Facebook will throw you under the bus

Tryin to ruin my name
Threw me under the bus
Riding all over the town
Spreading rumors around
Threw me under the bus
From Under the Bus by Lolene

In my previous post I explained why I left Facebook. Doing so freed up enough time to actually do another bl0g entry so it’s only apropos that this entry reinforce the idea that Facebook is not your friend. Unless of course your friends are conniving weasels who steal from you and will throw you under the bus in a heartbeat. Like being friends with Casey Anthony (but I digress). If you have friends like that then Facebook is what you are used to. If not then read on.

In this post by the oft quoted (by Security For All at any rate) Sharon D. Nelson, Esq. of the {ride the lightning} blog the following question is asked: How Much Data is Facebook Giving Law Enforcement Under Secret Warrants?

According to Reuters, since 2008, federal judges have authorized at least two dozen warrants to search Facebook accounts to the FBI, the DEA and ICE. The investigations have involved such things as arson, rape and terrorrism.

What interested me most is that these warrants demands a user’s “Neoprint” and Photoprint” – terms I had never heard before which apparently appear in law enforcement manuals and refer to a Facebook compilation of data that the users themselves do not have access to. So much for Facebook’s claim that the “Download Your Account” button gives you everything that Facebook itself possesses.

Facebook doesn’t tell users about the warrants to give them a chance to challenge those warrants legally.

Yikes! Talk about throwing your users under the bus. And without notice. As Sharon points out even Twitter has a policy of notifying users before they hand over anything to law enforcement. But not Facebook.

And then there is this post by fellow Security Blogger Carole Theriault in the nakedsecurity blog that asks Does using Facebook put you at more risk elsewhere on the internet?

The Pew Research Center has shown that the more time you spend on the internet, especially social networks like Facebook and Twitter, the more trusting you become.

Not just on social networks, but everywhere – both online and in real life.

With 30% of the world estimated to be online – about 80% of North America and 60% of Europe – and more than half of these users belonging to some social networking site, an increase in trust could have major impacts on how people interact in the future.

Does this mean that social network users will eventually become a bunch of loved-up hippies? It is really difficult for me to imagine what I would be like if I shed my cynical armour.

I shouldn’t really worry: while I study social networks all the time, I am more of a voyeur than a player. Let’s be honest here – I find them really scary.

Many users of social networks seem completely addicted – they are on there all the time, recording every event of their lives. It just seems so intrusive to me…and compulsive.

So the premise is that people on Facebook are more trusting than other internet users, and MUCH more trusting than non-internet users.

It seems clear me to me that if Facebook users are genuinely more trusting, they are more at risk of online scams, both on and off social media sites.

Maybe research like this proves that social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter need to show greater interest in educating their users about being safe online.

One could argue that they should proactively protect their community against commonly encountered threats.

I agree that it would be swell if Facebook showed a greater interest in educating their users about being safe online but from where I sit I’ve only seen an interest in exploiting their users. But it is a great interest.

To borrow a soundbite (in spite of the lack of audio in this blog) from former First Lady Nancy Reagan, Just say No! to Facebook. Or friend Casey Anthony.

Captain X-Ploit: Maxwell D. Higgens

The Adventures of Captain X-Ploit:
A life without love is a life wasted… or whatever. ~ Maxwell D. Higgens
– Special Edition –

This is a story about Maxwell, it begins in the lab of an alien ship floating somewhere in the Betelgeuse system.

Stan cast his eyes around the lab looking for someone to exclaim in amazement to. He had done it! Finally and definitely done it. In the DNA of one human baby named David Nicholas Stone he had found what he had suspected all along. What he had found was in fact, a gene that actualized only favorable outcomes for its owner.

It had been speculated that such a gene existed ever since Blungo of the Solaris Nebula placed a million cat-like creatures in a million boxes that released poison randomly and found after 20 trials that only one cat remained. Having based his trial more on a hatred of the cat like creatures rather than an actual belief it would yield more information than was already known. In anger at his failing Blungo promptly threw the creature out the window where it fell 400 feet landing on all fours comfortable on a mattress that by incredible odds was being delivered to the building that day. Blungo then spent the rest of his life following the cat-like creature. That is to say, Blungo followed that cat until Blungo died… the cat still lives on due to randomly gaining immortality by being struck with lightning while lapping up some particularly tasty cream in a field of warm pillows that smell of tuna.

Stan, desperate to prove to the world he had indeed found the gene proceeded to clone David and activate this gene as hastily as possible, cutting out any dominant traits that even looked like they could limit or cause the “Luck Gene” to not display properly. 9 months later the baby was placed on earth to be examined by a universe full of excited scientists. He was left in the care of an extremely lucky couple who had wanted a baby since the first time they had won the lottery but had never managed to conceive.

It was a perfect summer night when Mrs. Higgens found a baby had been left in front of their mansion with a note reading “The fate of the universe does not lie in his hands, but he’s pretty cute. He represents hundreds of years of work and I’ll miss him. So take care of him. Or I’ll disintegrate you.” The Higgens couple just assumed it was a joke and the child was left by some teenage girl not ready to raise him. This mattered little to them, however, because their final dream had come true. They had a son.

Maxwell grew up different from most of the children. Statistics didn’t seem to apply to him, his brilliant blond hair and stunning blue eyes, the fact he had never been sick a day in his life, the mind boggling circumstance that whenever presented with an exam he circled at random and received 100%’s.

His life was magical and beyond perfection. He was everything everyone wanted to be, stunningly handsome, unfathomably lucky and inconceivably wealthy. His luck gave him everything, save for one part of his being, his intelligence.  It became blindingly obvious as Maxwell grew that in addition to being unbelievably lucky he was also profoundly stupid.

At the tender age of 18 Maxwell found himself in California after leaving his house in hopes of finding the one thing his luck had never given him, a girl he could love. His quest began shortly after the 37th girl, an international super model in this case, that pledged her undying soul in devotion to him. After hearing how she said he made her feel he knew he must find a girl who could make him feel that way. He began his search in his usual way, by wandering around aimlessly for several hours.

After finding himself in California, roughly 1000 miles from where he started, he figured he’d better buy a house and some food. A few charges to his credit card later he found himself living in Beverly hills with a piece of pizza in his hands.

Several years and 462 girls professing their love on the first date later, he found himself to be one of the world’s most esteemed and famous actors, having won countless awards after accidentally wandering onto the live set of a movie and as he put it ‘just going with it’. But countless awards, unheard of amount of money, and innumerable numbers of nights with super models seemed to bring him no closer to his quest.  The universe couldn’t deny him his dream endlessly, however. One day an alien walked into his bed room with news that would bring him one step closer to his true dream.

“Did Ryan send you to show the girls out?” Maxwell asked from his bed which happened to contain and indeed be surrounded by 8 of the most beautiful human females the alien had ever seen. The alien, who was about 9-feet tall, grey, with an odd shaped head and pitch black eyes, was momentarily confused by the question.

“No, I’m here to collect the David clone. You were supposed to be in Trustonia months ago!” the alien replied.

“Really? Is that what all that mail I kept getting that said ‘fate of the universe’ and crap like that, was all about?” Maxwell asked simply.

“Did you not think it odd that your butlers keep moving to Trustonia to prepare your house?” the alien asked in amazement at Maxwell’s stupidity.

“That’s what they were doing? I thought they were moving there to look for more girls to bring me,” Maxwell replied.

“Look, just come with me, I’ve paused time and I need to introduce you to the other,” the alien explained.

Several (what would have been, if time was not paused) hours later in Trustonia:

“Greetings Miss Boulder, I bring with me…” the alien was in the middle of saying when the gorgeous man interrupted hastily “Wow! A world full of people who don’t move! Oh, I know, we must be in Canada! Yes that’s got to be it.” The alien looked pained by the handsome man’s obvious stupidity as he finished his thought “Maxwell Damian Higgens, perhaps the stupidest life form in existence.”

Sara’s jaw dropped in amazement. A more perfect face she could not dream of. Her soul all but wept for wanting of the visage that danced in front of her believing eyes. At that point she knew two things. One, she would pledge her every breath to him and two she would have him.

Note from the author:

Well at long last I finally offer you the back story of Maxwell Higgens. I feel this release has to come with an apology for its lateness. Believe it or not I actually wrote three different introductions for Maxwell.  But each of the others didn’t quite capture what I wanted Maxwell to be. I will make no more promises on release dates since work, school, friends and life keep getting in the way of my weekly goal of writing Captain X-ploit. I will state however, if you wish to get updates on what’s going on in the world of Trustonia, hop on over to Facebook and fan this series. I will post updates there.


Why I left Facebook

Speak my friend, you look surprised
I thought you knew I’d come disguised
On angel wings, dressed in white
From Descent of the Archangel by Kamelot

Last week I finally had enough. The cumulative effect of every sleazy privacy invading stunt that Mssrs. Zuckerberg et al have pulled was definitely part of the motivation. Also the recent departure of several of security blogger “friends” including Richard Stiennon was another part. That, and the reality that I’m already following all of my blogger “friend’s” blogs so Facebook was like a cheesy notification service of new blog entries which is not only redundant  as news aggregators do a much better job, but includes tons of advertising  which I was compelled to filter.

Then there was the simple fact that Facebook is a an incredible time sink [read waste of time]. When I realized that the last two entries in this blog were Captain X-Ploit sagas – and the good captain doesn’t appear that often – it became clear that some priorities were seriously amiss. There were some mitigating factors of course not the least of which is that I work for a company that builds actual products for actual customers and the particular actual product that I’m working on is getting close to release [disclaimer: this is not a product announcement since I have nothing to do with that kind of stuff and is not meant to imply or represent anything about Ricoh products] which means plenty of work and deadlines. And the fact that I spent any time on Facebook is hard to justify.

And then there was a post that was forwarding and reposting it’s way among my less technically savvy (or possibly delusional) “friends” that went like this.

Who says Facebook friends aren’t real friends?.. They enjoy seeing you on line everyday. Miss you when you’re not there. Send condolences when you lose a loved one. Send you wishes on your birthday. Enjoy the photos you post. Put a smile on your face when you’re down. Make you laugh when you feel like crying. Repost if you are grateful for your Facebook friends. I know I am.

Seriously? Come on folks – a Facebook “friend” is an online persona. They are NOT REAL PEOPLE. You may buy into the abstraction that your “friends” represent real people, but I for one have always been very open about the fact that my Facebook profile was completely fraudulent. This was to help mitigate the privacy infringing business model of Facebook. If you really don’t mind letting Facebook have it’s way “monetizing” your personal information with no compensation to you I guess that’s your choice. Sucker.

And then there’s the legal exposure. Yeah that’s right. Legal exposure. Here’s an example from the Electronic Discovery Law blog.

In this case arising from a car accident which the plaintiff claimed resulted in physical and psychological injuries, the parties invited the court to conduct a review of Plaintiff’s social networking accounts “in order to determine whether certain information contained within Plaintiff’s accounts is properly subject to discovery.” Using Plaintiff’s log-in information, the court reviewed Plaintiff’s Facebook account, including “a thorough review of Plaintiff’s ‘Profile’ postings, photographs, and other information.”

But the thing that finally caused me to bail from Facebook was the realization that the Facebook – and nearly all social networking sites’ – business model is fundamentally flawed. This is articulated quite nicely in this article by Bob Garfield in IEEE Spectrum entitled The Revolution Will Not Be Monetized.

1. If you build it and they come, does that guarantee that there’s money to be made? (Hint: No.)

2. Which of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter will amass the millennium’s first megafortune and a borderless virtual state, with a vast population, political influence, economic clout, and a lair in a hollowed-out volcano from which to control the world’s weather? (Well, you can probably eliminate Twitter.)

3. The Wall Street valuations of companies like Facebook, which is worth US $85 billion on the secondary market, are stratospheric. Should we stockpile ammo and canned goods for when the bubble bursts? (Not a bad idea; remember Pets.com.)

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, U.S. advertisers spent $25 billion online in 2010—representing about 15 percent of the $164 billion U.S. ad market and, for the first time, a bit more than their spending on print newspapers. That was no small milestone. But here’s the thing: According to eMarketer, 31 percent of Americans’ media-consuming time in 2010 was spent online. Which means, speaking broadly, marketers valued new-media time only half as much as old-media time. And that’s the rose-colored view. Chris Anderson, curator of the TED Conferences, recently crunched numbers from Nielsen, Forrester Research, the Yankee Group, and other modelers to synthesize the value, medium by medium, of an individual’s time. Globally, print publications fetched $1 per hour of reader attention. TV got a quarter for a viewer hour. Online fetched “less than a dime.”

Why is online advertising such a poor stepchild? Well, extremely delightful and informative books with pale-blue and white covers have been written on this subject, but let’s reduce the problem to its essence: The endless supply of online content means an endless supply of places where ads could go, which by definition depresses demand and, with it, price. Period.

The second problem is more basic still. Ever click on a banner ad? Have you? Ever? Of course not, because why would you leave what you’re doing—especially socializing—to go listen to a sales pitch? The click-through rate, industry-wide, is less than 1 percent—and chalk some of that up to mouse error and click fraud. Some advertisers deal with this problem by popping ads into your face, blaring audio, or subjecting you to “preroll” video messages before the video you actually wish to see. As Anderson sagely observed to a Madison Avenue audience, that was an acceptable quid pro quo in the days of passive TV viewing. Online, though, users are active and in control. “If you take control away from them,” he said, “they will hate you.” Or, put another way: Online, all advertising is spam. These two structural problems leave two possibilities: Either advertising will never be the force in new media that it was in the five predigital centuries (a theory to which I personally subscribe), or someone will crack the code.

Yep. That pretty much covers it. When you are a Facebook “member” [read product] you are essentially trading your privacy for Facebook to convince advertisers that they can target you with spam better than their competitors. It’s not even as clever as Google’s for-fee search engine poisoning (er… Search Engine Optimization) and a whole lot more intrusive.

So there you have it. I really doubt that I will be missed on Facebook. Certainly not by Facebook themselves since I never provided them with any private information and probably not by any “friends” [read online personae that I found amusing] since those who matter in any real way can either call me or find me at this blog. All the others will probably find it refreshing to not be mocked with snarky comments when they post silly nonsense on their walls. And fear not, this blog is still represented on Facebook through the intrepid David Nicholas Stone, AKA Captain X-Ploit. Feel free to become a fan.

Oh – and to my “friend” Mark Zuckerberg – Take the money and run dude! It will get ugly when the investors sober up.