Facebook Privacy, Shared Endorsements, and Online Mugshots – Episode 27

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I. Facebook Gets Rid of Privacy for Profile Search

Anonymity on Facebook is a thing of the past. Facebook has changed its rules, making all users’ profiles searchable. The “Who can look up your Timeline by name” feature formerly allowed you to limit who could find your profile photo and basic info (friends, friends of friends, or no one). Facebook nixed this feature in December 2012 for anyone who was not using it (i.e. the majority of users). Those who were using the incognito setting were grandfathered in until now: every profile will be searchable. Granted, before this change, you could still be searched via graph search or a non-friend could locate your profile from your activity that showed up in their news feed. While this change may be useful for users trying to locate someone, in the long run, this could hurt Facebook because the reduction in privacy could cause less sharing of personal data, opinions, photos, and content, which is how Facebook generates ad revenue.

II. Google Shared Endorsements

Google Shared Endorsements example screenshotsGoogle has announced shared endorsements, in which user data and activity will be fair game to appear in ads. Much like Facebook sponsored stories, in which advertisers may use the likeness, name, or image of a user who has Liked or engaged with a brand, starting November 11, 2013 Google will display Google+ users’ profile photos and/or reviews in ads on the more than 2 million websites on the Google display network.

Users who have commented on a YouTube video, recommended a product or service, posted a Zagat review, etc. may see their name, photo, and/or comment in an ad. Fortunately, Google is being transparent about the change (unlike Facebook was last year):

To opt out of Google’s shared endorsements, click here, and scroll to the bottom of the page. Uncheck the “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads.” option and hit the blue Save button. It is currently unchecked by default, but Google will set this option to checked by default on November 11, so make sure to come back and uncheck it if you don’t want to participate. –thenextweb.com

Users under 18 are automatically excluded, and if a Google+ post was shared only with a Circle, it will not be fair game for ads.

We all enjoy using the free services provided by Facebook and Google. Is it fair to expect these companies not to use us in return?

III. Online Mugshots

onlinemugshots.com online mugshot searchMugshot websites are increasingly becoming an issue. They started popping up in 2010 and now over 80 websites such as Mugshots.com, BustedMugshots.com, and JustMugshots.com, etc. do heavy advertising and SEO. They can easily be the first results that pop up in searches and image searches of people’s names. The owners of the mugshot sites argue that these images are public record and provide the service of a quick background check. But critics argue the sites border on extortion. Most states have no legislation passed to control mugshot websites, but Oregon, Georgia, and Utah require sites to remove mugshots if a person either provides proof of an expunged record or innocence and/or if they pay a fee. In many states, you can pay anywhere from $30-400 to have your mugshot removed (but at the discretion of the site admins).

Mugshots imply an arrest, not a conviction. Considering that many employers research applicants online, is this easy access to proof of arrest unfairly damaging to people’s reputations? Time and again, the Supreme Court has upheld that mugshots are in the public domain. Emily argues that nothing has changed about the legality here; the Internet is simply making mugshots more accessible instead of having to go to a sheriff’s office in person. Melanie proffers that these mugshot sites can extort innocent people and destroy their chances at success by ruining their reputations online. Also, we consider that class and socioeconomic status enter into the equation of being able to afford a removal request in most states.

Tips on Tap

1) Hugecity – Atlanta startup currently housed at The Goat Farm. Hugecity app places Facebook events on a map and shows where your friends are going. Much love to Atlanta’s startup scene.

2) Nectar app for Blackberry, Windows Phone, iPhone, and Android: This free app gives you bonus points for shopping online and sends your mobile offer reminders when you’re near your favorite store. You can spend your points at various retailers. Related: Moves activity tracker app for iPhone and Android tracks activities like run, cycle, walk etc. and now integrates with 15 other apps like Earndit.

3) PocketEarth – App publisher GeoMagik has a series of travel apps for specific cities that contain offline maps and quick area guides (complete with a brief history of sites). For iOS and available in English, Spanish, French, German, and Russian. Very useful when trying to avoid cell phone data roaming charges abroad.

Sources:

  1. Facebook Gets Rid of Privacy Option And Makes All Users Searchable – ABC News, 10/11/13
  2. Google to Sell Users’ Endorsements – NYTimes, 10/11/13
  3. Mugged by a Mug Shot Online – NYTimes, 10/5/13

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