to understand how my phone number can make my account more secure. On the contrary, I would rather give out as little information to Facebook, Twitter, and so on, as possible. It's bad enough that I get so many marketing calls. Putting my phone number on my profile would mean getting some more of those pesky marketing calls. Moreover, I would be giving out more information to people who I do not know, therefore don't trust (the security settings notwithstanding; because I do not understand cyber world and cybercriminals well enough).

That's why a news report this week took me by surprise. Apparently, Facebook is making a "huge effort" to weed out fake profiles to prevent misuse of such identities.

"Absolutely, there is a huge effort," Facebook India's business manager, Pavan Varma, told a news agency when asked about the company's action on this front.

So what's the criterion?

According to Varma, doubts about the authenticity of the account will arise if an account has a generic name instead of a proper name, uses images of celebrities and cartoon characters as display pictures, or does not have "enough friends", Varma said.

There are enough people out there, especially youngsters, who put their favorite Bollywood and Hollywood actor as their profile picture. Even cartoon characters are a huge favorite among mothers of young kids and youngsters.

And when it comes to elderly people, they seldom have more than 25 or 30 friends. Their primary objective of joining Facebook is to keep in touch with their children who are settled in different cities or countries. Facebook is the easiest way for them to stay connected with their children and grandchildren and view their latest pictures.

Varma goes on to say that Facebook could reach out to people, and ask them to identify themselves if they don't have enough friends "because we don't want fake identities". "We are worried about the experience we deliver... It's not about protecting our brand identity so much," he said.

And he has a point. There have been reports of fake accounts being created by computer programs, which are used for inflating the number of "Likes" on Facebook page for a brand. And Facebook is keen to take out fake "Likes" generated by spammers, malware and black marketers.

More than marketing, the medium can also be used by anti-social elements to gather information about their targets. But my worry is--the more Facebook wants to know, the more it may annoy some of its genuine followers or subscribers.

The line between security and privacy is rather thin.

 

Topics: Privacy, Security, India

Swati Prasad

About Swati Prasad

Swati Prasad is a New Delhi-based freelance journalist who spent much of the mid-1990s and 2000s covering brick-and-mortar industries for some of India's leading publications. Seven years back when she took to freelancing, India was at the peak of its "outsourcing hub" glory and the world of Indian IT, telecom and Internet fascinated her. A self-proclaimed technophobic, Swati loves to report on anything that's remotely alien to her--be it cloud computing, telecom, BPOs, social media, e-government or software and hardware, and also how high-tech sectors impact the Indian economy.

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4 comments
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  • Really? This is on a ZD computer site?

    What happened to journalist research before writing?

    You are propagating poor/misinformation. Very Irresponsible.

    The request for your phone number is for two factor authentication. EG. If you sign up a new device (or attempt to hack the account), it requires you to use a CODE instead of your password to the account. That code is texted to your phone. Therefore, the attacker would already have to have access to both of these in order to sucessfully make any kind of attack.

    I'm very disappointed. Please revise the article to be clear. In addition, this is NOT a good example of privacy vs. security. Facebook would be overwhelmed with protests and loss of people if it abused the phone number. I'd rather give it there than when I purchase something from an online company.
    agarillon
  • A viewpoint can't be the same as misinformation

    Hi Agarillon,
    Thanks for your comment. I do not think I am spreading misinformation. I am just giving out my views.
    Some people don’t feel comfortable giving out their phone numbers to Facebook. What's wrong with that? Are they obliged to do that? Maybe they don’t access Facebook from multiple accounts. I can’t speak for Facebook with the same confidence as you do. But expressing my viewpoint does not tantamount to spreading misinformation.
    Swati Prasad
    swati-bb48c
  • On the right track.

    I think the author is on the right track but she should been more clear.

    Here is how I think about it.

    I WANT TO GIVE FACE BOOK FAKE INFORMATION BECAUSE I DON'T WANT PEOPLE TO FIND ME RESULTING IN LOSING MY JOB etc. (THIS IS WHY I USE A FAKE NAME ON FACE BOOK)

    vs.

    DO I TRUST FACE BOOK TO KEEP ME SAFE? WHICH IS STUPID CAUSE OBVIOUSLY THEY HAVEN'T PROTECTED PEOPLES JOB'S ETC. IN THE PAST.

    The phone authentication is the latter. It's Facebook trying to do their part. Currently that is the most modern, yet far from perfect, way to protect your account. You should do this with Google too by the way (second authentication). No one can enter with out your phone. It's pretty smart overall.

    Anyway I know what she means, I try to skip all that stuff too, I try to use a fake name, and fake information for every site. That's the hot debate today. Should I give google and facebook my real name and telephone number? Should I trust every website? If someone hacks in to one of these sites won't they have EVEN more information now? Yes.
    These companies are doing the opposite of smart in one respect, if I use all fake information for every website I visit and someone tries to steal it...lol...won't work, it's not real.
    jjnoahjames
    • Solved..

      This problem will temporarily be solved when we have computer chips in our bodies, or in our glasses, that can receive information...give it ten years?
      jjnoahjames