Top tips for using Facebook!

Roger Thompson - Chief Research Officer, AVG

We recently blogged about the current hot topic of Facebook privacy rules and included a summary of an article we read by Roger Thompson, Chief Research Officer of AVG.  Last week, Facebook introduced new privacy controls following complaints about the complexity of the old controls.

We managed to get hold of Roger to discuss his piece in more detail and he kindly shared his top tips on staying safe while socialising via Facebook – all of which are still very relevant even with the new privacy controls:

  • Think about who you add – It’s not all about numbers of friends. Remember when you accept a friend request you provide your new friend with access to lots of information about you. This includes, posts, photographs, messages and all the background information that you write about yourself.  You can delete friends at any time so perhaps it’s time to refresh your list and think about who you really want accessing your information.
  • Check your settings – Facebook has done a pretty good job at letting you limit how much people can see. So it’s worth spending some time to go through this and adjust where necessary. You even have the option to add ‘limited profiles’ for those people that you may not want accessing your personal information. It’s up to you how you want to use these settings so it’s definitely worth having a look to create a profile that’s right for you! Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook – what you don’t know!

Facebook is a part of everyday life for many of us, but in the last couple of weeks it has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons.  Users of the site have expressed their dissatisfaction of the complex privacy controls. In response to this Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg commented “sometimes we move too fast – and after listening to recent concerns, we’re responding. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark”. Now we’ve heard the news that they were going to make the controls simpler, starting today.

So what are the issues here with privacy and why has it caused such a stir? In short, users can visit the privacy section of the site and opt in and out of certain things – for example allowing photos you have uploaded to only be seen by your friends or people in your network or restricting the visibility of your contact info. The list goes on and on and quite frankly it is very complex – so much so that there is actually a manual you can download which details all the different options you have!

So Facebook plans to make the issue of privacy much easier for users and one particular issue that we believe needs urgent attention is the use of Facebook’s  new social plugins and we came across a shocking piece on this very issue written by Roger Thompson of AVG. The article explains how Roger was surfing the web to catch up on the day’s news when he noticed the site he was on (CNN.COM) had a live feed of his Facebook friends activity! What was odd was Roger was not logged on to either CNN nor had his Facebook account open.

So why was happening? It turns out that hundreds of website are using the social plugins that Facebook introduced at the recent F8 Developers Conference which are designed to show which of your friends are voting ‘like’ on a particular sites news stories – and if you happen to be visiting the  same sites it will show your friends new feeds. But how is this happening if you are not logged into the site in question? The social plugins are using Facebook Connect which was designed to be a ‘Single Sign On’ for the web – in other words you log on to Facebook once, and when you visit other sites, it logs you on to the site using the Facebook credentials already provided!

We certainly didn’t know this and were quite amazed that this was actually happening – the message here and what Roger suggests is “If you want to stop this type of behaviour, and thus do not want to see the stories that your friends are interested in as they visit the web, simply click “Log Out” of Facebook. This is something that no one really does. Simply, closing a Facebook tab or window DOES NOT log you out of Facebook.  I think the user community needs to be educated specifically on this.”

We agree with Roger and have certainly taken note – what do you think? We’d certainly like to know – let’s hope that Facebook addresses this issues soon!

The intelligence war – twitter vs facebook

Is Twitter bad for your intelligence? It could be if psychologist Dr Tracy Alloway is to be believed. She claims that working memory, which involves remembering and using information, is more important to success than IQ and things like Twitter could actually be damaging to it because of its ‘instant’ nature. She said, ”On Twitter you receive an endless stream of information, but it’s also very succinct. You don’t have to process that information. Your attention span is being reduced and you’re not engaging your brain and improving nerve connections.” Facebook on the other hand is believed to be beneficial to working memory, like sudoku and brain training, as it’s more of a dialogue and involves building connections.

However, don’t stop tweeting just yet. The Times isn’t convinced and reports that during the press conference in which she announced this news, Dr Alloway admitted when questioned that this theory is at the moment just that, a hypothesis that she hasn’t started researching yet. Times blogger Mark Henderson says “Most people I know who use Twitter see it as an interactive tool for conversing with wide groups, and for drawing like-minded people’s attention to information that might interest them. It’s interactive, full of links, and information-rich. It’s a misconception that the 140-character limit makes depth impossible. In fact, to me, Twitter seems to build social networks just as effectively as Facebook.”

What do you think? I tend to agree that Twitter is very interactive although I can see that in some cases how it could be seen to have a negative effect on working memory. Either way, I won’t stop tweeting just yet – but will maybe keep on doing sudoku too just in case!