How to view and edit your Off-Facebook Activity

One of the most pernicious activities that Facebook does is to track you when you’re not on their website, and even if you’re not logged into Facebook or don’t have a Facebook account. They often do this using cookies that websites deliver to your browser. Facebook has recently provided a way to view and edit “off-Facebook activity,” which the company defines as “activity that businesses and organizations share with us about your interactions, such as visiting their apps or websites.”

The word “apps” above is important. Facebook gets data not just from websites you visit, but also from apps you use, and you have no way to turn that feature off. Facebook then uses this data to serve you ads based on your activity. You can use content blockers or tracker blockers in your web browser to prevent this tracking, but they have no effect on apps.

You can “disconnect” this activity, but this won’t change the number of ads you see; ads will just not be “personalized” as before.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

Facebook, Google Caught Deploying Invasive Apps; Apple Shuts Them Down

Facebook was found to have deployed apps to track user data and usage on iOS and Android, using a VPN app called “Facebook Research.” As TechCrunch reports, this app–which paid teenagers up to $20 a month to be surveilled–had root access to network traffic to be able to track all of the users’ activity. The app could collect private messages, emails, web browsing history, search history, and more as part of what Facebook calls Project Atlas, which was created with the goal of learning about new trends.

This app wasn’t available on the iOS App Store, however; it used a system called the Apple Developer Enterprise Program, which allows companies and developers to deploy apps privately. Users would download a profile to their devices which would allow the app to be installed. This is not uncommon, as many companies create apps for internal use, and don’t want to distribute them on the App Store. But in order to function on iOS devices, these apps still need to be installed with a developer certificate, which in this case was Facebook’s internal enterprise certificate.

When Apple discovered what Facebook had done–which is a clear violation of Apple’s developer account rules–Apple cancelled that certificate, effectively operating a kill switch to shut down the app. (Apple’s iOS devices check whether an app developer’s certificate has been revoked, and if it has, the app will no longer run.)

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

Book Review — The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google

Four companies are at the top of the pyramid for technology and digital media: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Each one is very different, but there are many similarities that have helped these companies become so dominant.

Amazon’s reach is extraordinary, with 64 percent of people in the United States being subscribers to Amazon Prime. Apple, while far from being the leader in smartphones, commands one of the highest profit margins in the tech sector, currently around 38 percent. Facebook has two billion users, and four of the five most popular mobile apps are owned by the company. And Google owns 92 percent of the search market.

Much has been written about the successes of these companies, and of the unique qualities of their founders: Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page. And much has also been written about how these companies strategically created or took advantage of sectors where they could disrupt existing companies.

Scott Galloway, professor at the New York University Stern School of Business, and longtime entrepreneur, looks at these “four horsemen,” as he calls them, in his book The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. In his book, he highlights many of the negative aspects of their business models, and their effects on society.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.

How to Easily Remove Old Tweets and Facebook Posts

Your social media accounts are a reflection of your life–at least the part of your digital life that you share with your friends, family members, and perhaps strangers. People post all sorts of things on social media: photos of selfies and vacation pics, links to articles you find interesting, comments about your favorite sports teams, random thoughts about movies, music, politics, and more.

While fun to banter on social media, if you were to take a look back at comments you’ve posted on Facebook and Twitter over the years, you may cringe. There may come a time in your life when you want to clean up what you’ve shared on social media; not that what you’ve posted is necessarily wrong, but this unfiltered content, often composed in the spur of the moment, may not be flattering when taken out of context years later.

In this article, I’ll show you how to use free tools to easily delete old tweets and clean out your Facebook content.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

How to Prevent Facebook Apps from Accessing Your Profile Information

If you’ve been following the news recently, you may have been surprised to discover that a data analysis company managed to scrape up information on some 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge. While this is not the first time Facebook has offered entities access to its data, the controversy in recent news deals with exactly how a consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, obtained the data from Facebook.

A CNBC report says that Cambridge Analytica legally purchased the data from Aleksandr Kogan and his company, Global Science Research, which gathered the data through a Facebook app and a psychological test taken by Facebook users.

Curiously, however, they didn’t need to get 50 million people to click on a link in order to obtain their data; instead, they accomplished this by persuading just 270,000 users to add an app, called thisisyourdigitallife, to their Facebook page. The app offered a number of personality quizzes; you know the kind, you see them on Facebook all the time.

Those who downloaded the app voluntarily handed over vast amounts of personal data about what they like, where they live, and in some cases, depending on an individuals Facebook privacy settings, who their friends were. The data analysis firm used this data to create “psychographic profiles,” or descriptions of people according to their personality types. They had enough data to create full profiles of 30 million people.

And you might be one of them.

How did they get the data without the knowledge of users? Quite simply, a default Facebook setting allowed the entity to access to this information. For this reason, every Facebook user needs to know how to change these settings to prevent Facebook apps from accessing your profile information.

Read the rest of the article on the Mac Security Blog.

Is Facebook Good for the World?

This morning, Facebook presented me with this:

Good for the world

This is what fear tastes like when you can’t empathize with other humans.

Facebook Must Die, and It Will, but in the Meantime…

You can’t swing a virtual cat without coming across an article about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. The cynicism of these people is quite stunning. Facebook is pretending that they didn’t do anything wrong (“What, us?”), and Cambridge Analytica – whose CEO was just suspended by the company’s board – is saying the same sort of things.

Don’t forget that CA is partly owned by Robert Mercer, a leading conservative donor, and that Steve Bannon was vice-president of the company.

But back to Facebook; it will die, eventually. Or it will morph into something different. It’s not new; their abuse of user data has been apparent for several years. Governments are going to take the company apart, and rightly so. It may survive, with a different business model, or it may be replaced by something else.

I’ve been using Facebook since 2007, and use it in a limited manner. I keep in touch with old friends, and some colleagues, but I long ago got tired of all the quizzes and fake news that people were sharing, and unfollowed a lot of people. What I do use it for, however, is groups. These have replaced forums for many people, and are very accessible: people don’t need to understand how forum software works, and they don’t need to create new accounts. I belong to groups about cats, photography, music, local groups, and more.

Many people use Facebook groups now, because they are so easy to set up. For example, I’m taking an online photography course, and the instructor created a Facebook group for people to post photos and discuss the course. This is very practical, and these groups generally aren’t polluted with the dregs of Facebook.

If Facebook goes away or changes, this is one aspect of the service that I would miss. These groups suffer from all the usual Facebook problems of an algorithm deciding what to post on your timeline, but you can view all posts in a group (though navigation isn’t practical). But they’re like the best of Usenet; they allow communication without too many problems of spam, since they’re easily moderated.

In any case, I hope Facebook gets destroyed. What they’ve done – even more so than Twitter – is to monetize people’s data and share it in ways they should not have done. The fact that if one of your friends plays a game or quiz and your data can be shared should be – and may well become – illegal. Facebook has gotten too big, and needs to die. I’ll stay there for a while, mainly for groups, but I agree that it’s just not fun any more.

The Follower Factory – The New York Times

Everyone wants to be popular online.

Some even pay for it.

Inside social media’s black market.

It seems the New York Times has just discovered that you can buy followers on social media networks. This isn’t news; this has been the case for years. I get spam on Twitter offering followers all the time; almost every time I post a photo on Instagram, I get followed by an account whose profile offers to sell me followers.

Celebrities and brands have been doing this for years. Why did it take so long for the mainstream media to find out about this.

Here’s a 2014 Macworld article by Caitlin McGarry about Instagram’s “spam purge” of that period. There are dozens, hundreds of articles about this.

Source: The Follower Factory – The New York Times