"Facebook" entries

Strata Week: Why we should care about what the NSA may or may not be doing

Response to NSA data mining and the troubling lack of technical details, Facebook's Open Compute data center, and local police are growing their own DNA databases.

It’s a question of power, not privacy — and what is the NSA really doing?

PEW graph

Pew Research Center national survey

In the wake of the leaked NSA data-collection programs, the Pew Research Center conducted a national survey to measure American’s response. The survey found that 56% of respondents think NSA’s telephone record tracking program is an acceptable method to investigate terrorism, and 62% said the government’s investigations into possible terrorist threats are more important than personal privacy.

Rebecca J. Rosen at The Atlantic took a look at legal scholar Daniel J. Solove’s argument that we should care about the government’s collection of our data, but not for the reasons one might think — the collection itself, he argues, isn’t as troubling as the fact that they’re holding the data in perpetuity and that we don’t have access to it. Rosen quotes Solove:

“The NSA program involves a massive database of information that individuals cannot access. … This kind of information processing, which forbids people’s knowledge or involvement, resembles in some ways a kind of due process problem. It is a structural problem involving the way people are treated by government institutions. Moreover, it creates a power imbalance between individuals and the government. … This issue is not about whether the information gathered is something people want to hide, but rather about the power and the structure of government.”

Read more…

Comments: 2

Phishing in Facebook’s Pond

Facebook scraping could lead to machine-generated spam so good that it's indistinguishable from legitimate messages.

A recent blog post inquired about the incidence of Facebook-based spear phishing: the author suddenly started receiving email that appeared to be from friends (though it wasn’t posted from their usual email addresses), making the usual kinds of offers and asking him to click on the usual links. He wondered whether this was a phenomenon and how it happened — how does a phisherman get access to your Facebook friends?

The answers are “yes, it happens” and “I don’t know, but it’s going to get worse.” Seriously, my wife’s name has been used in Facebook phishing. A while ago, several of her Facebook friends said that her email account had been hacked. I was suspicious; she only uses Gmail, and hacking Google isn’t easy, particularly with two-factor authentication. So, I asked her friends to send me the offending messages. It was obvious that they hadn’t come from my wife’s account; they were Yahoo accounts with her name but an unrecognizable email address, exactly what this blogger had seen.

How does this happen? How can a phisher discover your name and your Facebook friends? I don’t know, but Facebook is such a morass of weird and conflicting security settings that it’s impossible to know just how private or how public you are. If you’ve ever friended people you don’t know (a practice that remains entirely too common), and if you’ve ever enabled visibility to friends of friends, you have no idea who has access to your conversations.

Read more…

Comments: 5
Four short links: 10 May 2013

Four short links: 10 May 2013

Remixing Success, Scratch in the Browser, 3D Takedown, and Wolfram Network Analysis

  1. The Remixing Dilemma — summary of research on remixed projects, finding that (1) Projects with moderate amounts of code are remixed more often than either very simple or very complex projects. (2) Projects by more prominent creators are more generative. (3) Remixes are more likely to attract remixers than de novo projects.
  2. Scratch 2.0 — my favourite first programming language for kids and adults, now in the browser! Downloadable version for offline use coming soon. See the overview for what’s new.
  3. State Dept Takedown on 3D-Printed Gun (Forbes) — The government says it wants to review the files for compliance with arms export control laws known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. By uploading the weapons files to the Internet and allowing them to be downloaded abroad, the letter implies Wilson’s high-tech gun group may have violated those export controls.
  4. Data Science of the Facebook World (Stephen Wolfram) — More than a million people have now used our Wolfram|Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook. And as part of our latest update, in addition to collecting some anonymized statistics, we launched a Data Donor program that allows people to contribute detailed data to us for research purposes. A few weeks ago we decided to start analyzing all this data… (via Phil Earnhardt)
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Four short links: 6 May 2013

Four short links: 6 May 2013

Artificial Emotions, 3D Printing Culpability, Mr Zuckerberg Buys Washington, and Pirate Economics

  1. Nautilus — elegantly-designed science web ‘zine. Includes Artificial Emotions on AI, neuro, and psych efforts to recognise and simulate emotions.
  2. A Short Essay on 3D PrintingThis hands-off approach to culpability cannot last long. If you design something to go into someone’s bathroom, it will make it’s way into their childs mouth. If someone buys, downloads and prints a case for their OUYA and they suffer an electric shock as a result, who is to blame? If a person replaces their phone case with a 3D printed one, and it doesn’t survive a drop to the floor, what then? We need to create a new chain of responsiblity for this emerging, and potentially very profitable business. (via Near Future Laboratory)
  3. Zuckerberg’s FWD.us PAC (Anil Dash) — One of Mark Zuckerberg’s most famous mottos is “Move fast and break things.” When it comes to policy impacting the lives of millions of people around the world, there couldn’t be a worse slogan. Let’s see if we can get FWD.us to be as accountable to the technology industry as it purports to be, since they will undoubtedly claim to have the grassroots support of our community regardless of whether that’s true or not.
  4. Pirate Economics — four dimensions of pirate institutions. Not BitTorrent pirates, but Berbers and arr-harr-avast-ye-swabbers nautical pirates. Pirate crews not only elected their captains on the basis of universal pirate suffrage, but they also regularly deposed them by democratic elections if they were not satisfied with their performance. Like the Berbers, or the US constitution, pirates didn’t just rely on democratic elections to keep their leaders under check. Though the captain of the ship was in charge of battle and strategy, pirate crews also used a separate democratic election to elect the ship’s quartermaster who was in charge of allocating booty, adjudicating disputes and administering discipline. Thus they had a nascent form of separation of powers.
Comment: 1

Go Native, Go Big, and Go Deep

Android software development at a crossroads

Apps have to get bigger and more ambitious. A key question for the developer community is how do you create big, integrated, multi-functional, configurable apps for the mobile enterprise? Curiously, Facebook is providing some answers by not using HTML5 and not attempting to make a cross-platform app. Go native, go big, and go deep.

Facebook Home is a harbinger of serious mobile apps

Facebook Home has earned positive reviews—in many cases from reviewers who had tired of Facebook and the intrusiveness of Facebook’s privacy policies and practices. Facebook Home is an example of a new kind of Android software development. It spans a variety of functions as a suite of cooperating software. It uses Android’s intent filters, high-level interprocess communication (IPC), shared databases (ContentProvider components) and remote APIs to bond together a software product that replaces many of the standard parts of Android—as they are meant to be replaced.

Facebook Home isn’t some kind of rogue hack, nor is it a “fork” of AOSP, as Kindle Fire is. Facebook Home is a tour de force of correct Android application architecture. It takes over your phone, interface by interface, always playing by the rules, and it does so for justifiable reasons: for putting Facebook’s functionality everywhere you want to perform communications and social media functions.

Going native

Moreover, Facebook Home simply can’t be done on iPhone. iOS has a specific vision of apps that is separate from system software, while Android’s frameworks are the basis of both applications and system software. Facebook Home was built with this difference in mind: It replaces key elements of the Android system user experience. It is a suite of communicating apps. The word “app” doesn’t sufficiently describe it.

Read more…

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If followers can sponsor updates on Facebook, social advertising has a new horizon

The frequency of sponsored posts looks set to grow.

This week, I found that one of my Facebook updates received significantly more attention that others I’ve posted. On the one hand, it was a share of an important New York Times story focusing on the first time a baby was cured of HIV. But I discovered something that went beyond the story itself: someone who was not my friend had paid to sponsor one of my posts.

Promoted post on Facebook.

According to Facebook, the promoted post had 27 times as many views because it was sponsored this way, with 96% of the views coming through the sponsored version.

When I started to investigate what had happened, I learned that I’d missed some relevant news last month. Facebook had announced that users would be able to promote the posts of friends. My situation, however, was clearly different: Christine Harris, the sponsor of my post, is not my friend.

When I followed up with Elisabeth Diana, Facebook’s advertising communications manager, she said this was part of the cross-promote feature that Facebook rolled out. If a reporter posts a public update to his followers on Facebook, Diana explained to me in an email, that update can be promoted and “boosted” to the reporter’s friends.

While I couldn’t find Harris on Facebook, Diana said with “some certainty” that she was my follower, “in order to have seen your content.” Harris definitely isn’t my friend, and while she may well be one of my followers, I have no way to search them to determine whether that’s so. Read more…

Comments: 18

Visualization of the Week: Identify your insiders, outsiders, connectors and gateways

WolframAlpha's updated Facebook tool visualizes your network (and makes outliers obvious).

WolframAlpha announced an upgrade to its Personal Analytics for Facebook platform that allows users to visualize a number of aspects of their Facebook ecosystem. John Burnham outlines the updates on the WolframAlpha blog, noting that the popular visualization from the tool’s first release has a number of enhancements that allow users to better visualize how their social network fits together.

Read more…

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Why isn’t social media more like real life?

You know the graph. Use it to provide a more human experience.

I finally got around to looking at my personal network graph on Linkedin Labs the other day. It was a fun exercise and I got at least one interesting insight from it.

Take a look at these two well defined and distinct clusters in my graph. These are my connections with the startup I worked for (blue) and the company that acquired us in 2008 (orange). It is fascinating to me that all these years later the clusters remain so disconnected. There are shared connections within a common customer base, but very few direct connections across the clusters. I would love to see maps from some of my other colleagues who are still there to see if theirs show the same degree of separation. This was an acquisition that never really seemed to click and whether this is a picture of cause or effect, it maps to my experiences living in it.

That’s an aside though. What this graph really puts in stark relief is what every social network out there is learning about us. And this graph doesn’t really tell the whole story because it doesn’t represent edge weights and types, which they also know. Social networks know who we connect with, who we interact with, and the form and strength of those interactions.

But this post isn’t a privacy rant. I know they know this stuff and so do you. What this image got me thinking about again is why social networks aren’t using this information to create for us a social experience that is more like our real world, and frankly more in tune with our human-ness. Read more…

Comments: 7
Four short links: 13 December 2012

Four short links: 13 December 2012

Top Chinese Memes, Raising Quality, Retro Browsing, and The Clicks of the Dead

  1. Top 10 Chinese Internet Memes of 2012 — most are political, unlike Overly Attached Girlfriend.
  2. Evaporative Cooling — thoughtful piece about the tendency of event quality to trend down unless checked by invisible walls. (via Hacker News)
  3. What Was It Like to Browse the Web in the 90s? (Quora) — it was awesome, because the alternative was television. Couple of whiny “you won’t believe how hard we had it” posts, from people who obviously believe that everyone in history has been miserable because they don’t have it as good as we do now. And, thus, by extension, we are miserable because we don’t have it as good as future generations of silver-robot-bearing flying-car-driving humans.
  4. Why Are Dead People Liking Stuff on Facebook? (ReadWrite Web) — a good question.
Comments: 4
Four short links: 12 November 2012

Four short links: 12 November 2012

Motivated Learning, Better Hadoopery, Poignant Past Product, and Drone Imagery

  1. Teaching Programming to a Highly Motivated Beginner (CACM) — I don’t think there is any better way to internalize knowledge than first spending hours upon hours growing emotionally distraught over such struggles and only then being helped by a mentor. Me, too. Not struggle for struggle’s sake, but because you have built a strong mental map of the problem into which the solution can lock.
  2. Corona (GitHub) — Facebook opensources their improvements to Hadoop’s job tracking, in the name of scalability, latency, cluster utilization, and fairness. (via Chris Aniszczyk)
  3. One Man’s Trash (Bunnie Huang) — Bunnie finds a Chumby relic in a Shenzhen market stall.
  4. Dronestagram — posting pictures of drone strike locations to Instagram. (via The New Aesthetic)
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