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How Facebook Can Out Your Most Personal Secrets 467

Posted by samzenpus
from the mind-your-own-business dept.
McGruber writes "The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Facebook revealed the sexual preferences of users despite those users have chosen 'privacy lock-down' settings on Facebook. The article describes two students who were casualties of a privacy loophole on Facebook—the fact that anyone can be added to a group by a friend without their approval. As a result, the two lost control over their secrets, even though both students were sophisticated users who had attempted to use Facebook's privacy settings to shield some of their activities from their parents. Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes responded with a statement blaming the users: 'Our hearts go out to these young people. Their unfortunate experience reminds us that we must continue our work to empower and educate users about our robust privacy controls.'"
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How Facebook Can Out Your Most Personal Secrets

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  • Truly horrible. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by noh8rz9 (2716595) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @05:39PM (#41652085)
    this is a tragedy... I'm truly sorry for the students who were violated. No snark from me today...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by agm (467017)

      What's truly horrible is how this girls father acted. Threatening your own child because they have a preference you don't agree with? What a barbarian. What's the bet he believes in invisible friends?

      • Re:Truly horrible. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by quasius (1075773) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @06:14PM (#41652323)
        If you can figure out what's wrong with responding to an article about a rape with "what's the bet he's black?," you can figure out what's wrong with your post. If you cannot, you're probably a bigot.
        • Re:Truly horrible. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by DarwinSurvivor (1752106) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @06:26PM (#41652399)
          Not all religious people are bigots (my personal experience is that very few actually are), however I have yet to meet a bigot who WASN'T religious, thus in my opinion the GP's statement appears to be fairly valid. Want proof? Just look at the list of organizations that supported proposition 8 in California.
          • Re:Truly horrible. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Solandri (704621) on Monday October 15, 2012 @04:25AM (#41655485)
            Actually, my experience has been that most religious bigots aren't actually religious. They are bigots first and foremost, or rather psychotic or borderline psychotic and just want to be able to hate and do bad things to other people. They will latch onto whatever convenient excuse they can come up with to justify their behavior, such as citing specific parts of religious texts out of context while ignoring the parts which contradict their behavior. e.g. abusive husbands citing the Bible verse telling wives to obey their husbands, while completely unaware of the very next verse which tells husbands to love their wives. Even in the complete absence of organized religion (e.g. Communist China), you still see widespread bigotry in the form of prejudice based on what region of the country someone comes from.

            My current hypothesis is that there's just something about human nature which makes us want to feel superior to others. That can manifest itself as being religiously moral (e.g. judging others by values they don't believe in), adhering to science and atheism (e.g. the constant bashing of religion on slashdot), coming from a more "sophisticated" cultural background (e.g. characterization of Southerners as backwards uneducated "trailer trash"), high school cliques (the stereotypical jocks vs nerds), belief in conspiracy theories ("how can you be so naive as to believe the government"), and even gossip ("I know something you don't know" and presumably that makes me superior). My guess as to the mechanism behind it is that people don't have enough time (nor interest) to join every social group there is. Consequently they try to seek self-affirmation of the groups they belong to (even when there wasn't a choice, such as what region of the country you come from). If your group is better than others, then obviously you made a better choice or were luckier at birth and thus are a superior human being.
            • Re:Truly horrible. (Score:4, Insightful)

              by AmiMoJo (196126) <.ten.3dlrow. .ta. .ojom.> on Monday October 15, 2012 @07:59AM (#41656197) Homepage

              Actually, my experience has been that most religious bigots aren't actually religious.

              The No True Scotsman argument? The frequency with which it is invoked in cases like this merits its renaming to the "No True Believer" argument IMHO.

              abusive husbands citing the Bible verse telling wives to obey their husbands, while completely unaware of the very next verse which tells husbands to love their wives.

              The Bible is terrible for being extremely vague when it really counts. "Love" your wife? So it's okay to beat her if it's for her own good, to help her become a good wife? Strangely the "obey" bit is quite clear, probably unrelated to it being written by a man I imagine.

        • Re:Truly horrible. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @07:39PM (#41652917)
          What, Black people are holding public demonstrations with signs "un-raped white women are going to hell"?

          One group was wrongly associated with a "bad" act. The other purposefully and deliberately associated themselves with a "bad" act, and continues to spend millions to support that association. I don't see the correlation. What, you believe in an invisible friend, but don't like being lumped with the others that claim to believe in the same imaginary friend?
    • Re:Truly horrible. (Score:5, Informative)

      by jhoegl (638955) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @06:22PM (#41652379)
      Dont put personal shit on the internet, ever.
      unless you are ok with it getting out, because that is inevitable.
      • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @09:44PM (#41653633)
        This is not just about what you do online, it is about what you and all the people you associate with do online. I am not on Facebook, yet Facebook still manages to collect information about me (and spread it around): people "tag" me in photos, sometimes people invite me to join Facebook, and people might mention me in messages they send to each other on Facebook (including public messages). So despite the fact that I have no Facebook account, at least part of my personal life is being collected by that system.

        That is the point of TFA. These people did not announce their sexual orientation on Facebook, someone else did, without their permission.
        • by fatphil (181876)
          The someone else, of course, is not Facebook. Facebook is merely the medium which enables others to propagate information about you against your will.

          Facebook is merely the toilet wall.
      • RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BeanThere (28381) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @10:48PM (#41653977)

        Read The Fucking Article - she didn't put the information on there, someone else did (and Facebook's extremely poor privacy controls allowed it). That was kind of the point:

        ... the president of the Queer Chorus, a choir group she had recently joined, inadvertently exposed Ms. Duncan's sexuality to her nearly 200 Facebook friends, including her father, by adding her to a Facebook Inc. discussion group

        Do you understand what this is about? Facebook allows other people to add you to groups - in other words, your 'friends' can basically edit an aspect of your profile. It's bizarrely stupid, and has been a common complaint for a long time, and this wouldn't have happened if Facebook didn't do this, but Facebook defends this practice.

        • by Dinghy (2233934)

          Facebook allows other people to add you to groups - in other words, your 'friends' can basically edit an aspect of your profile. It's bizarrely stupid, and has been a common complaint for a long time, and this wouldn't have happened if Facebook didn't do this, but Facebook defends this practice.

          To be honest, the same effect would result if one of her friends posted "Hey, what's it like being a lesbian?" on her wall. I don't see anyone advocating a way to prevent that from happening.

          The easier lesson from all this is that if you're going to try to keep secrets, but be active on social media, eventually you're going to get burned.

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @05:39PM (#41652089)

    Privacy concerns part of it.

    Requiring that I provide a legitimate phone number for each of my farmville bot accounts was most of it. But farmville was the main reason I was logging on in the first place. I would have never given them any legitimate information after the first half dozen privacy dumps.

    Plus- it just sucked the way they kept colliding and smashing up different groups of friends and different groups of relatives and causing me grief in my personal life.

    So I cut them loose. And haven't missed them since.

    • by ColaMan (37550) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @06:22PM (#41652373) Homepage Journal

      Robust privacy controls', my arse.

      I've been added to several,er, 'fairly extreme view' groups without my confirmation/consent. It's a damn nuisance, and I unsubscribe from them as soon as I notice.

      But generally I just seem to spend my hour or two a week on facebook turning off all the 'texas hold-em' and other crappy 'OMG!'-type apps so they don't clutter my news feed. I need a checkbox that I can tick that says, 'I only care about what my friends actually post, please discard all application-generated posts'.

      Somehow I don't think that one will be turning up any time soon.....

      • by QuasiSteve (2042606) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @07:15PM (#41652763)

        I'm about to chew out one of the "don't post it if you don't want it known" commenters, hit refresh to see if somebody else already did, and got distracted by you post.

        As much as I dislike facebook, you seem to be unaware of its workings (when they work and don't 'accidentally' break, etc.).

        Only friends can add you to a group (unless school group, etc.). If you're being added to 'fairly extreme view' groups, then I guess you have 'fairly extreme view' facebook 'friends'. If you'd rather not be part of those groups, you may wish to review the status of that 'friendship'. If you value the 'friendship' but would prefer that you don't get added to any groups, there was (is?) a trick: join meaningless groups to hit the group limit, then ignore everything from those groups. When you want to join a group, drop one of those groups and join up. Down side: if one of those groups becomes meaningful, you may become associated with those.

        For applications, you can actually ignore the application. Upper right corner of the application's post, hit ignore.

        Alternatively, go to your account settings, privacy, edit settings, 'applications and websites', disable platform applications.

        Until it 'accidentally' breaks. Or facebook makes another change for the benefit of their users, then waits to see if the criticism is bad enough to reverse the change (at which point the damage is already done), or take their losses from the vocal few leave the change intact because it's a net positive.

        • by Lisias (447563) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @07:50PM (#41652977) Homepage Journal

          f you're being added to 'fairly extreme view' groups, then I guess you have 'fairly extreme view' facebook 'friends'. If you'd rather not be part of those groups, you may wish to review the status of that 'friendship'.

          I strongly disagree. I have religious friends, I have gay friends, I have some few extreme guys as friends.

          These groups does not mix up, but these people are my friends nevertheless.

          If all your "friends" think as you, act as you and looks as you, this is not friendship. This is narcissism.

      • by knorthern knight (513660) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @07:52PM (#41652987)

        > I've been added to several,er, 'fairly extreme view' groups without my confirmation/consent.

        Mark Zuckerberg was added to NAMBLA without his consent. http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2010/10/07/mark-zuckerberg-joins-the-north-american-man-boy-love-association-and-other-adventures-in-facebook-groups/ [forbes.com]

        > Though some have questioned Calacanis's story, Facebook's own FAQ
        > confirms that anyone can be added to a group without his or her consent:
        > "Can I prevent people from adding me to a new group?" is answered by
        > "The functionality of approving a group membership is not available."

        It's one thing to join a private gay web forum, but with "Facebook" and "private" do not belong in the same sentence. I'm retired, so my right-of-centre views (Canadian "right wing" === USA "mushy middle") won't be able to hurt any potential career. But for anybody who needs a job to pay bills and put food on the table, Facebook is a timebomb waiting to go off.

  • Privacy will soon be the most sought-after world commodity, and unfortunately we can't get in the middle east.
    • by tooyoung (853621)
      It is always interesting to see the difference in comments regarding privacy when reading Facebook and Google stories. When discussing Facebook, it seems that our privacy is being assaulted and it is a massive concern. On the recent Google privacy stories, the most common comments that I see are about how great targeted advertising is and there is no concern about companies collecting information.
  • That they like to be f*cked by corporate champions?
    Well I could've told you that.
  • Better title (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cheesecake23 (1110663) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @05:45PM (#41652133)

    I preferred the title given to the Facebook spokesman in the summary originally written by the submitter [slashdot.org]:

    Facebook spokesprick Andrew Noyes responded with a statement blaming the users ...

  • Robust, huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quinn_Inuit (760445) <Quinn_InuitNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Sunday October 14, 2012 @05:49PM (#41652159)
    I wonder how fast they'll fix this issue after major political figures start getting added to "Gay Studs" and "Scouting for Sex" groups?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I wonder how fast they'll fix this issue after major political figures start getting added to "Gay Studs" and "Scouting for Sex" groups?

      Most of the Republicans are in those groups already.

  • by mpeskett (1221084) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @05:52PM (#41652183)

    Maybe I'm missing something, but if the loophole here is that you can be added to a group without your involvement or active consent, then surely that gives you an out when your ignorant homophobe of a father sees that you're associated with a queer choir group - say it was a case of mistaken identity or a prank or a troll or anything else you like.

    That said, I don't think it's a non-issue when group membership can leak actual or apparent private information; ought to be a simple fix to make it ask before you're added to any group and then the whole problem goes away without anyone getting interrogated about groups they're attached to. The existence of potential deniability doesn't remove the issue, just provides at least some way of coping with problems casued until it's actually fixed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BradleyUffner (103496)

      Maybe I'm missing something, but if the loophole here is that you can be added to a group without your involvement or active consent, then surely that gives you an out when your ignorant homophobe of a father sees that you're associated with a queer choir group - say it was a case of mistaken identity or a prank or a troll or anything else you like.

      That said, I don't think it's a non-issue when group membership can leak actual or apparent private information; ought to be a simple fix to make it ask before you're added to any group and then the whole problem goes away without anyone getting interrogated about groups they're attached to. The existence of potential deniability doesn't remove the issue, just provides at least some way of coping with problems casued until it's actually fixed.

      Ignorant homophobes don't often require much proof.

    • by 1u3hr (530656)

      say it was a case of mistaken identity or a prank or a troll or anything else you like.

      It's one thing to not tell your parents something, it's quite another to directly lie to them. Besides, it would probably be pretty easy to verify the facts, e.g. look at the gay group's site, see picture of your daughter at an event.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @05:55PM (#41652213)

    'Our hearts go out to these young people. Their unfortunate experience reminds us that we must continue our work to empower and educate users about our robust privacy controls.'"

    How about instead of giving them some false sympathies deep fried and battered in guilt, served with a side of buzzwords, you put your money where your mouth is? You people don't have a heart to speak of, so it's not going out anywhere -- so why not send them something you actually value, like the cash you earned in extra publicity and selling of their personal data after you outed them?

    Your entire business model is built on invasive marketing, selling people's personal data to the highest bidder, and despite numerous high-profile security and privacy failings, including pictures that don't get deleted off servers and remain publicly accessible for years after they've been pulled from user profiles and indefinate storage of all data ever submitted to facebook, even after it has been deleted and the profile removed, you people still have the gumption to say you have "robust" privacy controls? Screw you. Give the kids some money, then maybe I'll believe you actually give a damn.

  • Rubbish! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bogaboga (793279) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @06:02PM (#41652269)

    "Their unfortunate experience reminds us that we must continue our work to empower and educate users about our robust privacy controls."

    To this statement I say: Rubbish!

    It's just standard boilerplate rhetoric. It's sad, sad indeed. But can one please remind me of what I am losing by intentionally refusing to join Facebook?

    I should add that even without Facebook, I am doing pretty good so far. What am I missing?

  • Again and again (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuperTechnoNerd (964528) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @06:07PM (#41652287)
    I am getting tired of people seemingly surprised when facebook does something not in their best interest - especially privacy wise...

    That's what they are in business for. To get and aggregate as much info about you as possible. Security, loopholes, and privacy are secondary. In fact privacy is a dirty word in facebook land. If you give you secrets and info on face book and think only the people you want to know - know, Your nuts. You have told the world. If you want privacy, then don't join the facebook privacy abomination. It's funny that people (like my aunt) think face book is doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, bringing people together,.. Nothing is further from the truth..

    Don't try to un-friend me since i'm not there.. ever..
  • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @06:14PM (#41652329)

    If one user gets it wrong - sure, that's a dumb user.
    Ten? Yeah.
    100? Probably still that, considering how many users FaceBook has.

    But they should really take a clue from Coursera - in Daphne Koller's TED talk on Coursera [youtube.com] she touches on something very similar, namely students having misconceptions on a subject, and how they instead sort of blame the course material, and help correct the students' misconceptions.

    This, by the way, is something we see entirely too little of in many types of development.

    Not just software - the Stockholm Metro system has automatic gates that open and close to let you through, if you have a valid electronic ticket. And people get hit by those gates and in some cases hurt or stuck.

    The company's response? Educate the users on how to use a fucking automatic door!

    Honestly, when I read that, I felt like hitting the spokes person in the face and telling him that he obviously needs to be educated in the use of my fist.

  • Just say NO! (Score:5, Informative)

    by jenningsthecat (1525947) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @06:16PM (#41652337)

    It's too bad this happened, but perhaps it will convince some people to simply not use Facebook. Facebook's habit of raping users' privacy shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who uses a computer - they've done it many times, and it's been big news.

    Users don't pay Facebook any money, so they have no reasonable expectation of ANY standard of privacy, service, or redress, and Facebook has no 'duty of care' obligations. So it's really quite simple - don't use Facebook, and if you DO insist on using it, then A), don't post anything from which your secrets might even be deduced, and B), prepare to suffer the consequences when, (not if), your secrets are revealed.

    It's been said before, and it bears repeating: when you aren't paying for a service, then YOU ARE THE PRODUCT. If you don't want to be treated as a product, don't use the service.

    • by Teckla (630646)

      It's too bad this happened, but perhaps it will convince some people to simply not use Facebook. Facebook's habit of raping users' privacy shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who uses a computer - they've done it many times, and it's been big news.

      Facebook is evil to the core. They've had countless "oops, I did it again" moments. Zuckerberg himself considers Facebook users idiots for trusting him. They raped investors with their IPO. They continue to "oops" and it has very serious consequences on a lot of people's lives.

      Nobody should be using Facebook.

      Nobody.

  • by Fnord666 (889225) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @07:18PM (#41652785) Journal

    That night, Ms. Duncan's father left vitriolic messages on her phone, demanding she renounce same-sex relationships,

    He then went back to spanking his monkey to the lesbian porn DVD he had been watching before all of this happened.

  • by Legion303 (97901) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @07:25PM (#41652837) Homepage

    "robust privacy controls"

    laughing...too hard...make coherent...post...hang on a sec

  • Keeping info private on Facebook is like living in a dorm with no locks on the doors that go from the hallway to the rooms, and you are only allowed to lock or unlock your own windows.

                You can bar your dorm room window, wall it up with bricks, etc. But every so often an RA comes around and quietly unlocks it again without saying anything. On top of that, your lazy neighbors dont bother locking THEIR windows. EVER.

            What happens is eventually some prick climbs through either your window you THOUGHT was locked, or even worse, your neighbor's window. Next thing you know your "stuff" is missing because the burglar just went from the neighbor's unlocked window, through his room, and through your interior door.

    Dont like it? then move out of the dorm. thats the only answer to security. Sure you dont get a cool place to hang out with your freinds, keep in touch, etc. but your "stuff" is safe.

  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @09:35PM (#41653583) Journal
    Tell them to not use facebook.

    Seriously, your privacy is in the hands of your friends of friends. Can anyone guarantee that all his friends of friends are "sophisticated" users?

    No matter how hard you try, people with a camera will take shots of you and tag you or will talk about you. No settings will save you from that (I believe you can now deactivate tagging of your name, right?)

    Facebook privacy model is broken. Quite possibly by design. If you want privacy about tour friends, your opinions, your sexuality, DO. NOT. USE. FACEBOOK.
  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Monday October 15, 2012 @12:13AM (#41654443)
    The core problem with Facebook is that you have to rely upon the sanity and judgement of your Facebook friends to protect your privacy.

    .
    Choose your Facebook friends wisely.

    • by sarbonn (1796548)
      The problem with "choose your Facebook friends wisely" is that not everyone uses Facebook as a friend matcher. I'm a writer who accepts a lot of invites from people because they've read one of my books and are interested in learning more about me. This means that I have a LOT of people as "friends" who I don't know. And for awhile, I was fine with that. This was before Facebook turned into a shrill for trying to make money in any way possible (because their original model wasn't working). What has emerged i

An Ada exception is when a routine gets in trouble and says 'Beam me up, Scotty'.

Working...