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Facebook knows more about you than you realize and what to do about it

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

Everyone knows what Facebook is and that it is built on the concept of connecting people together to create virtual communities. What people often don't realize is how much data these sites have about you.

A good example was exposed by Huffington Post in an article entitled "Facebook Can Predict With Scary Accuracy If Your Relationship Will Last".

If you doubt the power of data mining, read this Forbes article entitled "How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did"

The security aspects of Facebook

Social Networking sites (like Facebook) thrive when user bases grow and user bases grow when there are strong repeated interactions among its members. These sites are sneaky and try to collect a treasure trove of data from you (directly or indirectly) without the user realizing it. As a user, you need to make a conscious decision about what you tell them and what you share on the site. 

Although interactions on Facebook may feel more secure because they are in Cyberspace, I encourage everyone to use the same rules of engagement as they would in the real world
  • Understand that you are not anonymous
  • Understand that anything you post cannot be truly deleted and may be shared and reshared without your knowledge or consent
  • Some organizations have privileged access to Facebook information which may come back to haunt you in the future (employment, travel, etc)

Regardless of how rosy you believe the world is, there are unfortunately a handful of bad people that use these sites to collect information about you with the intent to trick, deceive or do other bad things. 

Predators could pretend to be someone else and use these sites to build cyber relationships to encourage you to meet them in person (could be dangerous). A bad actor could use information found on these sites to perform social engineering on you or to someone you know. Someone could user information about your location, hobbies, likes and dislikes to befriend people in your network and then use these relationships to coerce you.

What does Facebook know

Facebook knows more about you than you realize and remember that it doesn't expose everything. A small glimpse of what it knows can be seen in your personal ad preferences (click here).

Expand the sections and see some of the information Facebook has about you and actively uses to target ads. 

Facebook self defense 

Regardless of how many dangers these sites present, they are a fantastic way to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. It is this characteristic that keeps people coming back. So what can you do to protect yourself? It's time to develop Facebook-Foo:

  1. It's public - Regardless of the restrictions you place on your post, assume it is public. A friend can take a snapshot and repost it on Reddit. Even on snapchat, I could use a second device to take a picture of the screen and post the content without you knowing. Remember that anything you post can be public and you'll be much better off.
  2. Don't make it personal - Limit personal information as much as possible. Think before you post. Looking at your feed, people shouldn't be able to determine patterns (which coffee shop you visit every morning) or personal information (picture of your kids daycare). Remember that you want to protect your information from "friends" and also the social network itself. Every smartphone picture you post contains GPS location data. This data may not be shared by the site but is definitely used by the site to build a more complete profile about you.
  3. Stranger Danger - We tell kids to be weary of strangers but we neglect this good information when working online. Remember that anything can be fake online. In social engineering, we commonly copy the profile information of people and use it to make connections to targets. We steal information from LinkedIn, Facebook and any other sources to improve the chance you will connect with us. 
  4. Check your settings - I recommend you periodically check your Facebook profile settings and the permissions you have granted apps to connect to your facebook profile. Most connected apps are fine but a nefarious one may use this authorization to steal your info and use it against you. I wrote an article in 2012 about a service that helps check your site permissions. The service may have changed but it is a good idea to perform this check every quarter.
  5. Be a skeptic - I see dozens of spammy fake posts every day on Facebook shared by friends. People share content without looking into the validity of the articles so be weary. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Use fact checking sites like Snopes to validate claims before posting or sharing content.
  6. Use strong passwords - I recommend you use strong unique passwords for every site you register on. I wrote this 2013 article about how to use WolframAlpha to generate strong passwords and I still use this technique today. Generate strong unique passwords and keep it in a password manager like OnePassword or LastPass (which is almost free now).
  7. Keep your computer safe - For most users, I have started recommending the use of a Google Chromebook as their internet browsing device (or a smartphone or tablet). These devices are much more resilient to attacks and provide protection even if the user is less than diligent. IF you use a traditional computer (PC or Mac), make sure you keep your software updated, use a good antivirus and never run unknown third party software.If you receive a file and want to double check it before running it, use a site like VirusTotal to give yourself some peace of mind.
  8. Keep children safe - Talk to children about the dangers of social sites early and help them navigate this maze. They need to understand that anything they post will be with them for the rest of their lives. The internet does not have a delete key.


  • What is Facebook doing with my data?  (BBC)
  • 98 personal data points that Facebook uses to target ads to you (Washington Post)
  • Facebook Is Expanding the Way It Tracks You and Your Data (The Atlantic)

How to find how many Twitter fake followers you have

technologyEdward KiledjianComment
Image by  Patrik Nygren  used under Creative Commons License

Image by Patrik Nygren used under Creative Commons License

When web placement was paid per click or per view, Twitter importance was measured by the number of followers you had. Those days are long gone because modern tech savvy social media users understand that engagement is the ultimate measure.

In some cases, people bought Twitter followers to make themselves look  better but there are times when those fake followers are added by bots. Why? Because many people automatically follow back all of their followers and these SPAM accounts get a decent following quickly.

Fakers App

The first tool is an online service called the Fakers App.  This app allows you to identify how many fake or empty accounts follow you. Better yet, they can perform this same magic on competitors or service providers trying to sell you on their HUGE social media following.

Head over to the webpage (link)

Click on the Connect to Twitter button

Authorize the app to connect to your twitter account. Then let it do its magic

In my case only 3% of my followers are fake. 46% are inactive which isn't surprising knowing how most registered Twitter users rarely tweet. You can use the search box to check this info for someone else


TwitterAudit (link)  is another interesting tool that takes a 5,000 follower sample from your account and then creates a follower value score by looking at the ratio of followers to following, number of tweets, date of last tweet, etc.

It creates some interesting graphs:


You'll notice that the stats provided by each site aren't perfectly aligned but they are close. The Inactive status of the Fakers App isn't too valuable for me considering most people sign up and spend most of their time on twitter lurking. 

Ultimately less than 3% (in both cases) of my followers are fake. What about you?


Facebook to clean your news feed

technologyEdward KiledjianComment
Image by  Robert Scoble  used under Creative Commons License

Image by Robert Scoble used under Creative Commons License

Sure some Facebook black belts have master trimming and caring for their news feed but most of us get some useful info mixed with spam like posts. Paid posts aren't the items Facebook is looking to curb, it is the non-paid posts that are verging on free self-promotion. This starts with posts claim things like  that 1 like = $1 of donation or 1 like = supporting world peace, etc. 

Types of content the social giant will try to control in 2015 is:

  • Like Baiting - trying to get "friends" to like something so it is shown to more people and moved higher on everyone's news feed
  • Frequently circulated content - That religious picture that you see over and over. Or a post like the one above. Facebook says it's users rate these as less valuable and it will work to curb them
  • Spam Links - Links that are designed specifically to mislead readers to take them to spam or ad sites. (We don't know the exact details yet but many of the most popular internet sites that show the same pictures over and over with ads may see a huge hit).

Hopefully this cleans Facebook up a bit and makes it more readable. 

Source: 1

Rapportive adds social intelligence to GMAIL for free

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

Rapportive (link) is a free Firefox, Safari and Chrome add-on that brings social intelligence to GMAIL. For every email sender, it displays a picture, a brief bio,  location and links to that their social networks. 

Yes it does work with Google Apps accounts.

It replaces the (less useful) GMAIL advertisements with its own information. Another company called Xobni has a similar tool for Outlook. Installation took only a couple of minutes and then it automatically performs its magic anytime you use the GMAIL web interface. 

There is some debate about where the service get's it's information from. Some have claimed it comes from a service called Rapleaf, others claim it is an in-house culling service. All we know is that the company provides this blurb:

"We combine information from several sources; at the moment, these are, AngelList, Bitbucket, CrunchBase, Econsultancy, Facebook, Flickr, GitHub, Google Profiles, Gravatar, LinkedIn, Plancast, Posterous, Stack Overflow,, Twitter and Vimeo, as well as thousands of organisations' public websites. " (link)

In my testing, some contacts come jam packed with useful information and others get wrong or missing info. Overall I think this is a great way to gleam additional  information which can make the difference between winning or losing. 

Give it a try. It's free

Why Facebook created Facebook Home

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

Facebook Home finally clarified the company’s mobile roadmap. Facebook will integrate into existing smartphones and will not create a phone of its own (aka no Facebook phone). The new Android launcher rolled out in the US for select high end smartphones  last week and ratings on the Google Play store show that it isn’t for everyone (44% of reviewers had given it a 1 star when I wrote this article).

What is Facebook Home?

Facebook Home is an Android launcher that “put’s people first”. It replaces everything you are use to with a launcher with an always in Facebook experience. Facebook Home works best on the HTC First (an HTC phone built specifically for Facebook Home) because it has been modified to allow Facebook Home to hook deep in the operating system, meaning you will get integrated notifications.

When will Facebook Home come to Canada

If you have the unstoppable urge to replace your functional Android Launcher with the over-reaching and always in Facebook Home launcher then you are in luck. Indications from Facebook lead me to believe that it will hit our shored in the next 30 days as long as they don’t experience major snags after the US launch.

Why did Facebook create Facebook Home?

Most reviews (I read) believe that this is a way for Facebook to provide a premium Facebook experience for its users without having to create a Facebook phone. I see it a little differently, especially when I consider where Google is going. Facebook  wants to ensure it isn’t the next MySpace.

Most people believe Google+ is a ghost town but it has now become the second most popular social network (with 340 million monthly active users). Google was able to drive users to its competing product by slowly integrating it into all of its properties, improving the overall user experience, making it easier for users to find contacts and by adding the incredible active “Communities” feature. 

  • Facebook was built to help you connect with existing friends
  • Google plus allows you to connect with existing friends but also has well designed features to help you find new and interesting people to follow

Google Plus has better security

I have discussed this point with dozens of Facebook users and none of them understand the Facebook user management system of lists. It’s complicated and not practical. Google+ uses an innovative approach called Circles. A Circle is a group of people you bunch together.  A user can be in multiple groups. As an example, I have a circle called Business and add all of my business contacts to it. If a friend is also a business contact, he may be added to the Business circle and the Friend circle. Everytime you publish content, you choose what Circles to share it with (you can choose one Circle, multiple Circles, Public, etc).

Facebooks user grouping system is horrible (1 star) whereas the Google+ system is easy (5 stars)

Integrated with your other Google Services

You could be using Hotmail, or Yahoo mail but you are probably using GMAIL. You probably spend hours every week watching crazy videos on youtube and you certainly user Google's incredible web search. 

Google has been integrating all of its services and Google+ has become the glue to bring them all together. Google+ is already integrated in every other Google property (normally on the upper right hand side) which makes it easy to share content, see content and get updates. It is much easier to use Google Plus (from an access perspective) than to jump to a new site and log into Facebook.

Google+ has a better mobile app

Almost all Facebook mobile users I talk to complain about the app. The Facebook mobile app is slow, buggy and not intuitive. Over the last 12 months, Facebook has moved to a mobile first model and has greatly improved the experience but most [honest] users will say the Google+ app provides for a much richer experience.

Your data is yours

Facebook makes it easy to get data into Facebook but very difficult to get it out. This is part of their strategy to make Facebook more sticky. Unlike Facebook, Google allows you to decide what it shows publicly (can be all, nothing or any point in between) plus they allow you to pack up and take back all of your data using their free Google Takeout. With a couple of clicks, Google will prepare a package that will include all of your data. Take it and go.

Your data after you die

Facebook doesn't provide an easy way for you to determine what happens to your info after you die. Google has created the Inactive Account Manager. The Google Inactive Account Manager allows you to determine what happens (automatically) to all your Google data and accounts after a certain amount of inactivity (which you decide).

But why did Facebook create Facebook Home?

The latest rumor about Google Babbel seals the deal. It will be a cross platform, multi-device total communication system. It means you can chat, share documents or start a video chat session on any device and then continue it on any other (iphone, android, web via chrome, windows, mac, linux, etc).

Users are tired of closed system instant messaging systems and are demanding an anytime anywhere chat experience with Google Babbel is rumored to provide. 

Google is technically superior. It is easier to find and share information. It is much more secure and now will offer the best messaging experience of any platform anytime anywhere. This final piece is what will continue driving users to Google+ (user numbers are the only thing Facebook has going for it).

This is what scares Facebook, it is a one trick pony. Google has a better social platform but also the best email system, the best video system, the best online document management system, etc.

With Facebook Home, Facebook is hoping to draw users into its closed system and make it more difficult to move away but reviews show it is failing.