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Hypocritical Facebook scores PR own-goal with sleazy attack on Google privacy

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Facebook has been left red-faced after having to admit that it hired a PR agency to plant negative stories with the press about privacy concerns on Google.

The irony is, of course, that Facebook is hardly a shining example of how an online firm should protect its users’ privacy.

Here’s what happened:

* Facebook secretly hired giant public relations firm Burson-Marsteller to seed stories in the media about privacy concerns with Google Social Search.

Google Social Search example

The Social Search feature of Google scours the web for publicly available information about you from sites such as Twitter, Yelp, Picasa, and FriendFeed, and displays it in the search results of your online friends.

* Facebook’s plan backfired badly when Burson-Marsteller approached former FTC investigator and blogger Christopher Soghoian offering him the story, but refusing to reveal who its client was. An unimpressed Soghoian published the email exchange.

Amid much speculation, The Daily Beast news website revealed that the firm pulling Burson-Marsteller’s strings was Facebook.

* Facebook confirmed it had hired PR firm Burson-Marsteller to promote the company’s position against Google’s Social Search facility and admitted that it should have presented the issues in a “a serious and transparent way”.

This wouldn’t necessarily have been a problem, if the PR agency had been up-front that it was representing Facebook when pitching the anti-Google stories in the first place. What is seedy is that Facebook’s involvement was deliberately hidden.

This whole story reeks of poor judgement by Facebook and its PR agency.

And it’s rather hypocritical for Facebook to point fingers at possible questions over Google’s attitude to privacy, when its own house is in such a mess.

For instance, Facebook recommends that users adopt privacy settings that can reveal their personal data to anyone on the internet.

Facebook's recommended privacy settings

Don’t believe me? Read the small print in Facebook’s privacy policy:

"Information set to 'everyone' is publicly available information, may be accessed by everyone on the Internet (including people not logged into Facebook), is subject to indexing by third party search engines, may be associated with you outside of Facebook (such as when you visit other sites on the internet), and may be imported and exported by us and others without privacy limitations."

"The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to 'everyone.' You can review and change the default settings in your privacy settings. If you delete 'everyone' content that you posted on Facebook, we will remove it from your Facebook profile, but have no control over its use outside of Facebook."

In other words, if you make your Facebook information available to “everyone”, it actually means “everyone, forever”. Because even if you change your mind, it’s too late – and although Facebook say they will remove it from your profile they will have no control about how it is used outside of Facebook.

If Facebook really cared about your privacy online, wouldn’t it recommend more privacy-conscious settings and not default to sharing your profile information with search engines?

Facebook public search

If you’re interested in being safer on Facebook, read more about the security and privacy challenges that exist for Facebook users. You could also do a lot worse than follow the advice in our step-by-step guide for better security and privacy on Facebook.

And, if you’re a regular user of Facebook, be sure to join the Sophos page on Facebook to be kept informed of the latest security threats.

Full disclosure: Parts of Sophos, although not Naked Security, use Burson-Marsteller on some PR projects.

Source :- http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com

Microsoft Bing Searches Include Facebook Likes

In an answer to Google’s Twitter searches, Bing makes public likes searchable

Social networking is ubiquitous and the current trend now. It’s all pervading grip has now spread to search engines too. Google already has a social search with Twitter integrated into its results, but what’s lacking is Facebook in the social search arena. However, it isn’t for long because Facebook has partnered with Microsoft and the alliance see’s Facebook “Liked Results” being integrated into Bing searches.

Microsoft’s Bing team blog explains how it works:

While we are very excited to talk about our next development, we’re all aware that it’s all part of a longer journey. This is the first time in human history that people are leaving social traces that machines can read and learn from, and present enhanced online experiences based on those traces. As people spend more time online and integrate their offline and online worlds, they will want their friends’ social activity and their social data to help them in making better decisions. Integrating with Twitter data 16 months ago was one step, and exploring Facebook’s rich streams is another.

For those concerned about privacy, only the publicly liked links will be available on the search engine, but that still leaves the possibility of unsolicited likes by friends being included in the links. However, that is a moot point because the whole point of friend system is to have people you trust. Moreover, Bing mentions that not all Facebook “Liked Results” will not show up in searches. The partnership harks to a new trend of the social foray of the two players in the search engine market.

Google Social Search gets Tweaked

Now has more control over adding accounts privately

Search giant Google has made yet another tweak to its search engine and added Social Search results to its main search results. Earlier, Social Search results used to appear at the bottom of the page but now they will appear anywhere in the search results based on the relevance of the links.

Two years back, Google had introduced the integration of relevant public content based on the user’s social circle and called that experimental feature Social Search. This social circle comprises of social networks like Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed or LinkedIn along with websites linked in user’s Google Profile, and also the Contacts list in Gmail.

Adding Social Network links and content was already started with Bing and then immediately Google followed the same. In order to throw more personalized search results, Google has been making changes in its search engine and pretty much everything that is connected to it like the user’s account and location.

Google Social Search gets three major changes which would be reflected in the search results. Firstly, you get better control to connect your accounts to Google Profiles privately. This would certainly help many users to connect their Twitter and/or LinkedIn profiles to get more relevant search results based the social circle.

And finally, users would see annotations for the links that have been shared users of Twitter and other sites. For instance, if Techtree has shared a link via Twitter, then the annotation will appear with a small thumbnail of Techtree’s display image and text Techtree has shared this link via Twitter.

To conclude it all, Google Social Search has been tweaked to be a part of the main lot of search results with clear annotations about user who shared the link and finally more privacy control is enabled for connecting other site accounts. The update will appear in English only for the time being and Google will be rolling it out through this week.

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