Open Source Utilities For Facebook Privacy

I saw a story on slashdot recently that is particularly relevant given Facebook again being in the middle of a tempest regarding their ever-changing security settings, practices, and defaults.

“Two online projects will scan and edit Facebook privacy settings for maximum
protection: ReclaimPrivacy ( and SaveFace (
The article says: ‘Several new applications have launched this week that are
designed to easily reset a Facebook member’s privacy settings, following new
changes from the company that make a sizable chunk of profile content public
by default when it was once kept under lock and key.'”

Here are the utilities mentioned. The first seems to be more flexible, while the second easily locks down your FB. These work for now, subject to any changes that FB may make that accidentally or deliberately hamper them.

This website provides an independent and open tool for scanning your
Facebook privacy settings. The source code and its development will always
remain open and transparent.

1. Drag this link to your web browser bookmarks bar: Scan for Privacy
2. Log in to and then click that bookmark
3. You will see a series of privacy scans that inspect your privacy
settings and warn you about settings that might be unexpectedly public.
4. Follow us on Facebook to hear about the latest updates.

SaveFace™ by Untangle® is a simple-to-install Bookmark utility that
automatically resets your Facebook® settings to restore your privacy.

SaveFace sets your privacy settings back to Friends Only, for all the

* Contact Information
* Search Settings
* Friends, Tags and Connections
* Personal Information and Posts

Best of all, it’s free. Untangle collects no personal information from you or
your Facebook when you use this Bookmark utility.

Facebook – AOL of the 21st Century?

Is Facebook the AOL (“America On Line”) of the 21st Century? Is Facebook intended to be a sandbox in which one can manage to entertain onesself, without venturing into the great beyond?

I only got on Facebook so I could monitor what my daughter was doing, as she insisted upon using it to connect with her friends. And the tipping factor might have been that her former tap teacher (who she just loves!) is on it after moving far away.

Of course, once exposed to any type of technology, the OSApostle must “figure it out!” So what are my impressions, besides wariness about security concerns?

Facebook in many respects is the AOL of the 21st Century. It seems like much of it is set up to keep people within the Facebook site, even as they view external materials such as blogs and other linked items. The first presentation of any “Link” item is within a frame, with the home still being the Facebook site. Even though one can, after a few clicks, get to the native page; but the default is to keep you on Facebook. The Social RSS application, which can show blog feeds on one’s FB page, also kindly offer to “subscribe” you to the feed — again in a FB-hosted feed reader. (Click on the Blog Name to go directly to feed, where Firefox will offer subscription options. … And if you go to read the article, at least in some settings, you can be take directly to the Blog, and subscribe there via other feed readers, including the commendable ones built into Firefox.)

There is indeed a bewildering array of “Applications.” (All these have their own privacy settings and policies. Aaaargh!!!) If you are using these, you are still on Facebook.

The most frustrating “captive” element, however, is the messaging facility. Do I really want to have to go to Facebook to read my email, when there are many superior programs or web-based solutions available?

As I look at things presently, I notice that the ads are not too thick. That is good, but it makes one wonder how profitable? Perhaps the things like “gifts” for sale help maintain profitability? … Of course, the other not-so-good ways people make money with web properties are:

  1. aggregate and sell information
  2. sell the whole operation

The first of these seems presently to have some protections in place. But should the second occur, … all bets are off! Of course, then there’s always the “delete” button! (Should it ever come to this, it’s probably best to delete all content before you “Deactivate Account.”)

I’ll continue to experiment with Facebook a bit, but I’m not going to live in the sandbox.

Facebook Security – Do I own what I write?!

I just looked into Intellectual property concerns regarding Facebook. Before I link posts or or Blog feed there, I want to know: Do I own what I write?

You’d think that it would be obvious that if you write something and post it somewhere, you own it. But it’s not so clear. Many of the sites at least claim a license to “use and display that content” (per Facebook FAQ). Others may actually attempt to assume ownership! Nevertheless, whatever the specific policy, these sites are not charities. They will seek to make some profit, at least by using the attraction presented by your material and that of others to draw more eyes to hosted ads.

Digging deeper in the specific case of Facebook, their “Terms” as of May 1, 2009 at least recognize your ownership of what you post, though warning of the risk that once it’s out of the bag, others may keep copies, etc. and Facebook is not responsible for this.
1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account (except to the extent your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it).

I do appreciate that they cede rights once I delete it!

Also of interest are Facebook’s Privacy policies. Per their warnings, you may want to pay attention to your privacy settings.

Most of Facebook’s information about Intellectual Property and Privacy seems to focus on protecting them from liability for anything a user may choose to do, such as posting copyrighted materials or harassing another user. … It make me wonder if the bill collectors abusing the system might be in violation of Facebook’s policies! Of course, if the sleazeball debt collector “chick” were using her real name it might be legit. But posting anything of questionable veracity or with intent to harass is certainly a violation — of Facebook’s policy as well as of law! There might be some protection in that, though legal recourse could be expensive.

Of course, one needs to keep aware of what would changes might occur in Facebook policies should they be acquired.

Security provisions for Facebook “Applications” might also be something to look out for. Check those privacy settings and terms. It still seems to me that the Facebook interface is a bit kludgy with regard to finding and controlling all of these settings. It is worth a little time to explore it if you intend to make much use of Facebook.

Facebook Security – Is Your Newest Facebook Friend a Sleazeball Debt Collector?

I had been meaning to post some reflections on Facebook and security, among other things. I am inherently cautious about what one should put “out there” in cyberspace.

Then I saw this article on Alternet, and thought it deserved immediate special mention:
Is Your Newest Facebook Friend a Sleazeball Debt Collector? The Alternet article has a lot to say about the debt collection and debt settlement industries in general, as well as some particulars about abuse of social media.

One new scheme is to have an attractive young lady ask to become your “friend,” so that those behind the facade may gain access to all the juicy personal information you post on Facebook. Then they can know of other ways to contact you, what you are up to — maybe even when you are home or not at home. (Burglars prefer the later.) The part most relevant to Facebook points to another article: Debt Collectors Using Cute Chicks On Facebook As Bait.

The Alternet article tells how debt collectors have used Facebook or other social media sites to post embarrassing information — and not always truthful information. There are several lawsuits now in the works from people who have been victims of this abuse.

So, please be careful what you put on social media sites. Think about when it is more appropriate to use personal email to communicate. (And you might even think of using encryption!)