Social Media’s Own Revolutions

2011 has shown that awareness powers change in the shape shifting world of virtual socialites

We’d like to take a look back at some important moments that have proven the power of knowledge on social platforms and the effects of users’ determination to make their privacy and protection top priority. We believe that the year that’s about to end is a landmark in the history of users’ control over the way their online experiences are regulated and protected.

In January 2011, the Wall Street Journal brought to public attention a disturbing privacy breach, namely third party app developers apparently passing advertising and Internet tracking companies information allowing them to identify and target Facebook users. This incident was acknowledged as being “an even more complicated technical challenge” than the crisis that occurred one year before. In January 2010, the same publication had pointed out that the social network apparently revealed users’ IDs to advertising companies, but the respective incident had faded out as the platform ceased to transmit such information due to public pressure.

March 15, 2011 added a new episode to the “Facebook will shut down on [doomsday of choice]” horror series. As the hoax spread virally and set online socialites’ hearts racing, we all came to better understand the power of the Facebook crowd.

Beginning of August 2011, the social temperature rose as Facebook came under renewed privacy fire: are users’ phone numbers harvested and then made public by the social network? The rumor was officially dismissed, but the question remains whether users are really aware of how much of their private info is visible and to whom.

End of August 2011, a new batch of security and privacy controls reached the Facebook shores. One of the most notable improvements – officially acknowledged as being a very frequent user request – is the introduction of the Profile Tag Review. Safego and Facecrooks had delivered their own share of tagjacking warnings so that this new addition to users’ defense arsenal made us all very, very happy.

November was friendly socialite’s month. Trusted friends stepped in to save the day for Facebook damsels and cavaliers in distress. As we pointed out back then, your guardian angels were supposed to receive via e-mail or via the Facebook web page a set of codes that would allow you to log back in to your account. Though, in principle, extra security measures won’t hurt, some loose ends – how to secure the trusted friends list? how do you tell a genuine code bearing message from one specially crafted by a phisher? – threatened to spoil the party.

December hit the spot and a big “hurray!” echoed throughout the world. Facebook committed to major privacy improvements and even appointed two corporate officers to take care of user data security issues. Express user consent prior to the sharing of info with third parties is a major win for the community and for the consumer protection advocates that led this very public battle. We’re still hoping for the “automatic opt-in” strategy to be abandoned in favor of an option activation method that is more beneficial to the user, but we’ve definitely come a very long and winding way from where we were this time last year.

Here’s our early New Year resolution: never underestimate the power of knowledge. Knowing what happens when you choose to perform a specific action online, being aware of the possible consequences and being capable of correctly balancing exposure and communication benefits…that’s what will keep the online world going round and round.

Guest Post by Bitdefender Communication Specialist, Ioana Jelea.

BitDefender Safego is a Facebook application you can install that will scan your News Feed and help keep you safe from scams and privacy threats we often warn against.

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