Monthly Archives: March 2011

Facebook Kicks Out 20,000 Underage Users Daily

Since these users are the most vulnerable to predators on Facebook and the rest of the Internet

Nearly half of all 12-year-olds in U.S. are using social network sites, despite not meeting the minimum age requirements for sites like Facebook; a report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project claims.

The report also indicates that 46 percent of 12-year-olds in U.S. use social networks, and 62 percent of 13-year-olds in the study use social networks, that figure jumps to 82 percent between the ages of 14 to 17.

But that doesn’t mean nothing’s happening; according to a report by the Daily Telegraph, Facebook is kicking out nearly 20,000 underage users per day.

Facebook’s chief privacy adviser Mozelle Thompson agreed that underage users were taking advantage of the site. This issue is due to the fact that any user can register by simply lying while signing up since most of the big networking sites had have no mechanisms to detect whether the user is telling the truth or not.  “It’s not perfect,” said Thompson.

“There are people who lie. There are people who are under 13 [accessing Facebook],” Thompson said. “Facebook removes 20,000 people a day, people who are underage.” Now, that’s just a fraction of its 600 million strong user base that Facebook has.

This month, Senator Franken stepped up pressure on the world’s largest network, with support from even more Congressional colleagues focusing on “users between 13 to 17 years of age”.”Facebook’s new privacy policy would endanger the privacy and safety of children as young as 13. Under Facebook’s policy, 13 million users under the age of 18 may be allowed to share their personal information just like adult users,” Franken argued. “These younger users are the most vulnerable to predators on Facebook and the rest of the Internet and it should be impossible for them to inadvertently share their phone numbers and home addresses with anyone.”

Facebook has set up a Facebook Public Policy and Online Safety team that looks to identify false information by users’ false, but verifying a person’s age seems close to impossible. A member of the team tells the News Observer that parent participation is really the key to the problem of underage users on the site. But what if the parents aren’t opposed to their children being on Facebook? Talking about safe Internet practices with kids might be the next best responsible thing to do, along with monitoring your child’s online activity.

But I believe it’s the parents who should own up the responsibility for what their children do on the Internet. I could give many analogies to put my point across, but I believe people are smart enough to understand the seriousness of this issue. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if more than 50 percent of underage kids from India [who have Internet access] are more active than most adults on Facebook.

How many parents even know that users need to be 13-and above to own a legitimate Facebook account? Will you do something to stop this scenario or just turn a deaf ear to it? Leave us a comment and let us know.

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India Seeks Ban on .xxx Domain

Joins Indonesia and the Middle East to protect the moral integrity of its citizens

After half-a-decade worth of approvals and rejections the quest for a separate .xxx domain exclusively for porn finally came to fruition a few days ago. The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has finally given a go ahead to the xxx domain. We had considered the pros and cons of the move in our coverage of the news, and one major concern that emerged was the inevitability of conservative governments like Islamic states in the Middle East and Indonesia imposing a blanket ban on the domain, which would undermine the freedoms that the Internet stands for. Shortly after the news broke out, the Indian government expressed its intention to seek a ban on the pornographic domain; putting it in the company of Indonesia and the Middle East vying to protect the moral integrity of its citizens.

The new .xxx domain evoked a response from the ministry of IT, wherein an official issued the following statement, “India, along with many other countries from the Middle East and Indonesia, opposed the grant of the domain in the first place, and we would proceed to block the whole domain, as it goes against the IT Act and Indian laws.” The Indian laws, which are widely considered to still be clinging to the outdated Victorian roots, ironically do not have any credible deterrent for sexual abuse of children, making India a haven for paedophiles world over, but they have a provision that outlaws adult sexual content.

The distribution of adult content is illegal as per the Indian Penal Code, which validates India’s opposition to the xxx domain. However, viewing pornography isn’t technically a crime. The new domain, however, will make it easier for conservative Islamic states and, ironically the original peddler of adult content, India, to block the porn distribution channels. That will essentially be futile as Indians still have the option of visiting the pornographic websites working from existing .com domains, banning which would be counter-productive if not impossible.

Twitter brings HTTPS Security Protocol Across Site

Opt-in security setting already available to users

Popular micro-blogging style social network Twitter has announced that it will add extra security settings for the users. Today onwards, Twitter users would be getting an option to choose HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) for the web interface as well as number of clients meant for the service. Twitter has followed the footsteps of Facebook, Gmail, and Hotmail for offering basic HTTPS security protocol for protecting the user’s account login details and against other attacks.

People tend to use social networks over unsecured or poorly-protected Wi-Fi networks without being aware about the possible ill-effects of the same. Hence the web mail services and the popular social networks offer the HTTPS protocol as part of security setting so that login credentials of users don’t get hijacked. The FireSheep plugin uncovered how easily one could steal login details.

From today onwards, Twitter web interface users will get a new security setting under the Settings option – Always use HTTPS checkbox, at the bottom of the page. After you’ve checked the box, your login details and sessions at Twitter web interface would be secured. By default, the HTTPS security setting hasn’t been enabled and hence we would advice you to enable it.

Several Twitter clients have already got the HTTPS protocol setting by default. Apart from that, official Twitter for iPhone and iPad Apps will get “Always use HTTPS” setting. However, the new enabling HTTPS protocol setting isn’t forced on the mobile web interface. That means you’ll have to type out <https://mobile.twitter.com> to use the secured HTTPS connection. Twitter promised that it will work on making the option default for mobile platform as well. For all those using third-party services and clients, ensure that it offers HTTPS security setting.

Farmville gets English Countryside Level

English themed level will kick in for all players who have reached level 20

Farmville just got a brand new addition to its level roster with Farmville English Countryside, which has a very British slant to it. The level will be available to all players who reach level 20 in the regular version of the game starting tomorrow. This is the first time the game has got a country specific content, which is open to every player irrespective of their nationality.

In English Countryside levels, players assume the role of an English Duke on a mission to restore the village farms back to their grandeur. The new level allows players to change their avatar’s attire to take up a British theme by dressing like an ‘English Lady’ or a ‘Dashing Gent‘. It will feature natively English plants and crops like King Edward potatoes, foxgloves, and redcurrants and. The level will be dotted with more distinctly recognisable English features like English cottages, traditional police call boxes and British animals like Shorthorn cows, Shire horses and Dorking chickens.

Someone in Zynga loves the Brits because the crops in Farmville English Countryside grow quicker due to “the premium English soil”. We wonder how the French will take to these British levels.

IE9 Downloads Cross 2.3 Million in One Day IE9 Downloads Cross 2.3 Million in One Day

Microsoft on Cloud 9

The final version of Internet Explorer 9, the latest iteration of Microsoft’s web browser, was released to public two days ago on of March 15. In just 24 hours, the browser managed to cross 2.3 million downloads. That’s a pretty impressive number, considering only Windows Vista and 7 users can download this browser. Of course, Microsoft couldn’t be more pleased with this news, as is evident from their blog post. In comparison though, Firefox 3 managed to cross 8 million downloads in a day, creating a world record for itself back in 2008. Then again, Firefox is a multi-platform browser, available to Mac and Linux users as well.

We are glad that IE9 is getting a good response. It’s quite a good browser and for the first time, Microsoft has a browser that can compete with the best of the browsers out there. Unfortunately, unless the Windows XP users upgrade to Windows 7, we don’t really see the percentage of IE6 users to drop any time soon. Too bad IE9 is not available for XP users.
To download IE9, click here. To read our full review, click here.

Gmail gets New Smart Labels

Aims to remove the clutter from your overloaded Inbox

Gmail, the email service by Google, already has Labels for organizing and categorizing the emails with the help of custom filters. Google has now announced new Smart Labels feature for Gmail available via Labs in Settings. The new Smart Labels will allow users to organize messages in Bulk, Notifications and Forum messages. These Smart Labels filter out those messages by default.

Life becomes so much better when all subscribed newsletters, promotions and forum messages get filtered automatically without creating special filters for each of them. At the moment, Gmail Labs in Settings offers the option to activate Smart Labels for your Gmail Inbox.

Following are the three new Smart Labels:

  • Bulk: mails that include any kind of mass mailing (such as newsletters and promotional email) and gets filtered out of your inbox by default (where you can easily read it later)
  • Notifications: messages sent to you directly (like account statements and receipts)
  • Forums: filters email from group mailing lists from different forums

On the official Gmail blog, Google states, “On the Filters tab under Settings, you’ll find that these filters can be edited just like any others. From there, you can also edit your existing filters to avoid having them Smart Labeled or change whether mail in a Smart Label skips your inbox.”

The new Smart Labels certainly turn out to be quite helpful in cleaning up your Inbox and showing you emails from your business or personal contacts as well as friends and family.

Twitter 11.6 Hours Survey Scam Spreading Virally

Installs rogue application capable of harvesting your personal secure data

Twitter users beware! According to IT security and data protection firm Sophos, a survey scam is currently plaguing Twitter users and bad thing is that they may not even be aware of it. Twitter users have been advised to be wary of tweets stating that the tweeter has spent 11.6 hours on Twitter and exhorting users to try to find out how much time they have spent on Twitter. The catch is that the user has to click on a link in the message, which takes him/her to a page, which attempts to connect a rogue application called ‘Time on Tweeter’ with the user s account.
The offending links are being circulated on Twitter in messages containing the following text:
“I have spent 11.6 hours on Twitter. How much have you? Find out here: [LINK]”
This application then tweets the same text as above, but this time from the victim’s Twitter account and directs the victim to a page presenting a revenue-generating survey, which is again a scam. While this may seem harmless, it is not really know how much private user information the application may extract and make available to unauthorized people.
Graham Cluley, Senior Technology Consultant at Sophos advised, “Affected users need to revoke the rogue application’s access to their Twitter account immediately, or it will be able to spew out more links from your Twitter page – which could promote spam sites or link to malicious webpages.” He added, “Scams like this are very commonly encountered on Facebook, but are more rarely seen on Twitter – meaning that many users will be sitting ducks to this type of attack.  Although Sophos is in contact with bit.ly about closing down the offending link, it’s possible that the scammers will use other links and other names for their rogue applications.  So be on your guard, and always think twice before allowing a third-party app to have access to your Twitter account.”

Google bug disables 150000 Gmail accounts

Yesterday around 150000 Gmail users account were disabled by the Google system. They lost all their emails, attachments and chat logs. Google explained that approximately 0.08% of its users were affected by this bug. This bug reset all these accounts and even sent them the Google start up mail that any new user of Gmail receives.

Google reported on its dashboard that the engineers are working to get the problem fixed and restore full access. When the Google spokesman was contacted, a clear message was sent across stating that all the mails and accounts would be restored. Though many users are still apprehensive about the fact that all their messages would be restored.

Meanwhile others are advised to take precautions and store a backup of all their emails. There is a free application for Mac, PC and Linux called Gmail Backup. This is quick and easy to use. After downloading this software, Google asks for your account details and begins backing up your emails securely. Users have suggested various other sites for backing up their emails as many found that this software is not supported with Mac. Some of the popular ones are backupify.com and eternos.com.

Facebook Simplifies Privacy Policy

Keeps users in the loop with the privacy policy draft

Facebook has received much bad press in the past, and that prompted a privacy setting update virtually after every other week from the social networking giant. With almost everyone with access to the Internet having a Facebook account, privacy has been a contentious issue for both Facebook and those affected by it. The social networking website has therefore taken another proactive step by making the early draft of a revamped privacy policy public. In case you’re wondering, that’s the deliberately confusing legalese part that you’re supposed to acknowledge before you can join, create an account or install a program.

While the updated policy does not change Facebook’s existing methods of harvesting user information, it makes the whole process more transparent and easy to understand. This move comes after Facebook itself admitted that its existing privacy policy is “longer than the U.S. constitution – without the amendments”. The new draft is shorter and, more importantly, easier to understand, with headings like “your information and how it is used,” and “how advertising works,” which make the process clear to a layman.

However, there is still a grey area in how Facebook defines “your information”, which Nicole Ozer, a policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, contends does not include user data like the IP addresses, triangulated location of a mobile phone, and the date and time stamp of the uploaded photographs. Despite the downers and ambiguity of the definition of user information, this is a step in the right direction. It’s not often that a big corporation simplifies the legalese and keeps the users in the loop before making a decision.

Facebook Like to get Share button feature

Tests are being conducted including very limited number of Facebook users

Popular social network Facebook s Like button has given birth to thousands of serial likers (Yes, I just made it up). Apparently to live up to the true motive of liking and sharing user-generated or uploaded content, Facebook had introduced new Share button last year. Till date, you could like almost everything on Facebook but can t share the same in your News Feed with your connections. Mashable reports that the Like button is soon getting Share functionality and thereby you can share the posted content with others.

Upcoming features at Facebook always keep showing up during the testing phase. Facebook spokeswoman Malorie Lucich informed that Facebook will continue to carry the Share button on the website. Lucich said, We re always testing new products that incorporate developer feedback as we work to improve the Platform experience, and have no details to share at this time.

Basically any post, photo, video, or link you Like on Facebook would get the Share functionality as well so that you can share it with others. In a way, it s just going to increase the noise by duplication of same post. To Like something on Facebook is very different from sharing it with others.  Marketers and publishers would certainly admire the new Share functionality of the Like button since the audience will be anticipated to like and share the content.
Like & Share buttons

The new feature has its own set of merits and demerits. The merit lies in the fact that users can share whatever they like with others after hitting Like button. But the demerit lies in the fact that just because one hits Like button doesn t mean user wants to share it with his/her friends. In fact just like several complain about certain users hitting Like button for everything and everywhere possible, it just becomes difficult to judge accurately whether the purpose was served or not.

The share functionality for Like button would be visible mostly on the Facebook web interface and mobile interface only. It won’t impact the individual Like and Share plugins available as part of Social Plugins. However, we do not underestimate the Facebook users for several know what each feature stands for. Hence I hope if and when this new feature rolls out, users will make use of it judiciously.

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