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Facebook's Graph Search: Kiss Your Privacy Goodbye 245

Posted by timothy
from the no-longer-in-relationship-with-privacy dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Software developer Jeff Cogswell is back with an extensive under-the-hood breakdown of Facebook's Graph Search, trying to see if peoples' privacy concerns about the social network's search engine are entirely justified. His conclusion? 'Some of the news articles I've read talk about how Graph Search will start small and slowly grow as it accumulates more information. This is wrong—Graph Search has been accumulating information since the day Facebook opened and the first connections were made in the internal graph structure,' he writes. 'People were nervous about Google storing their history, but it pales in comparison to the information Facebook already has on you, me, and roughly a billion other people.' There's much more at the link, including a handy breakdown of graph theory."
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Facebook's Graph Search: Kiss Your Privacy Goodbye

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  • Yeah, right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 07, 2013 @03:09PM (#42822905)

    You kissed your privacy goodbye when you signed up for a social network.

    • Re:Yeah, right (Score:5, Informative)

      by game kid (805301) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @03:13PM (#42822947) Homepage

      As soon as you saw (not clicked!) the Like button, for that matter.

      • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @03:16PM (#42823011) Homepage Journal

        As soon as I wrote that I was CEO of Shell Oil, owner of the US Treasury and as a imigrant from Jupiter, I lost all privacy. It is they who are cursed, not I.

      • by TwineLogic (1679802) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @03:23PM (#42823095)
        This is why the only Like buttons I see are hosted on the web site I am viewing:

        $ cat /etc/hosts
        [...]
        127.0.0.30 outbrain.com
        127.0.0.30 facebook.com
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          HOSTS is an awesome method for blocking sites like Facebook, shame it doesn't handle wildcarded domains last time I checked.

          • Re:Yeah, right (Score:5, Informative)

            by DarkOx (621550) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @04:21PM (#42823827) Journal

            Not its not an awesome method.

            You're right it does not support wildcards so putting www.facebook.com in there does nothing top stop, the java script on every other site out there from posting to trackyourass.facebook.com

            I makes things point to a resource that won't answer so unless you take additional steps like running a httpd that will generate a 404, so it can make things dirt slow.

            Lots of pages are designed (badly) and need images to exist or the layout breaks, or is messed up otherwise.

            So no your hosts file is not an awesome method. A proxy like privoxy for example though there are other good ones starts to come closer to something that might be a decent solution. It could at least serve dummy images, use regular expressions to strip posts, and gets inside iframes to .*facebook.(com|net); .*fbcdn.com and others. etc.

            Really people STOP using your hosts file. Its like the worst possible answer.

            • I have Facebook's known IP ranges blocked incoming and outgoing at my router. It's actually quite a lot of ranges, as they've purchased IP ranges from others (but 69.171.224.0/19 and 66.220.144.0/20 will stop most of Facebook's crap). As a result, I see a surprising number of frames and whatnot which simply have "forbidden" text in them. They occur on a wide selection of sites.
        • by X0563511 (793323) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @04:01PM (#42823611) Homepage Journal

          Don't forget facebook.net and fb.net! (probably fb.com too).

          Not to mention anything that goes through EC2 or akamai.

          (not so perfect a solution these days, is my point)

        • by Gr8Apes (679165)
          You need a lot more than that to properly block facebook and company. What you're really wanting is a whitelist proxy. I'm about to add one to my network for other reasons.
      • by Seumas (6865)

        Huh? You don't filter that crap? I filter out all that FB and +1 crap.

        • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @05:12PM (#42824519) Journal

          Not me because I don't want to be put on a list of "hiding something because they don't use facebook like everyone else." Instead I have a script that finds the most common likes that average people click and it automatically likes them by me as well. My profile fits pretty much right in the middle.

    • Re:Yeah, right (Score:5, Informative)

      by Seumas (6865) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @03:27PM (#42823157)

      Exactly.

      My use of facebook is as follows:

      Register account, to keep someone else from using my name (it happens, I've had internet stalkers for over a decade that have done things like register domains, show up at my door, etc).

      Disable everything that it's possible to disable. Set to notify me by email of private messages, just in case. Disable ability to tag me in photos, post on my wall, etc, etc.

      Put up a user photo on account that says "I DO NOT USE FB. SEND ME AN EMAIL AT >email addy".

      Never touch Facebook again.

      • Re:Yeah, right (Score:4, Interesting)

        by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @04:10PM (#42823705)

        Exactly.

        My use of facebook is as follows:

        Register account, to keep someone else from using my name (it happens, I've had internet stalkers for over a decade that have done things like register domains, show up at my door, etc).

        Disable everything that it's possible to disable. Set to notify me by email of private messages, just in case. Disable ability to tag me in photos, post on my wall, etc, etc.

        Put up a user photo on account that says "I DO NOT USE FB. SEND ME AN EMAIL AT >email addy".

        Never touch Facebook again.

        How does this keep your mythical decade long stalkers from setting up a Facebook profile with your name? My name is not all that common, but there are dozens of people on Facebook with my name -- including 1 in the same town as me.

        If you never touch Facebook again, how will you know about your stalkers profile? And what would he do with this fake profile anyway?

      • Exactly.

        My use of facebook is as follows:

        Register account, to keep someone else from using my name (it happens, I've had internet stalkers for over a decade that have done things like register domains, show up at my door, etc).

        Disable everything that it's possible to disable. Set to notify me by email of private messages, just in case. Disable ability to tag me in photos, post on my wall, etc, etc.

        Put up a user photo on account that says "I DO NOT USE FB. SEND ME AN EMAIL AT >email addy".

        Never touch Facebook again.

        If you never touch Facebook again, you're in trouble. You see, they keep changing their privacy controls, and make everything opt-out by default (meaning when they change the controls, the privacy-detrimental "features" are enabled by default). As a result, unless you check in regularly and verify your privacy settings, you might be surprised at what is enabled right now (even if you disabled it in the past).

        I just avoid facebook by having someone else with my name on there -- I can claim that anything on

      • by Grashnak (1003791)

        Exactly.

        My use of facebook is as follows:

        Register account, to keep someone else from using my name (it happens, I've had internet stalkers for over a decade that have done things like register domains, show up at my door, etc).

        Disable everything that it's possible to disable. Set to notify me by email of private messages, just in case. Disable ability to tag me in photos, post on my wall, etc, etc.

        Put up a user photo on account that says "I DO NOT USE FB. SEND ME AN EMAIL AT >email addy".

        Never touch Facebook again.

        So, if I understand this correctly, you think that by registering a Facebook account in your name, no one else can register a different Facebook account in the same name? Did you miss the part where Facebook user names aren't unique? There are a couple of hundred Facebook accounts with exactly the same name as mine.

        Grats on failing at the most elaborate yet pointless Facebook paranoia scheme I've seen yet.

      • Register account, to keep someone else from using my name (it happens, I've had internet stalkers for over a decade that have done things like register domains, show up at my door, etc).

        Your precaution seems wise, although possibly not sufficient. This kind of facebook impersonation happened to my father-in-law last week. And he has a facebook account that he uses regularly. Even so, an impostor created a look-alike account and asked his friends for money. I'm not quite clear on how the scam was uncovered, either my father-in-law noticed something or one of his friends thought it odd that there were two of him. I didn't ask for clarification since I heard about this while walking through

    • Re:Yeah, right (Score:4, Interesting)

      by kheldan (1460303) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @03:36PM (#42823271) Journal
      Every day that I read a news story about how more and more of people's privacy on Facebook is being violated as they monetize that data more and more, the happier I am that I bailed out when I did.
      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        ...and the more and more facebook doesn't care as they know everything about you through inference from others you know anyway.

    • by tgibbs (83782)

      The anonymous ship sailed a long time ago for pretty much anybody who has ever done anything public under their own name. I could be easily googled well before FB came along. That doesn't particularly bother me; I don't have any mortal enemies that I'm hiding from, and I'd like any old friends to be able to find me if they want to do so. The rules haven't changed: if you really want to be private for some reason, don't do anything public (and anything on the internet is public) under your real name--for tha

      • More to the point, privacy is an illusion we create to hide us from ourselves. If you really want "privacy" then go hide in a cave all by yourself. If you want to keep secrets, don't tell anyone else. The moment you tell someone something you've lost control of that information. The internet just makes it easier to lose control of information.

        • Re:So? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by sphealey (2855) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @08:04PM (#42827121)

          = = = More to the point, privacy is an illusion we create to hide us from ourselves. If you really want "privacy" then go hide in a cave all by yourself. If you want to keep secrets, don't tell anyone else. The moment you tell someone something you've lost control of that information. The internet just makes it easier to lose control of information. = = =

          Try using your small business account to order up a Choicepoint profile of one Richard Cheney and see how far that theory takes you. If privacy is such an unimportant illusion why does every high-ranking corporate and government official have access to their records not only blocked but set up for immediate counterattack on access?

          sPh

    • by kwerle (39371)

      No, you kissed your privacy goodbye when you started interacting with others.

      Your friends all submitted their email accounts so that facebook could mine them for friends. You are connected to all your friends' accounts on facebook (though not visibly to the outside), and they can mine your address for associations and know to a great degree who you are, what you like, etc - because they know who your friends are and what they like.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by yoshi_mon (172895)

        No, you kissed your privacy goodbye when you started interacting with others.

        And by you mean being born.

        Be it from Experian, Equifax, TransUnion, and or Innovis. From something like LexisNexis or another background check type company. Or say even your past employers who have HR files on you. There are collections of data about you out there and often it is indeed for sale.

        Here is the thing. While there has been a successful effort to deregulate everything and anything, and any attempts at trying to regulate anything is met by fierce and well funded oppression, by in large the th

  • by tipo159 (1151047) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @03:16PM (#42822997)

    I have been peppering my FB check-ins with places that I have been to, noting events that never took place, mixed in with real check-ins. I have set my "Lives in" city to somewhere different every day this year. Unless you know me, good luck figuring out what on my FB page is real and what isn't.

    • by Old97 (1341297) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @03:26PM (#42823141)
      Timmy, is that you?
    • by Stele (9443) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @03:26PM (#42823143) Homepage

      Sounds like you have a lot of free time on your hands. Like most Facebook users.

    • by icebike (68054) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @03:33PM (#42823247)

      I have been peppering my FB check-ins with places that I have been to, noting events that never took place, mixed in with real check-ins. I have set my "Lives in" city to somewhere different every day this year. Unless you know me, good luck figuring out what on my FB page is real and what isn't.

      The thing about Graph search, is your friends know you, and they, (presumably), are not engaged in such useless attempts at deception. So regardless of what YOU say or do, Facebook will not be fooled. They will know exactly who you are and where you are, just by mining your friends, your IP address, etc. (I mean, seriously, you can't have imagined this would really work, did you)?

      Even if you never signed up for facebook, you are likely already in their database.

    • by houghi (78078)

      Your name, most likely.

      I don't HAVE a facebook page. Good luck finding out what on my FB is real and what isn't.

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        Facebook don't care. This graph search has already inferred and create a profile with most all the important information about you. And by not signing up you have let them just decide it was all true without your influence.

    • And its all for naught. They arent interested in ultimate accuracy. Even fake data points provide useful data. Your individual account is very much meaningless, but that fact that you participate at all says volumes to them.
  • Why on Earth would anyone post anything of value on Facebook? A few years ago whent the stories of Facebook's security and privacy concerns began to surface - THIS wasn't a clue? I honestly don't understand how this is news. People who didn't care about it years ago aren't going to care about their privacy now, and those who DO care fall into two categories; 1) They don't use Facebook at all 2) When they do, they post bogus information or omit information entirely because they don't trust the network.
    • Re:So what (Score:4, Informative)

      by DarkOx (621550) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @03:49PM (#42823443) Journal

      I don't think its their own posts most folks are worried about, or object to Facebook using,referencing,indexing etc.

      All but the dumbest among us (seems there are lots of really dumb folks though) know not to put anything on Facebook we'd be upset about someone reprinting on a billboard next to the interstate with attribution.

      The issue is really all the other photos people post and tag, the fact they can tag you when you don't even have an account. The fact that they are using facial recognition and what really are some pretty smart algorithms to know when someone mentions John Smith, just exactly which one they are talking about. Coupled with the location information attached to much of these things as meta data Facebook likely has a better idea of where you are at this very moment than many of our intelligence agency do and probably could figure it out faster too. That is what people have problems with.

      Now this search feature is going to make the last part more and more available to well anyone who happens to be interested and is willing to endure viewing an ad for "attractive singles in their area".

    • I also really couldn't care less. Thanks to the news media, people are way too paranoid about their personal information. If you don't go around giving out your SSN or bank account numbers, what difference does it make? I suppose if you're posting semi-nude pictures of yourself acting like a fool then you may want to reconsider what kinds of things you put on FB.

  • by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @03:31PM (#42823205)

    Do not enter your real name on a social network, use a Psuedonym, call yourself something else like you would on IRC, AIM, YIM, etc. Only friend people who you know on their Psuedonym. People. Quit. Putting. Your. Real. Name. On. Accounts.

    • by Jmc23 (2353706) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @03:36PM (#42823279) Journal
      Yes people let us live in fear. Fear the bogeyman. Hide your truth. Isn't it obvious this is the path to a brighter future.
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by Obfuscant (592200)

        Yes people let us live in fear. Fear the bogeyman. Hide your truth. Isn't it obvious this is the path to a brighter future.

        Interestingly enough, I just did a global birth certificate search, and besides not finding one for a "Barrack Obama" in the US or any protectorate or territory thereof (which we all knew anyway), I did find one listing an official name of "Jmc23". Just "Jmc23". Parents listed as "Run Dmc" and "J-Lo".

      • Are you saying that fear is the path to a brighter future?
        OR
        living in a dystopian FB/"We know what you think before you think it" future?
    • by King_TJ (85913)

      That defeats one of the most attractive features/purposes of Facebook ... the ability to locate (or be located) by old friends and connections you knew from school, previous jobs, etc.

      Don't forget, Facebook basically sprung up from the ashes of the old pay sites like Classmates.com. People were eager enough to locate each other using a site like this, they used to pay good money for memberships. Then Facebook came along and said they'd do the same thing at no cost.

      If you really don't want people to know any

    • You mean "Zombie Ryushu" is not your real name??
  • by dave69 (2786111) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @03:47PM (#42823413)
    If a foreign government agency had spent years gathering data, and was mining it for undisclosed (possibly nefarious) purposes, It would be known as a dangerous spy network, would be subjected to infiltration/corruption and possible attack. I completely fail to understand why people tell FB anything about themselves ever, and don't request immediate deletion of all the data held about them. When governments try and spy on someone, they get all upset about it, when FB does it, and freely allows the data to be sold to the highest bidder/anyone who cares to look, people think its really cool and useful. what does it take for people to say enough is enough? Is it too late now, since the data is already gathered? why do I fail to see the upside of FB and its data gathering ilk?
    • Consider the shareholders...
    • If a foreign government agency had spent years gathering data, and was mining it for undisclosed (possibly nefarious) purposes, It would be known as a dangerous spy network, would be subjected to infiltration/corruption and possible attack.

      Doesn't every government have an agency that does that?

      What makes you think governments haven't infiltrated Facebook?

    • If a foreign government agency had spent years gathering data, and was mining it for undisclosed (possibly nefarious) purposes, It would be known as a dangerous spy network, would be subjected to infiltration/corruption and possible attack.

      Yes, because foreign government spy networks consist of putting up a webpage and saying "Hey, everyone, send us stuff you don't want people to know".

  • Because..... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gelfling (6534) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @03:50PM (#42823451) Homepage Journal

    People who post pictures of themself drunk, passed out pants round their ankles in the street are concerned with privacy.

  • by AndrewStephens (815287) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @04:11PM (#42823723) Homepage

    I wrote this a while ago but I will continue to post it as long as stupid people exist: You Do Not Have A Facebook Page! [sandfly.net.nz]. Facebook has a page on you.

    I signed up to Facebook and occasionally update Facebook's page on me, I find the service quite useful for keeping in touch with people, but I am under no illusions as to why Facebook provides this service. Anyone who uses Facebook with anything they expect to keep private has seriously misunderstood their relationship with the company.

  • There is only one time when you use real information: when you're paying for a service and it has a vested interest in keeping your information off the open internet.

    Otherwise, it's time to fill in the B.S. Think of your best friend as a child, and a common object around the house. Those terms are your first name and last respectively.

    - Dave Paperweight

  • by pla (258480)
    0.0.0.0 connect.facebook.com
    0.0.0.0 graph.facebook.com


    Or, just run Ghostery, which scrubs the whole lot of 'em. Anyone browsing the modern internet without at least an adblocker and a tracker/analytics blocker pretty much deserve what they get.
  • From my understanding, this new feature still pays attention to your privacy settings. If you don't have your privacy settings set right, that is your fault. If you don't think Facebook gives you enough control in its privacy settings, don't use Facebook. If you have a public Facebook profile with sensitive private information on it, you are an idiot and big companies have been aggravating your data for a while now.
  • At first, I thought FaceBook users were a bunch of popularity whores looking for scores of friends and their own reality TV fix. Now, I simply think users just don't make the connection to a bunch of online connections and how quickly and easily their activity propagates to each other.

  • The real problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sir_Eptishous (873977) on Thursday February 07, 2013 @04:41PM (#42824109) Homepage
    The real problem, As I see it, is that in the not too distant future:
    everyone in the US will essentially be forced to have a Social Network account to be able to function in modern society.

    More and more I see all manner of business and government entities handing responsibility over to FB for all sorts of things. It's actually quite disgusting, but not surprising given the (d)evolution of our database driven society. A centralized system of user accounts that almost everything done digitally can use?

    When I first saw the subtle changes taking place with FB, things like not being able to contact my local PBS television station unless I used FB , or not being able to enter a contest to see one of my favorite bands unless I used FB I knew it would be only a matter of time until everyone will be forced to have an account.

    Currently I don't have one, and never have. However I am part of a group that has an account, and my name and image are located there, so I'm "in the system" as it were.

    Once everyone is forced to have an account, then the next step will be for society in general to force those with accounts to update those accounts. There will come a time when via our smartphones those accounts will be updated automatically.
    It's almost at that point now:

    Who you've talked to.
    What you said.
    Where you went.
    What you bought.
    What you listened to.
    What you read.
    What you think.

    Disgusting, reprehensible, wrong
  • Is everyone really 6 degrees from Kevin Bacon?

The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it. -- E. Hubbard

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