Friday, May 21, 2010


Hackers Can Delete Facebook Friends, Thanks to Flaw

The flaw was reported Wednesday by Steven Abbagnaro, a student at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. But as of Friday morning, Pacific time, it had still not been patched, based on tests conducted by the IDG News Service on a reporter's Facebook friends list.
A malicious hacker could combine an exploit for this bug with spam or even a self-copying worm code to wreak havoc on the social network, Abbagnaro said in an interview.
He's written proof-of-concept code that scrapes publicly available data from users' Facebook pages and then, one by one, deletes all of their friends. For the attack to work, however, the victim would first have to be tricked into clicking on a malicious link while logged into Facebook. "The next thing you know, you have no friends," Abbagnaro said.
The security researcher is not going to release the code used in his attack until after Facebook fixes the flaw, but he says that technically competent hackers could figure out how to pull off the attack.
That's because Abbagnaro's code exploits the same underlying flaw that was first reportedby M.J. Keith, a senior security analyst with Alert Logic.
Last week, Keith discovered that Facebook's Web site was not properly checking code sent by users' browsers to ensure that they were authorized to make changes on the site.
Called a cross-site request forgery bug, the flaw is a common Web programming error, but Facebook has had a hard time eradicating it from the site. After Keith first reported the issue, Facebook thought it had fixed the problem, only to discover that it could still be exploited to make users "like" Facebook pages without their consent.
Similarly, Facebook appears to have missed Abbagnaro's delete-friend vector as well.
"I am just blown away that this keeps happening," Keith said in an e-mail interview.
Facebook representatives couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Facebook's security team has been under siege lately, with worm attacks and site flaws popping up on a regular basis. These security issues come as the social network has been hit with intense criticism for not adequately protecting users' privacy, and inappropriately sharing user data with advertisers.
Users have been quitting the social network and a campaign proclaiming May 31 as Quit Facebook Day has gained some traction.
Despite all of its other problems, Facebook should have fixed this latest flaw by now, Abbagnaro said. "I'm not sure why they haven't fixed it yet because it is pretty serious."
Robert McMillan can be reached at He is on Twitter at:

Facebook page tied to Pakistan ban back up

Protesters in Karachi, Pakistan, shout slogans during a Friday rally against published caricatures of the prophet Mohammed on Facebook. Protesters shouted "Death to Facebook" and "Death to America," and burned U.S. flags.
(Credit: AFP Photo/Asif Hassan)
Update, May 22 at 1:35 PDTThe story has been updated to indicate that the original "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" Facebook page is back up, with an explanation of its removal.
A Facebook page that led Pakistan to temporarily block the social-networking site reappeared on the social-networking site Saturday morning, two days after it was taken down.
The page promotes "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day," scheduled for Thursday following an American cartoonist's satirical suggestion that people draw images of the prophet to promote free speech.
By Friday, the page no longer appeared on the site. Facebook said Friday it had not taken any action on the page,according to the Associated Press. It was speculated that the creator removed it, possibly because "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" was over, but the reason was unclear.
On Saturday, however, the following explanation appeared on the wall of the page, which had upward of 109,000 supporters and more than 12,000 photos as of Saturday afternoon at 1:30 PDT.
"This page was removed two days ago, after one of our moderators had his e-mail and Skype hacked. His personal data was revealed. He then got scared and deleted, the blog, and the e-mails. The rest of us are now back without him after he backed out. This is another scare tactic from the Islamic extremists. We won't fall."
blog spawned by the idea of "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day," however, on Saturday remained virtually devoid of content, still renamed "nothing," after featuring several caricatures of Mohammed earlier in the week.
Pakistan's Facebook closure happened Wednesday after an Islamic lawyers association in Lahore argued that the contest essentially equaled blasphemy and won a court injunction against the social-networking site. In what could be a wider Internet crackdown, Pakistan also banned YouTube over "sacrilegious" content. Some Muslims consider images of Mohammed to be blasphemous.
Pakistan has said it would consider restoring Facebook and other sites featuring offending content if the content was removed. While the country's telecommunications regulator said Thursday that the YouTube ban had been lifted following the removal of "blasphemous" footage, a YouTube spokeswoman said the video site is still being blocked there, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Published caricatures of Mohammed also led to massive protests in the streets of Pakistan this week. Pakistani protesters shouted "Death to Facebook" and "Death to America," and burned U.S. flags to vent growing anger over online depictions of the prophet that they view as sacrilegious.
The idea for "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" went viral quickly after Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris posted a drawing last month depicting objects like a domino, a spool of thread, and a handbag, saying they were the "real likeness of Mohammed." The cartoon also included a fake group called Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor calling for an "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day."
Norris said she drew her cartoon as a show of support for the creators of Comedy Central's "South Park," which earlier this year featured an episode depicting the prophet Muhammad in a bear suit.
That episode led a New York-based Web site called to warn creators of the animated series that "what they are doing is stupid, and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh," a Dutch filmmaker who was murdured in 2004 after producing a film exploring violence against women in some Islamic societies.
Norris, who strongly distanced herself from the concept of "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day," did not create the Facebook page touting the event and actively opposed it. Instead, she joined a Facebook group called "Against Everybody Draw Mohammed Day - May 20." Its page still appeared live on the site Friday afternoon, with more than 43,000 members.
Update, 9:15 p.m. PDT: Thanks to reader Josh Diekmann for writing in to point out that at least one additional"Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" Facebook page has gone up, with more than 17,000 "liking" it as of Friday night. In addition, another reader notes that Facebook now hosts a page promoting "Show Mohammed Day," a scheduled day of rallies June 3 "in celebration of freedom of speech and religion, honoring the spirit of the First Amendment." The organizer says the June 3 rallies are a direct response to the controversy surrounding "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day."
Leslie Katz, senior editor of CNET's Crave, covers gadgets, games, and myriad other digital distractions. As a co-host of the recently retired CNET News Daily Podcast, she was sometimes known to channel Terry Gross and still uses her trained "podcast voice" to bully the speech recognition software on automated customer service lines. E-mail Leslie.

Facebook working on 'simple' privacy settings

news analysis After one of the most tumultuous months in its young history, Facebook is planning to announce features intended to offer its hundreds of millions of users simpler privacy choices.
The last few weeks have not been kind to the Internet's second most popular Web site, which has been pilloried by privacy activists and slammed by some members of Congress. The flap has spawned clever interactive graphics showing how Facebook has gradually exposed more user data, tools to fix your privacy settings, andreports of internal discord among employees who may fear that the negative attention would jeopardize a lucrative public stock offering.
A Facebook spokesman on Friday confirmed that the changes will arrive "shortly," without elaborating. "The messages we've received are pretty clear," Andrew Noyes said. "Users appreciate having precise and comprehensive controls, but want them to be simpler and easier to use. They also like the new programs we have rolled out, but want simple and easy ways to opt out of sharing personal information with applications and Web sites."
While the recent focus on Facebook started with its announcements in late April at the F8 developers conference, which included deeper connections with partner Web sites, concerns have been building for a long time. There was the outcry over the now-defunct Beacon advertising program, CEO Mark Zuckerberg's remarks last December about pushing users to disclose more, and brief eruptions, including Thursday's disclosure of Facebook sharing some data with advertisers, in possible violation of its privacy policy.
No wonder you're starting to see tips--including a CNET FAQ we published earlier Friday--on how to irrevocably delete your Facebook account. (Yes, there's even a Facebook group.)
The new controls, which could arrive as early as next week, will feature simpler and easier-to-use controls for users who care about them, while continuing to offer granular controls for those who want them as well, a company source said. No doubt The New York Times will redraw its helpful road map to Facebook's privacy options.
When the generally laissez-faire Economist writes an article saying regulators may be able to "justly" target Facebook, and The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan warns that "when we lose our privacy, we lose some of our humanity," these are signs that Zuckerberg has lost the zeitgeist. So is the flood of money to the ephemeral idea of Diaspora. (Time magazine's cover story featuring an interview with Zuckerberg, on the other hand, was far more flattering.)
ome of these news clippings almost appear to have been copied and pasted from The Onion, which has been covering the issue in its own way. There was the Facebook phishing scam that snared a board member and asecurity hole that leaked some private messages. Then there's the October release of "The Social Network," starring Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake, which appears to be using a different name to keep the lawyers at bay.
The danger here lies, as it often does, in regulatory overreach. Sen. Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat, isdemanding a federal investigation and the issuing of government "guidelines" on privacy disclosures. Like most members of Congress, Schumer is a lawyer-turned-lifelong-politician with no experience running a business; he's been on the taxpayers' payroll ever since being elected to the New York State Assembly at the age of 23.
If Facebook has made privacy missteps that harmed its users, existing law gives the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general ample authority to investigate and litigate. The lawyers staffing those agencies, hardly timid souls, have proven to be eager and willing to do just that.
And, if there's evidence of lawbreaking, no doubt class action lawyers will leap at the chance to enrich themselves at the expense of Facebook's owners and employees.
But to argue, as Schumer does, that the possibility of future harm demands immediate regulation would short-circuit the legislative process. At the very least, before rushing to pass final judgment, it may be worth waiting a week or so to see what Facebook actually does.

Facebook Fixes Bug That Allowed Friend Deletion

The flaw was reported Wednesday by Steven Abbagnaro, a student at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. It was patched Friday afternoon, Pacific time, after the IDG News Service notified Facebook of the issue.
The bug was a variation of an earlier vulnerability that Facebook learned about last week, which affected a range of features on the Web site. Hackers could have leveraged Abbagnaro's bug to delete all of a victim's contacts, one by one, but it does not appear that anyone ever exploited it in a malicious way.
For Abbagnaro's attack to work, however, a user would have to have been tricked into clicking on a malicious Web link while still logged into Facebook.
Facebook has struggled this week to fix these bugs, which are called cross-site request forgery flaws. They exist because of relatively simple Web programming mistakes in the Web site's code, and security researchers have criticized Facebook for not fixing them more quickly.
"We're in the process of doing a full audit and are building additional protections for this type of potential attack across the code base," said Simon Axten, a Facebook spokesman, in a Friday e-mail interview. "We began working on this one as soon as we learned about it and pushed a fix early this afternoon."

Facebook fiasco used as weapon in California campaign

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Chris Kelly, the former Facebook Inc. privacy chief running for California attorney general, is absorbing an attack from a political opponent that makes use of his former employer's privacy-related, public-relations meltdown.
Facebook, the popular social-networking service that's accumulated nearly 500 million users, has come under severe criticism lately for its privacy practices.
Some users have urged others to quit Facebook following the company's recent unveiling of a feature that can share information about which Web sites they visit -- just the latest policy change to raise hackles. Meanwhile, privacy advocates and U.S. lawmakers have urged the Federal Trade Commission to examine the closely held firm's practices.
Kelly, who served as Palo Alto, Calif.-based Facebook's chief privacy officer until he left the company in mid-March, has sought to distance himself from the controversy. In a statement released last month, the candidate said that if he's elected, Facebook, "like every company, will have to comply with its obligations to adhere to the law."
For the most part, his opponents in the June 8 Democratic primary had avoided the Facebook privacy issue. But in a recent volley, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris made clear she intends to make use of the fracas surrounding Kelly's former employer.
In a statement released Thursday, the Harris campaign declared that Kelly "must come clean with voters" about his role in devising controversial privacy policies at Facebook.
"Was Kelly simply a fox guarding the hen house at Facebook?" the campaign asks. "If Kelly couldn't stand up to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on behalf of Facebook users, how on earth can Californians trust Kelly to go to bat on their behalf as attorney general?"
Robin Swanson, a spokeswoman for Kelly, said the privacy storm surrounding Facebook only began in earnest after he left the company. Though he officially resigned in March, he effectively left the previous August, when he went on a leave of absence, she added.
Harris "is demonstrating an appalling lack of focus," Swanson charged, saying the rival candidate is paying attention to Facebook rather than to the recent problems at San Francisco's police crime lab -- and how Harris handled them as the city's district attorney.
San Francisco prosecutors have had to dismiss drug cases following the disclosure that the city's drug-analysis lab may have tainted evidence, while other cases have been imperiled by revelations about police officers' criminal histories.
"Maybe Kamala Harris should be worried about things that actually happened on her watch," Swanson said, "instead of trying to pin things on Chris Kelly that happened after he left the company."
Harris also has sought to focus on Kelly's significant bankrolling of his campaign. Kelly has spent nearly $10 million to the effort. In its recent statement, the Harris campaign accuses him of trying "to buy the attorney general's office."
However, Kelly has significant outside financial support -- which has included campaign donations from technology-industry heavyweights, in addition to high-profile, former colleagues at Facebook.
Kelly's campaign backers, according to public filings, have included Marc Andreessen, the Netscape co-founder and Facebook board member; angel investor Ron Conway, who has backed companies including Google Inc. (GOOG 472.05-2.96-0.62%) in their early days; Chad Hurley, the YouTube co-founder now working at Google; Yahoo Inc.'s(YHOO 15.48+0.38+2.50%) vice president of global policy, Anne Toth; and LinkedIn's executive chairman, Reid Hoffman.
Chris Kelly, candidate for California attorney general.
Chris Kelly, candidate for California attorney general.
TechNet, the industry policy group that includes Facebook, Google, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT 26.84-0.27-1.00%) and many others, has donated to the Kelly campaign as well, records show.
Microsoft invested $240 million in Facebook in 2007, in exchange for a 1.6% ownership stake.
Campaign contributors for Kelly from within Facebook have included Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, lobbyist Tim Sparapani and the vice president of global communications, Elliot Schrage.
Meanwhile, Harris has won endorsements from U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Other Democratic candidates vying for the attorney general's office being vacated by Jerry Brown include former Los Angeles city attorney Rocky Delgadillo and California Assemblymen Ted Lieu, Alberto Torrico and Pedro Nava. 

Securing your Facebook privacy settings

One wonders if Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow Facebook executives are wishing they could declare a do-over right about now, dating back to late April. That’s when Facebook held its developer summit and unveiled plans to make the social network even more ubiquitous on the Web—and that also raised a number of serious privacy concerns among Facebook users. Since then, Facebook has been the subject of what seems like a daily drumbeat of headlines about its privacy policies, whether it’s users quitting the social network service or pundits advocating for improved privacy rules.

The optimist in me hopes that the public uproar inspires Facebook’s management to spend less effort on spin and more on unraveling the Gordian Knot that is managing your privacy settings on the social network site. (It’s an oft-quoted tidbit, but this New York Times reportbears repeating: to completely manage your privacy on Facebook, you’ve got to manage 50 settings with more than 170 options. That seems… excessive.) Until Facebook lets up the requisite puff of white smoke to announce what came out of last week’s privacy summit, however, when it comes to making sure your Facebook information is only seen by the people you want to share it with, you’re still on your own.
Well, not entirely on your own—, a privacy awareness group, has developed a tool that scans your Facebook privacy settings to tell you how secure your data is. The tool is available in the form of a bookmarklet that you drag to the bookmarks bar of your Web browser. Then you head to Facebook’s privacy settings screen— helpfully provides a link—and click on the bookmark. After the tool scans your privacy settings in six areas—Facebook’s Instant Personalization feature; your personal data; contact information; friends, tags, and connections information; what your friends can share about you; and whether applications can leak your personal data—it tells you what areas are secure and where you may want to consider tweaking your settings.
Hold on a minute, the privacy-focused among you might be saying: How do I know that will respect my privacy. The Website says it never sees your Facebook data nor does it share your personal information. It also publishes the source code for its scanning tool in the name of transparency.
I used the tool on my own Facebook account to see how it worked, testing it both on Safari 4 and Firefox 3.6. Running the scanner takes just a few seconds, and I got a green Secure label for Instant Personalization, as well as preventing friends and applications from inadvertently sharing my data. Three areas were flagged with a yellow caution label—my personal information, contact information, and friends, tags, and connections data. (According to reports elsewhere on the Internet, there’s a third label—a red “insecure” flag. That one didn’t appear in my tests, which I guess is a sign that my paranoia and distrust of my fellow man is good for something.)
The tool provides helpful links for adjusting any settings it flags as problematic. To secure my personal information, I clicked on the supplied link and altered my biographical info so that only my Facebook friends could see it. Hitting the rescan button brought up a green secure label for my personal information.
Securing my contact information and friends, tags, and connections data proved more problematic. I’ve set my Facebook preferences to allow anyone to add me as a friend or send me a message. That apparently raises a caution flag for, though it’s one I’m willing to live with. (What’s the point of being on a social network only to make it difficult for people to find you? Besides, I figure I can ignore any friend requests or messages that strike me as hinky.) As for friends, tags, and connections, I can only guess that ReclaimPrivacy is concerned that I’ve made my hometown, education, and work info visible to anyone. (No one must ever know that Philip Michaels is employed by Macworld!) While I can understand that some Facebook users may not want to share that specific data, I’m fine with having it out there just as I’m fine with letting me know that I may want to rethink that stance if I want to be completely secure.
There’s one thing about the tool that struck me as curious: When I scanned my Facebook settings in Firefox, I got the all clear on everything—even the categories still flagged with a yellow Caution label in Safari. My takeaway message? As helpful as the tool is—and it is very helpful—it’s not a silver bullet for every privacy concern you’ll have on Facebook. The best weapon you have is still your own common sense—though a little clarity from Facebook itself would be welcome, too.

Facebook Page Banned by Pakistan Is Back Online

The Facebook page that led the Pakistan government to ban the entire site was back online Saturday, at least for some users, after it was inaccessible for about two days.
The page was removed Thursday after one of the moderators had his e-mail and Skype account hacked into, and his personal data revealed, according to a post on the page on Saturday. The moderator then got scared and deleted the page, a blog, and e-mails, according to the post.
"This is another scare tactic from the Islamic extremists," the post said. "We won't fall," it added. The moderator who removed the page has however backed out, according to the post.
The page had over 108,000 fans and over 11,700 photos posted on Saturday. Though the Facebook users who created the page put it back up Saturday, some users in India were able to access it for only a brief time before their access was once again blocked. Meanwhile access to Facebook as a whole continues to be blocked in Pakistan.
The page "Everybody draw Mohammed Day!" invites users to post caricatures of Prophet Mohammed, which led a court in Pakistan to order the site to be blocked.
There were also a large number of protests on the streets of Pakistan on Wednesday and Thursday, objecting to the page.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Wednesday ordered operators to block Facebook on Wednesday until further orders. It also ordered YouTube to be blocked on Thursday for displaying "sacrilegious" content. It said it had also blocked over 450 links on the Internet that contained derogatory material.
"Facebook has not taken any action on this page," a spokeswoman for the company said earlier on Saturday. The company had said on Thursday that it would not rule out making the content that Pakistan objected to inaccessible to users in Pakistan.
When dealing with user-generated content on global Web sites, there are occasions where content that is illegal in one country is not, or may even be protected, in another, Facebook said on Thursday. Most companies, including Facebook, approach this issue by preventing certain content from being shown to users in the countries where it is illegal, it added.
The PTA has said it would welcome contact from Facebook and YouTube to resolve the issue.

And now, a Facebook for kids under 13

Kids under 13 aren’t allowed on Facebook, but that hasn’t stopped many of them from joining. Togetherville, a new social network for kids ages 6 to 10, hopes to lure them into a more age-appropriate setting.

It’s free to join, and kids’ accounts must be created by their parents using their own Facebook logins. Parents can approve or reject their children’s friends and see what activities or games their kids are up to.

Kids have separate logins to Togetherville, and the site looks different depending on whether a parent or a child is logged in. For kids, there are games, prescreened YouTube videos and other activities, such as educational applications, but no ads.

There are even Facebook-style status updates, called “quips,” with a twist: kids choose from a preselected menu of updates, which change daily. Dhillon says that’s because when given a blank space to type in, kids tend to either write gibberish or get stumped by to say. But if they want to, they can send in their own “quips” for approval.

Best Buy to offer online movies

Best Buy Co. is about to give its customers one less reason to buy DVDs.

The largest U.S. consumer electronics retailer said Tuesday that it will start renting and selling the latest video releases over high-speed Internet connections by the end of this month. It will compete against an array of other similar services offered by Inc., Netflix Inc. and Apple Inc.

Rentals are expected to cost about $4 per title, and movies to own will cost about $15.

Cellular customer satisfaction grows

Consumers are more satisfied than ever with their cell phone service, according to a new survey.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index for cell phone service was 72 on a 100-point scale in the first quarter this year. That rose three points from last year and is the highest grade since the survey started looking at wireless in 2004.

Facebook divides civil society in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: When hundreds of Pakistanis are protesting against social networking websites Facebook and Youtube for carrying the caricatures of Prophet Mohammed Peace Be Upon Him, there are many in this conservative Muslim country who oppose the decision of banning these sites and believe in tackling this situation by adopting counter measures.

Protesters in major cities of Pakistan Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan and Peshawar spent last Friday shouting "Death to Facebook", "Death to America" and burnt US flags.

But surprisingly and in contrast with the past, the religious leadership, which organized the processions, could not attract big gatherings for the protests. Internet

Around 4,000 people came in the streets to protest against the facebook and Youtube in Karachi, 3,000 turned up in Lahore, around 500 gathered in Multan, up to 400 appeared in Rawalpindi and Islamabad and 250 showed up in North-Western City of Peshawar. In Lahore, protesters burnt US, Norway, Sweden and Denmark flags. In Karachi, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan and Peshawar, people blocked main roads and shouted death to face book, America and Western Media, which humiliated the holly prophet. 

"We have to show unity in this war of the present time," remarked Farid Ahmed Paracha, a central leader of main opposition religious party Jamaat-e-Islami. "We should tell America that this is the final battle and we are ready to win it," he told the gathering in Lahore.

"This facebook and Youtube are being used negatively against Muslims and to humiliate our holly prophet, we warn USA and the whole west they should avoid such practice otherwise a new war will start," said Mirza Hassan, a college student in Rawalpindi.

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) also restricted more than 450 links besides completely banning Facebook and YouTube after a court decision for restricting all Internet sites carrying blasphemous material.

But there are also many people who think that protesting against such acts was not a right way to handle this situation.

"What will be impact on facebook, USA, and the west if we block our own roads and create a panic in our own country? We should simply accept their offence and prepare ourselves to beat them technically in all the areas," said Hasan Nasir, a young computer engineer.

A debate has also been started among the members of civil society discussing the justification of ban. Hundreds of e-mails have been generated on the popular e-mail groups including the media groups to argue for or against this ban.

"We always turn up for non-issues. This is true that they have hurt us, but halting the life in our own country satisfies their aims. We should openly face this and try to respond it by concentrating on our jobs and taking our Muslim Ummah up to their level in economic and social departments. Then we should leave them behind in all other departments and take our sweet revenge," said Mubarak Ahmed, operator at an international call center.

"My Prophet is above all these things and criticism. His personality is far above of all of this. I don't care who is making what kind of caricatures of him. He is blessing for the whole world and I love him from the core of my heart. His blessings are for the entire world and his critics will meet their destiny on the doomsday, me or anybody else has no need to worry," commented Tariq Zia, social officer at a local NGO.

Like this? Lee DeWyze surpasses Crystal Bowersox in Facebook popularity

 Crystal Bowersox continues to sharply lead fellow Idol top two contestant Lee DeWyze in overall mentions across the internet, one trend has emerged which suggests that Lee has in fact gained momentum heading into the season finale. On their latest official status updates on Idol’s official Facebook page, Lee leads Crystal nearly two to one in both the number of “Likes” from fans and in the number of comments: 9840 to 5797, and 3899 to 2122, respectively. So while the search results we unearthed earlier suggest that Crystal Bowersox has in fact been the frontrunner throughout the course of the season, today’s Facebook data suggests that Lee DeWyze is in fact rapidly gaining momentum. While voters at home will determine who will win with their telephones in Tuesday evening, voters on Facebook appear to be having their say in the mean time.

Microsoft Kin concerts lead fans on merry chase

NEW YORK — Free concerts. Open bar. Big names. Small venues. The catch?
You've got to find them first. And only a string of tweets, Facebook updates and blog posts will lead you there.
Microsoft is combining social media and detective work to market its new Kin cell phone this month by throwing surprise concerts with bands such the Black Keys in four cities.
Key details such as time and location are trickled out in the days and hours before the show online by various sources including Microsoft and the bands. Then they spread through word of mouth.
Microsoft's target market for the phone is teens and twenty-somethings more likely to text and tweet rather than call and e-mail.
Source:google News

Does Facebook know who you'll date next?

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg genuinely cares about your relationship status. Well, maybe not genuinely, but he may look into it if he’s bored.
One of Zuckerberg’s favorite pastimes is determining Facebook users’ relationship patterns, according to David Kilpatrick’s upcoming book, “The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World.”
Are you constantly chatting with your girlfriend’s best friend? Do you spend more time on your crush’s Facebook page than your boyfriend’s?
You don’t have to be honest with us, but don’t bother lying to Zuckerberg.
A handful of tech blogs have published an excerpt from the book that says Zuckerberg uses certain factors to determine whether your relationship is on the outs and who you’ll likely be dating next.
All Facebook, a blog about the social-networking site, posted this passage:
“By examining friend relationships and communications patterns (Zuckerberg) could determine with about 33 percent accuracy who a user was going to be in a relationship with a week from now. To deduce this he studied who was looking which profiles, who your friends were friends with, and who was newly single, among other indicators.”
So what's your take on Zuckerberg as Cupid? Is his theory on this credible, or just creepy? If he offered you an insider's prediction on your significant other’s romantic future, would you take it?

Why Your Business Should Not Abandon Facebook

Google has taken some of the privacy heat off of Facebook with the discovery that it has"accidentally" been intercepting and archiving wireless network communications around the world with its Google Street View cars, but Facebook isn't off the hook. In fact, new revelations about how Facebook and other social networking sites share information with advertisers enflame the situation further, and the privacy backlash against Facebook could have consequences for your business.

Does your business have a Facebook presence?PCWorld has a Facebook presence, as do I. McDonald's Microsoft, Taco Bell, Adobe, Apple and thousands of other companies have a Facebook presence. Some organizations, like Microsoft, have multiple Facebook profiles broken down by product groups or individual applications like Microsoft Office.
Many companies have online support forums, FAQs and other resources available, but Facebook provides an opportunity to engage customers where they are rather than expecting them to seek out your company. Establishing and maintaining a Facebook presence--or a Twitter account for that matter--allow the company to interact with customers on a more personal level and foster a sense of community and loyalty.
Of course, if there is a huge privacy backlash and systematic boycott of Facebook, it would reduce the value of Facebook as a marketing or customer relations platform. According to a survey from Sophos, a security software and services vendor, as much as two-thirds of Facebook users are considering deactivating or deleting their Facebook account as a result of privacy concerns.
Like all surveys, though, you have to take this one with a grain of salt. Sophos surveyed fewer than 1600 out of more than 400 million Facebook users, and by virtue of being connected with Sophos in the first place those surveyed users are arguably more likely to be aware of, and concerned about privacy and security issues. Suffice it to say that the survey is not very scientific, and most likely not indicative of the broader reality of Facebook.
The truth is that as the media has focused intense attention on the privacy issues, and a vocal minority is organizing boycotts and "mass" Facebook defections, membership has still been on the rise. The current privacy fiasco is a big deal, but just variations on a recurring theme for Facebook which has faced repeated privacy concerns and user "backlashes" and grown larger and more powerful every time.
With the latest round of Facebook moving the line in the sand and automatically opting users in to new and exciting ways of sharing information that they may not have wished to share, and the revelations of data being shared with advertisers contrary to policy, there are some reasons to be concerned. The company or community page you established in order to have a Facebook presence could be distributed, or misappropriated in ways you did not intend or approve. The message you targeted for your Facebook community could possibly now be shared elsewhere throughout the Internet.
Facebook is out of line in launching new services and changing the rules without warning, and it is out of line for not making any change that affects the way personal data is shared or distributed opt-in by default. But, in the end the social networking site will most likely continue to grow its membership despite any boycotts and defections, and it still represents a fertile and valuable arena for engaging customers and building relationships to establish and expand your brand recognition.
Don't follow the vocal minority and jump ship just yet. It's not sinking--its going full steam ahead with or without you.

Facebook CEO Faces Accusations Of Securities Fraud

It's been a rough couple of weeks for Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook's new privacy policies have sparked a user backlash, with over ten thousand users organizing a coordinated exodus from the site onQuit Facebook Day.
But that's not the only thing troubling the 26-year-old social media tycoon. Zuckerberg is now facing allegations of securities fraud regarding the out-of-court settlement Facebook made with a rival company whose owners claim Zuckerbergstole their source code.
These allegations have followed Zuckerberg since his Harvard days, when he was hired by a student-run dating website called Harvard Connection (now called ConnectU), which at the time was similar to Zuckerberg's startupTheFacebook. Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, the creators of ConnectU, brought suit against Facebook in 2003. They settled for a reported $65 million in 2008 and turned ConnectU over to Facebook.
(The case's shady details have become something of a legend, spawning a book (Accidental Billionaires) and an upcoming film called The Social Network.)
The Winklevoss twins are now trying to appeal their settlement on the grounds that they were shortchanged by Facebook. VentureBeat has the details:
The ConnectU cofounders are arguing that Facebook executives and lawyers presented the cash-and-stock offer's value as $65 million, relying on a valuation of $15 billion that Microsoft paid in 2007 when buying preferred shares in the company. The settlement, however, was to be paid in common shares, not preferred shares, which Facebook itself valued at roughly 75 percent less for the purposes of calculating taxes on stock-based compensation -- cutting the settlement's offer roughly in half.

Facebook considers changing privacy settings

Facebook is considering simplifying its privacy settings, following a backlash from users.
The social network told the BBC that a number of users had complained Facebook had "made things too complex".
Facebook has come in from criticism from both government organisations and users for thechanges that were made towards the end of last year."We're working on responding to these concerns. Watch this space," Facebook said.The changes meant social networkers didn't need to be accepted as a 'friend' to see personal information such as photos, videos and even wall posts. The only way to ensure content on your profile was not shared with other members was to opt-out.
Last week, the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, called the recent changes "unacceptable", while several US senators also called for Facebook to rethink its privacy safeguards.
Recent research from security vendor Sophos claimed 16 percent of social networkers have already closed their account as a result of the changes to the privacy settings, while 60 percent said they were 'highly likely' or 'likely' to quit the social network in the future.
"This poll shows that the majority of users are fed up with the lack of control that Facebook gives users over their data," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.
Most still don't know how to set their Facebook privacy options safely, finding the whole system confusing. What's needed is a fundamental shift towards asking users to 'opt-in' to sharing information, rather than to 'opt-out'."
The changes have led to a number of users creating a 'Quit Facebook Day' which is encouraging social networkers to stage a mass exodus from the site May 31.
"A mass exodus from Facebook seems unlikely, but Facebook members are clearly getting more interested in knowing precisely who can view their data," said Cluley
Facebook would not comment on, however a spokeswoman told the BBC: "Some 10 million users have joined Facebook since the recent privacy changes."
"There is a notion that people don't know what they are doing but people are much more savvy about their online privacy than is often portrayed."
Facebook said that more than half of all users have tweaked their privacy settings following the changes last year.
"The fact that approximately half have accepted, and half are customising shows that our recommendations are reasonable,"
Last week Facebook held a crisis meeting to discuss the privacy changes and the criticism they have created. However, the social network wouldn't reveal the outcome of the meeting.
Instead, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said: "We had a productive discussion where comments were made and questions were asked and answered."

Facebook moves to fix privacy loophole after WSJ review

Social networking site Facebook said Thursday that it is fixing a privacy loophole that allowed advertisers to access user identification and potentially other information. The privacy lapse comes amid growing concern from lawmakers and regulators over how social networking sites and Internet companies are treating user data.
The change was first reported on The Wall Street Journal's Web site Thursday evening. The Journal reported that Facebook and other social networking sites such as MySpace had passed along to advertisers the user IDs of subscribers who had clicked on advertisements.
Facebook said that it does not share user information without user consent. But it said it did share some data that may include the user ID of the page but not the person who clicked on the ad.
“We don’t consider this personally identifiable information,” the company said in a statement. (Disclosure: Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham sits on Facebook's board of directors.)
Facebook said that under one scenario, if a user took a specific route on the site, advertisers could see that the user clicked on his own profile and then clicked on an ad.
Here’s part of the Journal story:
The practice, which most of the companies defended, sent user names or ID numbers tied to personal profiles being viewed when users clicked on ads. After questions were raised by The Wall Street Journal, Facebook and MySpace moved to make changes. By Thursday morning Facebook had rewritten some of the offending computer code. Advertising companies were given information that could be used to look up individual profiles, which, depending on the site and the information a user has made public, include such things as a person's real name, age, hometown and occupation. Several large advertising companies identified by the Journal as receiving the data, including Google Inc.'s DoubleClick and Yahoo Inc.'s Right Media, said they were unaware of the data being sent to them from the social-networking sites, and said they haven't made use of it. Across the Web, it's common for advertisers to receive the address of the page from which a user clicked on an ad. Usually, they receive nothing more about the user than an unintelligible string of letters and numbers that can't be traced back to an individual. With social networking sites, however, those addresses typically include user names that could direct advertisers back to a profile page full of personal information. 

Pakistan blocks YouTube a day after shutdown of Facebook over Muhammad issue

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- A simmering clash between free speech and religious sensibilities in Pakistan burst from the streets onto the Internet on Thursday, as the government blocked the video-sharing site YouTube and other pages it deemed "sacrilegious" to the nation's Muslim majority.

The move followed a similar shutdown Wednesday of the social-networking site Facebook, which had drawn the ire of Islamist activists over a page inviting people to post drawings of the prophet Muhammad. At least 450 sites, including Wikipedia, were also cut off by midday Thursday, and the government said more blockages could come as its newly created "crisis cell" scoured the Web for inflammatory content.
The bans, which sparked raucous debate, removed hugely popular outlets from what has become a vibrant and freewheeling media scene in recent years. In doing so, the prohibitions also underscored that debates over religion remain forbidden in a nation where Islamists exert power by regularly -- and sometimes menacingly -- condemning actions they view as blasphemous.
"If Facebook and other such tools continue to be used for blasphemy by the Western nations, then we will target their embassies," said Faisal Javed, 21, a student at an Islamabad rally where demonstrators hoisted signs emblazoned with slogans such as "Death to Facebook."
The site shutdowns came after a lawyers group successfully petitioned a Lahore court for an injunction against Facebook, arguing that a page titled "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day!" was offensive. The page has been promoted as an exercise in freedom of expression, and it was developed after creators of the Comedy Central program "South Park" complained that network executives had edited out their attempts to render Muhammad. According to some interpretations of Islam, any depiction of the prophet is considered blasphemous.

The government, which is secular, said its efforts were aimed at blocking "derogatory" references to Islam and reflected the "will of the people."
"Such malicious and insulting attacks hurt the sentiments of Muslims around the world and cannot be accepted under the garb of freedom of expression," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in Washington that the United States respects Pakistani efforts to protect the public from offensive images and speech but that Pakistan must also respect freedom of expression online.
Scott Rubin, a spokesman for YouTube, said that the site is working with Pakistani telecommunication officials to resolve the issue and that "we hope we restore service soon." He added: "This is up to Pakistan telecom authority."
Cartoons of Muhammad published in a Danish newspaper triggered deadly protests across the Muslim world in 2006, including in Pakistan. There was no indication Thursday that the sort of bans seen in Pakistan had been imposed in other nations, though countries such as China and Iran routinely block Web sites to control the flow of information.
In Pakistan -- a country of 180 million where the vast majority are poor, many are illiterate and just a tenth of the population has Internet access -- the crackdown highlighted tensions between two vocal constituencies: religious extremists and an urban, Net-connected middle class. A major difference between the two, commentators here said, is that the former is willing to take to the streets while the latter dukes it out online.
As bearded fundamentalist clerics roused protesters to wage jihad if the government did not cut ties with the West, Internet and e-mail debates about the topic swirled. Several of Pakistan's prominent bloggers and tweeters condemned what they said was an intimidated court's infringement of free expression.

Will Facebook be hurt by protests against 'Everybody Draw Mohammad Day'?

Probably not. Even if protesters on both sides of the 'Everybody Draw Mohammad Day' fracas manage to organize a concerted boycott, it's unlikely it would be enough to really make a dent in Facebook traffic.
Less than a week ago, "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day" was just one artist's idea of a joke. By this afternoon, it had become a worldwide media event – the inspiration for street protests, fodder for cable news networks, and ammunition for armies of angry Facebook users who have vowed to boycott the popular social network. So could "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day" do any lasting damage to Facebook?

Probably not.
Here's some background: Comedy Central recently aired an episode of South Park that showed the Prophet Mohammad in a bear suit. After Muslim viewers became furious, Comedy Central yanked the offending scenes; many viewers cried foul. One of those viewers was Molly Norris, an artist living in Seattle. Norris made a fake poster declaring May 20 "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day."
Then someone went and made a Facebook group with the same name. (Norris has disavowed all involvement with the group, and even encouraged her fans to join a Facebook group protesting "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day.") At first, a few hundred fans joined. Then a few thousand. As we publish this post, the membership of "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day" has swelled to just under 100,000 Facebook users.
Meanwhile, several Facebook groups have sprung up in protest, and in Pakistan, Islamists have succeeded in convincing a Pakistani court to order a temporary ban of Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, mobile Blackberry services, and a number of other websites.
"Everyone should take care not to hurt other's religious sentiments. The actions of Facebook are against our constitution and penal code," Mohammad Azhar Siddique, one of the lawyers who petitioned the High Court for the ban, told a Monitor correspondent today.
The question now is whether Facebook – which stands at the middle of the tempest – will bear the brunt of anger on both sides of the "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day" divide. Already, plenty of folks have called for a boycott of Facebook.
"It is incompant [sic] on every Muslim to boycut [sic] facebook [sic]. It is clear that everything has an alternative and competition. Muslims should promote businesses and sites that practice freedom of religion, tollerance [sic], and respect of others," a Monitor reader wrote today in the comments section of an article about "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day."
But Facebook is a sprawling website, with millions and millions of members. Even if a discontented few managed to organize a boycott, it's unlikely that the noise would be loud enough to make a dent in Facebook traffic. As we have reported in the past, Facebook is always under one kind of fire or another – for site updates, for security problems, for redesigns. And it always comes out unscathed.
Are we wrong? Talk to us in the comments section. But please, try not to shout.


Facebook is a social networking website that is operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. Since September 2006, anyone who confirms themselves to be over the age of 13 with a valid e-mail address can become a Facebook user. Facebook's target audience is more for youths than adults. Users can add friends and send them messages, and update their personal profiles to notify friends about themselves. Additionally, users can join networks organized by workplace, school, or college. The website's name stems from the colloquial name of books given to students at the start of the academic year by university administrations in the US with the intention of helping students to get to know each other better.
Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg with his college roommates and fellow computer science studentsEduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. The website's membership was initially limited by the founders to Harvard students, but was expanded to other colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University. It later expanded further to include (potentially) any university student, then high school students, and, finally, to anyone aged 13 and over. The website currently has more than 400 million active users worldwide.
The original concept for Facebook was borrowed from a product produced by Zuckerberg's prep school Phillips Exeter Academy which for decades published and distributed a printed manual of all students and faculty, unofficially called the "face book".
Facebook has met with some controversy. It has been blocked intermittently in several countries including Pakistan, Syria, China, Vietnam,, and Iran. It has also been banned at many places of work to discourage employees from wasting time using the service.
Privacy has also been an issue, and it has been compromised several times. Facebook settled a lawsuit regarding claims over source code and intellectual property.The site has also been involved in controversy over the sale of fans and friends.
A January 2009 study ranked Facebook as the most used social network by worldwide monthly active users, followed by MySpace. Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade 'best-of' list, saying, "How on earth did we stalk our exes, remember our co-workers' birthdays, bug our friends, and play a rousing game of Scrabulous before Facebook?"
There have recently been reports of Facebook proposing an initial public offering (IPO), i.e. issue equity shares as stock to investors. However, Zuckerberg stresses that it will not be for a few more years, and the company is in no need of additional capital.Also, some analysts fear the Facebook IPO might be a particularly weak one.

Pak blockage of Facebook, YouTube might increase traffic to these sites

Islamabad, May 21 (ANI): Pakistan's blockage on wildly popular web-sites like YouTube and Facebook will likely have a reverse effect from the one desired by authorities as curious Netizens would log onto these sites to see what the brouhaha is about.

Buzz up!
Pakistan's telecom regulatory body, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has said it found 'sacrilegious' content on YouTube, leading them to block it. Incidentally, YouTube has been co-founded by Jawed Karim, a Muslim.

"We have asked the Internet service providers to block more than 450 web links, which contain derogatory material," The News quoted a PTA spokesman, as saying.

"The action follows our repeated attempts to convince these websites to discard such material," he added.

He said the PTA had approached the administrators of the websites through emails, however he could not name the officials who had been contacted.

Industry officials, on the other hand, say the authorities have yet to get in touch with the people who run Facebook and YouTube, the report said.

These hasty suppressive tactics are probably not going to be too fruitful, according to industry officials.

"There is no way of stopping this. The day government lifts restriction from these websites, the Internet traffic will double. People will visit them just out of curiosity," said an advertiser, who deals with Facebook and YouTube. (ANI)

Facebook furore

here is no doubt that a Facebook member’s invitation to users on the social networking site to draw the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was in poor taste and deserving of strong condemnation. It is debatable whether freedom of expression should extend to material that is offensive to the sensibilities, traditions and beliefs of religious, ethnic or other communities.

Nevertheless, the Lahore High Court’s instructions to the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority to block Facebook constituted an example of Pakistan’s tendency for knee-jerk reactions. Soon after the judgment, users found that PTA had blocked the entire site and later resorted to shutting down other popular sites as well. If the authorities feared a violent public reaction, would it not have been enough to block just the offending section, rather than depriving millions of Internet surfers in Pakistan of the use of one of the most popular sites on the web? In fact, many users have been able to circumvent the restrictions by accessing the blocked material through proxy servers. After all, many users feel, and rightly so, that they can decide for themselves what is or is not offensive, and choose not to access material that is repugnant to their beliefs.

Meanwhile, we must ask ourselves why Pakistanis have reached a juncture where they have played right into the hands of those who think nothing of displaying or publishing material that denigrates their beliefs. By reacting the way we do we only harm ourselves and, in the process, even become a subject of derision. The irony was evident in the protests over the Danish newspaper caricatures some years ago. The fallout was arson and looting of our own assets. In the present case, while other Muslim countries, Egypt, Bangladesh and Turkey among them, have witnessed resentment against the Facebook competition the site was not blocked, nor were there reports of violence. The war on terror has divided the world, and the misuse of technology to deride beliefs and hurt feelings will not stop. Pakistanis should learn to protest peacefully, and in a manner that does not deprive other Pakistanis of their rights.

Pakistan braces for fresh Facebook protests

LAHORE, Pakistan — Thousands of Pakistanis were expected to take to the streets on Friday to vent growing anger against Facebook and the West over "sacrilegious" caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed on the Internet.
A Facebook user organised an "Everyone Draw Mohammed Day" competition to promote "freedom of expression", inspired by an American woman cartoonist, but sparked a major backlash in the conservative Muslim country of 170 million.
Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of any prophet as blasphemous and the row has sparked comparison with protests across the Muslim world over the publication of satirical cartoons of Mohammed in European newspapers in 2006.
The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) banned access to Facebook, YouTube and more than 450 links, including restricted access to Wikipedia in view of what it called "growing sacrilegious content".
PTA released a toll-free telephone number and email address, and has acted on complaints received by the regulator.
Several thousand students and Islamic activitists have already taken to the streets in Pakistani cities and religious parties called bigger protests scheduled after the main Muslim weekly prayers later on Friday.
Dozens of students demonstrated in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on Friday, carrying placards calling for the Danish embassy to close, Facebook to be boycotted and government action against the publishers of caricatures.
Rallies are expected in the cities of Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Rawalpindi. Among those expected to take part was Jamaat-ud Dawa, widely regarded as a front for the militant group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
By Friday, the Facebook page had attracted 105,000 fans -- and five pages of crude manipulated pictures and caricatures. Pages denouncing the competition and calling for a boycott of the May 20 competition attracted far more fans.
Facebook expressed disappointment at being blocked and said it was considering whether to make the offending page inaccessible in Pakistan.
YouTube, the Google-owned video-sharing site, said it was "working to ensure that the service is restored as soon as possible".
The controversy has yet to incite a mass outpouring onto the streets in Pakistan, where there are an estimated 2.5 million Facebook users, and it remains to be seen how far protests will spread to other Muslim countries.
Sweden said it has closed its embassy in Islamabad for more than two weeks due to the security situation, refusing to say whether any direct threats had been issued against the mission.
An Al-Qaeda front organisation has offered 100,000 dollars to anyone who kills Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has angered many Muslims by drawing highly blasphemous caricature of the Prophet.
Pakistan condemned the caricatures on Facebook and said that "such malicious and insulting attacks hurt the feelings of Muslims around the world".
The PTA asked Facebook and YouTube, which are wildly popular in Pakistan and set up in the United States, to resolve the matter as soon as possible in a manner that "ensures religious harmony and respect."
The purported creator of the Facebook page told a US television channel in a voice-only interview that he had meant to stand up for "freedom of expression".
"We know that the fight for freedom of expression, freedom of speech can't be stopped by a country like Pakistan censoring the Internet," the man, who would be identified only as "Andy", told MSNBC.
A rival Facebook page called "Against Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" started to oppose the caricature page had drawn some 106,300 fans.
Molly Norris, the American cartoonist whose work inspired the controversial page, condemned the Facebook spin-off and apologised to Muslims.
She drew a cartoon in April to protest against the cancellation of an episode of popular show "South Park". Norris satirically proposed May 20 as an "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day."
"The vitriol this 'day' has brought out, of people who only want to draw obscene images, is offensive to Muslims who did nothing to endanger our right to expression in the first place," she said.
Source:google News

Facebook and MySpace send data to advertising companies

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL has dumped a huge pile of manure onto Facebook's and MySpace's so-called privacy policies.
Hacks at the WSJ discovered that Facebook, MySpace and several other social notworking websites have been sending data to advertising companies that could be used to find consumers' names and other personal details.
This is despite promises that they don't share such information without consent.
Basically the sites have been sending user names or ID numbers tied to personal profiles being viewed when users click on ads.
After reporters asked about the practice Facebook and MySpace moved to make changes and apparently Facebook has rewritten some of the offending computer code.
The advertising companies had been receiving information that could be used to look up individual profiles, which, depending on the site and the information a user has made public, include such things as a person's real name, age, hometown and occupation.
Google 's DoubleClick and Yahoo's Right Media said they were unaware of the data being sent to them from the social notworking sites, and said they haven't made use of it.
Craig Wills, a professor of computer science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute said that most social networks haven't bothered to obscure user names or ID numbers from their web addresses. He warned that the websites might have been breaching their own privacy policies as well as industry standards. µ

Facebook, MySpace Confront Privacy Loophole

Facebook, MySpace and several other social-networking sites have been sending data to advertising companies that could be used to find consumers' names and other personal details, despite promises they don't share such information without consent.
The practice, which most of the companies defended, sends user names or ID numbers tied to personal profiles being viewed when users click on ads. After questions were raised by The Wall Street Journal, Facebook and MySpace moved to make changes. By Thursday morning Facebook had rewritten some of the offending computer code.

Advertising companies are receiving information that could be used to look up individual profiles, which, depending on the site and the information a user has made public, include such things as a person's real name, age, hometown and occupation.
Several large advertising companies identified by the Journal as receiving the data, includingGoogle Inc.'s DoubleClick and Yahoo Inc.'s Right Media, said they were unaware of the data being sent to them from the social-networking sites, and said they haven't made use of it.
Across the Web, it's common for advertisers to receive the address of the page from which a user clicked on an ad. Usually, they receive nothing more about the user than an unintelligible string of letters and numbers that can't be traced back to an individual. With social networking sites, however, those addresses typically include user names that could direct advertisers back to a profile page full of personal information. In some cases, user names are people's real names.
Most social networks haven't bothered to obscure user names or ID numbers from their Web addresses, said Craig Wills, a professor of computer science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, who has studied the issue.
The sites may have been breaching their own privacy policies as well as industry standards, which say sites shouldn't share and advertisers shouldn't collect personally identifiable information without users' permission. Those policies have been put forward by advertising and Internet companies in arguments against the need for government regulation.The problem comes as social networking sites—and in particular Facebook—face increasing scrutiny over their privacy practices from consumers, privacy advocates and lawmakers.
At the same time, lawmakers are preparing legislation to govern websites' tactics for collecting information about consumers, and the way that information is used to target ads.
In addition to Facebook and MySpace, LiveJournal, Hi5, Xanga and Digg also sent advertising companies the user name or ID number of the page being visited. (MySpace is owned by News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal.) Twitter—which doesn't have ads on profile pages—also was found to pass Web addresses including user names of profiles being visited on when users clicked other links on the profiles.
For most social-networking sites, the data identified the profile being viewed but not necessarily the person who clicked on the ad or link. But Facebook went further than other sites, in some cases signaling which user name or ID was clicking on the ad as well as the user name or ID of the page being viewed. By seeing what ads a user clicked on, an advertiser could tell something about a user's interests.Ben Edelman, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who studies Internet advertising, reviewed the computer code on the seven sites at the request of the Journal.
"If you are looking at your profile page and you click on an ad, you are telling that advertiser who you are," he said of how Facebook operated, if a user had clicked through a specific path, before the fix. Mr. Edelman said he had sent a letter on Thursday to the Federal Trade Commission asking them to investigate Facebook's practices specifically.
The sharing of users' personally identifiable data was first flagged in a paper by researchers at AT&T Labs and Worcester Polytechnic Institute last August. The paper, which drew little attention at the time, evaluated practices at 12 social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter and MySpace and found multiple ways that outside companies could access user data.
The researchers said in an interview they had contacted the sites, which some sites confirmed. But nine months later, the issue still exists.
The issue is particularly significant for Facebook on two fronts: the company has been pushing users to make more of their personal information public and the site requires users to use their actual names when registering on the site.
A Facebook spokesman acknowledged it has been passing data to ad companies that could allow them to tell if a particular user was clicking an ad. After being contacted by the Journal, Facebook said it changed its software to eliminate the identifying code tied to the user from being transmitted.
"We were recently made aware of one case where if a user takes a specific route on the site, advertisers may see that they clicked on their own profile and then clicked on an ad," the Facebook spokesman said. "We fixed this case as soon as we heard about it."
Facebook said its practices are now consistent with how advertising works across the Web. The company passes the "user ID of the page but not the person who clicked on the ad," the company spokesman said. "We don't consider this personally identifiable information and our policy does not allow advertisers to collect user information without the user's consent."
The company said it also has been testing changing the formatting for the text it shares with advertisers so that it doesn't pass through any user names or IDs.MySpace, Hi5, Digg, Xanga and Live Journal said they don't consider their user names or ID numbers to be personally identifiable, because unlike Facebook, consumers are not required to submit their real names when signing up for an account. They also said since they are passing along the user name of the page the ad is on, not for the person clicking on the ad, there is nothing advertisers can do with the data beyond seeing on what page their ad appeared.
MySpace said in a statement it is only sharing the ID name users create for the site, which permits access only to the information that a user makes publicly available on the site.
Nevertheless, a MySpace spokeswoman said the site is "currently implementing a methodology that will obfuscate the 'FriendID' in any URL that is passed along to advertisers."
A Twitter spokeswoman said passing along the Web address happens when people click a link from any Web page. "This is just how the Internet and browsers work," she said.
Although Digg said it masks a user's name when they click on an ad and scrambles data before sharing with outside advertising companies, the site does pass along user names to ad companies when a user visits a profile page. "It's the information about the page that you are visiting, not you as a visitor," said Chas Edwards, Digg's chief revenue officer.

The advertising companies say they don't control the information a website chooses to send them. "Google doesn't seek in any way to make any use of any user names or IDs that their URLs may contain," a Google spokesman said in a statement.
"We prohibit clients from sending personally identifiably information to us," said Anne Toth, Yahoo's head of privacy. "We have told them. 'We don't want it. You shouldn't be sending it to us. If it happens to be there, we are not looking for it."

Deleting your Facebook account (FAQ)

Are you confused by the myriad changes Facebook keeps making to its privacy settings? Are you angry about your data being exposed without your express consent? Are you just fed up and not going to take it anymore?
You're not alone. A recent poll from Sophos found that 60 percent of users are considering quitting Facebook over privacy issues. More than 11,000 people have committed to ditching the social-networking site on May 31, according to And more people are searching Google for ways to delete their Facebook accounts than ever, according to the Search Engine Land blog.
But leaving Facebook can be almost as confusing as navigating the privacy backwaters on the site. This New York Times graphic shows that there are 50 settings and more than 170 options to managing the privacy of a Facebook account. Here are some tips on deleting your account and answers to questions about what that means for your data, and more.
What's the difference between deleting and deactivating a Facebook account?
Deactivation means the profile information and content are hidden from view of others but are saved on Facebook servers in case you want to reactivate the profile. Messages you've sent and Wall posts remain, but your name appears in black text that is not clickable since your profile is now hidden.
Deleting an account removes it from the site permanently and you have to start from scratch if you decide later that you want to be on Facebook again. There is a 14-day delay before the data is completely deleted to give users time to change their mind. If you change your mind you can merely log into the account and the deletion request will be canceled.
How do I deactivate my account?
Click the Account tab in the upper right-hand corner of your main page. The Settings tab should be highlighted and there is a Deactivate link at the very bottom of the list. When you click it, you will be asked if you are sure you want to deactivate your account and why you are doing so. You will also be shown photos of you with friends with accompanying messages that say "(Your friend here) will miss you." There is also a box to check at the bottom to opt out of receiving e-mails from Facebook if friends tag you in photos or invite you to join the site.
How do I delete my Facebook account?
It's not as easy to find out how to delete your account. I clicked on the Account tab and then Help Center and typed in "delete account" in the search window. Under the question prompt "How do I permanently delete my account" there is a link to this page where you can click the Submit button or the Cancel button.
What happens to my data after I delete my account?
According to this Facebook Help Center page all personally identifiable information associated with your account will be purged from Facebook's database if you choose to permanently delete the account. "This includes information like your name, e-mail address, mailing address, and IM screen name," the site says. "Copies of some material (photos, notes, etc.) may remain in our servers for technical reasons, but this material is disassociated from any personal identifiers and completely inaccessible to other users. Facebook also does not use content associated with accounts that have been deactivated or deleted."
I asked a Facebook spokesman why copies would need to be kept at all and for how long, exactly when all traces of the data are gone entirely, and whether any data remain on any servers of partners, and if so for how long? Here is his reply: "When a photo or video is deleted, or when a person deletes his or her account, we quickly delete all of the metadata for the photo as well as any and all tagging and linking information. For all practical purposes, the photo no longer exists, and we wouldn't be able find it if we were asked or even compelled to do so. This is similar to what happens when you delete information from the hard drive of your computer. Technically, the bits that make up the photo persist somewhere, but, again, the photo is impossible to find. It's possible that someone who previously had access to a photo and saved the direct URL from our content delivery network partner (this is different from the Facebook URL) could still access the photo. However, again, the person would have to know the URL, and the photo only exists in the CDN's (content delivery network's) cache for a limited amount of time."
If I'm not ready to leave Facebook what can I do? 
You can shore up your privacy settings and hope that Facebook doesn't make any new modifications that will undo what you've specified. There are several tools that can automatically check your Facebook settings and set them to the most private option, including browser bookmark tool SaveFace and a Facebook privacy scanner available at
Or you can do it yourself in a number of steps. First, make sure the default setting for different types of information you have on your page--particularly Posts by Me--is not set to the default of "everyone," which means everyone on the Internet. Click the Account tab at the top right of your profile page and click Privacy Settings. From there you can set the information in Personal Information and Posts, as well as Contact Information, and Friends, Tags, and Connections to a range of options from "everyone" to "only me." You also need to set privacy for each of your photo albums, under the Personal Information and Posts section.
Under the Search option you can specify who can see your search result on Facebook and allow or disallow search engines to display a preview of your Facebook profile. The Applications and Websites section lets you control how much of your information friends and applications can see and share. There you can opt out of the Instant Personalization setting, which allows partner sites like Yelp and Pandora to provide a customized experience when you visit their sites based on your Facebook activities.
To block ads from sharing your information you can click Account Settings from the top-right Account tab on your main page and click the Facebook Ads tab and switch it to the default "only my friends" to "no one." The Huffington Post has a helpful video that walks through all of these steps.
And if you want to just make a statement but not leave the site, you can join the Facebook Protest movement and avoid logging on June 6.
What other social-networking sites are there? 
Wikipedia has a long list of potential alternatives, but none of them are as popular as Facebook, which boasts 400 million active users. A social network is only as useful as the number of friends or relevant contacts it has and it would be tough to get your friends to move en masse to another site.
One upcoming promising option is Diaspora, which calls itself "the privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed open-source social network" and was started in response to the Facebook's problems. The creators are raising money to finish the site and had reached the $100,000 mark on Thursday, but it's unclear when it will be up and running.
What does Facebook say about all of this?
Company executives realize there is a backlash and that they've got a public relations problem on their hands. They held a companywide meeting last week to assuage the concerns of the rank and file.
A Facebook spokesman said he could not provide an executive to discuss the privacy issues with CNET this week. However, Elliot Schrage, Facebook's vice president of public policy, answered reader questions on The New York Times site last week. "Clearly, we need to rethink the tempo of change and how we communicate it," he said. "Trust me. We'll do better."
Asked why the company doesn't put the control in the hands of its users with an opt-in policy, Schrage said: "Everything is opt-in on Facebook. Participating in the service is a choice...Please don't share if you're not comfortable. That said, we certainly will continue to work to improve the ease and access of controls to make more people more comfortable."
What does the government say?
So far, there have been no Congressional hearings or battle cries from Washington, D.C., but there have been some complaints lodged. More than a dozen privacy and consumer groups complained to then Federal Trade Commission about Facebook late last year. And more recently, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York has asked the agency to question Facebook about its privacy practices.
What's all the fuss, anyway?
This interactive site entitled "The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook" shows visually exactly how site changes to the privacy settings over time have encroached on users' privacy, revealing more of their data to more and more people.
Facebook is obviously making a business decision to expose more member content that can be monetized. Web surfers are used to dealing with the privacy versus profit trade-off, but what really irks them is that with each modification, users have to go back in and redo their settings or risk having photos, contact information, and other data exposed to the public that they want only friends to see.
Ted Weinstein, a San Francisco-based literary agent, said he is annoyed that Facebook keeps changing the rules on privacy and he has removed almost everything from his profile bit by bit. But he's reluctant to entirely cut ties with all of his contacts on the site.
"I don't want to throw those (Facebook contact) linkages away lightly. So I have removed material I'm not comfortable having everybody I've ever connected with having access to," he said in an interview. "I don't have confidence that Facebook won't make changes that make my prior settings irrelevant."
Others have had enough.
On Friday at 1 p.m. PDT blogger and serial Web entrepreneur Jason Calacanis will be severing the Facebook link to his 5,000 friends on the site by deleting his account live on the Internet.
"Simply put, I no longer trust Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg with my information," Calacanis wrote in his newsletter this week announcing his plans to broadcast his protest on UStream. "Additionally, Facebook has become a waste of time for me."

Web abuzz over facebook ban in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The web is abuzz over the ban on social networking site Facebook in Pakistan following the Prophet cartoon row. While some favour a clamp down, others say: "Why should everyone get punished for 1 or 2 person's mistake".

Webpages have sprung up on Facebook after "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!" was set up.

A Pakistani court had Wednesday ordered the government to temporarily block Facebook after a controversy over a competition for caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

Pakistan has also blocked the video-sharing website YouTube because of its "growing sacrilegious contents".

A statement from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said that YouTube and Facebook websites were blocked after the government failed to convince them to remove "derogatory material".

A webpage called "Ban FACEBOOK in Pakistan" has been set up "to condemn the hypocrisy of FACEBOOK. As it won't delete the hate mongering page called "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!".

Izhar Khan wrote on the page: "I Quit Facebook from today...Sorry my friends....but will cath u somewhere else.. Insha-ALLAH".

But there are others who don't want a ban of facebook.

The creator of the page "Only ban the Disrespecting Group and not the facebook in Pakistan" says: "Why should everyone get punished for 1 or 2 person's mistake. Please be fair and take step to do something right so join this group and lets try and make a difference."

Protests took place across Pakistan Thursday over the Prophet's cartoon row.

In Islamabad, religious leaders issued a decree calling for the killing of the "blasphemous cartoonist" while in Rawalpindi, hundreds of activists from the women's wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) staged a protest demonstration. They demanded that the government should end economic and diplomatic relations with all those countries who are involved in it.

The protesters held placards saying, "We will accept death in slavery of Prophet (SAW), the competitors are the real terrorists", "We love our Prophet (SAW) more than our forefathers", The News International reported.

Jamiat Ulema Pakistan, Tahffuz Namoos-e-Risalat Mahaz, Anti Facebook Movement, Muhammadia Students Movement, International Tanzim-e-Ahle Sunnat and Muttahida Tehrik-e-Khatum-e Nubuwat Committee demonstrated in front of the Lahore Press Club and Punjab Assembly.

The lawyers community also observed a strike on the Punjab Bar Council's call against Facebook. The lawyers boycotted the court proceedings in civil and session courts and lawyers did not attend the court proceedings in the Lahore High Court after 10.30 a.m.

Social organisations, religious bodies and NGOs of Sialkot have announced that they would observe Friday as a protest day.

In Quetta, thousands of activists of the Islami Jamiat-e-Tulba Balochistan chapter took out a rally against the planned contest of blasphemous caricatures on Facebook, demanding the UN to take immediate notice.

Violent demonstrations had erupted in 2006 in Pakistan over the publication of cartoons on the Prophet Mohammed in Danish newspapers Jyllands-Posten and Politiken.

Last week, Pakistan refused to renew the visa of a Jyllands-Posten correspondent, forcing him to leave the country.

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