FaceBook Problems

We just experienced a situation with Facebook that worried us.

We don't subscribe to a print newspaper, but do read their website often.

This paper, The Dalton Daily Citizen News put a notice on their website opinion pages for each article asking whether we 'liked' that particular article. We didn't notice the little 'f' that went with this link. This link appeared to us to be a typical response for polls which often appear on their pages.

What happened was that the web page automatically looked on our computer for a 'cookie' for Facebook, found it and automatically posted the article on our wall, as well as posting my profile picture with this article. I was told today by the IT manager at the paper that if you don't have the cookie, you are asked to sign up for Facebook.

What this means that, conceivably, any web page with the appropriate code can look at your computer and determine what websites you have visited and use it for their own purposes. A 'cookie' contain's login information, except for passwords, (or so I believe).

In addition, Facebook in particular allows anyone to look at your Facebook information unless you restrict them and, in addition, there is an automatic release of any information to other social networking systems. I seriously recommend three things to do:

1) clear all 'cookies' when finished browsing if your browser permits it. Most do. See FireFox or Internet Explorer.

If you have a Facebook account

2) restrict your Facebook information to 'friends only' (See below) (Be cautious in adding 'Friends'.)

3) do not allow Facebook public information to be shared to other networks. (See Below)

According to CNN this morning, congress is looking into these aspects of Facebook and it is hoped that Facebook will be required to make 2) and 3) the default so that you would have to specifically allow these options.

'Facebook' alone is not the main problem. The problem is a more general one. ANY website with appropriate code can examine the 'cookies' on your computer and see where you have been searching, which is the reasoning behind recommendation 1) above. These links are showing up on all kinds of webpages. Even CNN which is warning people, has them on its pages.

If you use FireFox, then I would recommend getting an Add-on called 'Cookie Monster'. It allows full control over the use of 'cookies' for domains, or individual sites. If you don't use FireFox, I highly recommend that you do. It is far more secure than Internet Explorer. Get FireFox

David Wright

Email me with any questions or comments.

Setting your FaceBook Privacy Settings

Login to your FaceBook account, then click on the 'Account' link on the Menu bar near the top of the page..

Click on 'Privacy Settings' in the pop-up.

Then go through each of the categories and change them as appropriate. (Recommended 'Friends Only')