Quick Hits: Watch Out for Twilight Facebook Scam

In today’s Quick Hits, we warn about a Twilight-focused Facebook scam, offer two op-eds on Internet privacy, and discuss Google Street View.

Facebook and Baidu Planning New Website for China?

According to some anonymous reports coming out of China, Facebook, the world’s largest social networking website, may join with Baidu, China’s largest search engine, on the creation of a new Chinese website. Breaking into the Chinese market is an important goal for numerous American web companies, but the country’s poor track record on human rights issues and censorship has made it difficult.

Facebook Scam Leaches on Popularity of Twilight

The popular Twilight franchise of books and movies has become fodder for Internet criminals on Facebook. According to Mashable, a new “likejacking” scam is sweeping across Facebook using the upcoming Twilight movie as bait. Mashable warns “if you’ve been tagged in a Facebook friend’s photo album or seen a link promoting a Twilight: Breaking Dawn game, be careful. It is likely a scam designed to spread on Facebook and grab your personal data.”

Google Shuts Down Street View in Germany

Google, which has long faced criticism in Germany over its Street View program, has decided to shut it down. According to Time’s Techland blog, Goolge “isn’t taking any of the old Street View pictures down, but they’re not adding or updating any either.” Google only launched Street View in Germany last summer, but it was immediately met with skepticism by German privacy regulators. Google has also had a hard time implementing Street View in other European countries, where privacy is treated as a valuable commodity.

Are Consumers Really Worried About Privacy?

In an op-ed for TechCrunch, Habib Kairouz, managing partner of Rho Ventures, writes that “consumers will willingly render personal information under the right circumstances,” but that “many online companies today have extended their practices way beyond consumers’ tolerance levels.” In other words, Kairouz is saying that consumers are not necessarily worried about privacy so much as they are about controlling access to their information.

The Good Things Companies Do With Private Data

In an op-ed for Slate, Farhad Manjoo argues that excessive regulation of data privacy may lead to a stifling of innovation among Internet companies. Manjoo uses the FTC’s historic privacy settlement with Google over Google Buzz as an example, writing that, while he agrees with the FTC’s decision to take action, “there’s a good chance that privacy regulators—spurred by a public that doesn’t really know what it wants when it comes to online privacy—may go too far, blocking Google from collecting and analyzing information about its users.” Essentially, Manjoo argues that the good things companies do with our private data outweighs the bad things. It’s not an argument that we agree with, but it’s worth reading anyway.

Quick Hits: How Pandora and Similar Apps Shares “Massive Quantities” of User Info

In today’s Quick Hits, we talk about the hidden information in online photos, how certain smartphone apps share user data with advertisers, and Google’s plans to tie compensation into social media success.

Are Online Photos the New Digital Fingerprint?

In an interesting article for CNN, tech writer Mark Milian discusses online photos and how advancing technology has packed digital images with vast amounts of sensitive data. Quoting the article, “a digital photograph is like an onion, and advancements in machine reading and software scanning can help peel back layers to extract information from images. Each layer of a digital picture often contains data about where and when a shot was taken. Rapidly maturing computer algorithms can interpret what or who is in the frame.” Milian goes on to discuss how the data hidden in a digital photo can be used to track a person’s location and other privacy concerns.

Security Researcher Claims Smartphone Apps Share “Mass Quantities” of Personal Information

Federal prosecutors recently began investigating numerous smartphone application developers, including the popular Internet radio company Pandora, to investigate how the firms share personal user data. Maybe they should also talk to Tyler Shields, a senior researcher for the application security testing firm Veracode, whose recent report on third-party apps claims that they share “mass quantities” of personal data with advertisers. This report from InformationWeek discusses the federal investigation, as well as Shields’ research.

Leaked Google Memo Ties Bonus to Social Success

It’s no secret that Google is interested in the social media sphere, but the company’s efforts so far have been met with tepid response compared to the popularity of its main rival, Facebook. However, new Google CEO Larry Page is committed to social success, even outlining a special bonus structure related to the company’s social media efforts. According to leaked documents, Page wrote that bonuses can go up or down “depending on how well we perform against our strategy to integrate relationships, sharing and identity across our products.”

Miss Manners on Boring Facebook Updates

In a recent column, Miss Manners tackled the issue of Internet privacy and how to let your Facebook friends know if you don’t want certain content shared online. In a new column, Miss Manners responds to the annoying issue of boring Facebook updates (such as “Taking a nap,” or “Getting an oil change.”) As usual, her response is nuanced and thoughtful.

Fake Facebook App Steals Passwords

The researchers at security firm Symantec are warning Facebook users about a bogus, password-stealing application that displays the message “Tornado Randomly Appears During Soccer Game.” The fake app leads to a fake log-in page that scrapes the Facebook user’s account information and reposts the video on their wall to snare more victims.

Quick Hits: Sen. Al Franken Keeping an Eye on Epsilon Breach

In today’s Quick Hits, we share some privacy updates from Washington D.C. and a link to 20 of the worst things you could tweet.

Justice Department Opposes Privacy Law Revision

In a report for CNET, Declan McCullogh writes that the U.S. Justice Department has come out against revising the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. According to the report, “James Baker, the associate deputy attorney general, warned that rewriting [the law] to grant cloud computing users more privacy protections and to require court approval before tracking Americans’ cell phones would hinder police investigations.” The law, which was written well before the personal computing era, has been difficult for judges to interpret in the context of today’s technology.

Sen. Al Franken and Others Monitoring Epsilon Breach

In a statement, Sen. Al Franken, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s new privacy panel, spoke out about the recent Epsilon data breach saying “we need to give Americans more awareness about who has their information and greater ability to protect it.” Franken is one of many legislators interested in the Epsilon breach and its implications for personal privacy. According to Politico, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Reps. Mary Bono Mack and G.K. Butterfield are also keeping tabs on the situation.

Terror Alert Warnings Coming to Facebook and Twitter

According to an AP report, the government is planning to use the popular social networking websites Facebook and Twitter to warn citizens about changes in the terrorism threat levels. Quoting the story, “The U.S. government’s new system to replace the five color-coded terror alerts will have two levels of warnings — elevated and imminent — that will be relayed to the public only under certain circumstances for limited periods of time, sometimes using Facebook and Twitter.” Before posting the warning to the social media sites, however, “federal, state and local government leaders will have already been notified.”

Facebook’s Messaging Overhaul is Complex

In a report for CNN, Mark Milian describes Facebook’s ongoing overhaul of its messaging system and why it is the company’s most complex project to date. According to the article, “in the time since cementing the concept and in the months since beginning the rollout with much fanfare, [Facebook’s] engineers have run into some monumental hurdles.” Facebook is continuing to work on the project, but the company’s slow progress underlies just how big of a change this could be to Internet communications.

20 Terrible Tweets

We’ve come so far thanks to technology. With Twitter, it only takes 140 characters to ruin your reputation. In this interesting feature for the Telegraph, Matthew Moore highlights 20 of the worst ways to use Twitter and explains why each one is so terrible for your followers.

Quick Hits: Teacher Sued for Making Fun of Student on Facebook

In today’s Quick Hits, more fallout for the Chicago teacher who made fun of one of the students online, insight into how a social engineering scam operates, and and news about California’s newly introduced Do Not Track legislation.

Chicago Teacher Sued for Mocking Student on Facebook

Last week, I shared the story of a Chicago public school teacher who was suspended for posting a photo of a student online and mocking it with her friends. Now, the teacher is facing a lawsuit over the issue, with the student’s mother alleging that the incident caused the seven-year-old girl “emotional distress.” Chicago Public Schools is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Bank Employee Fired After Criticizing Boss on Facebook

A UK bank employee was recently fired after sharing a post on Facebook criticizing the amount of money the CEO of her bank earned compared to her salary. Despite the fact that the employee was fired only hours after the post, the bank has stated that the Facebook comment had nothing to do with the decision. According to an official statement, “the work she had been brought in to do was coming to an end and so she was given her notice. It was only after the notice was served that the comments she made on Facebook then came to light.”

The Story of a (Nearly) Successful Facebook Scam

In an engaging report for CBS News, Charles Cooper writes about how he nearly fell for a scam on Facebook. The story illustrates how cyber criminals are using sophisticated social engineering to craft persuasive scams by pretending to be a friend or loved one in need of help. Cooper was able to uncover the truth through some clever questioning, but not all Facebook users are that savvy. A particularly popular target for social engineering attacks are grandparents, who are tricked into believing that their grandchild is in trouble via a phony Facebook message.

How Companies Really Treat Your Personal Data

In a great article for Forbes, Erika Morphy offers an interpretation of a “Dear Customer” letter from one of the companies affected by the massive Epsilon data breach. Morphy’s sharply satiric letter shows how companies really feel about personal data and why they don’t take the appropriate actions to protect personal information (because it costs more money, because they’re not legally obligated to, and because they don’t really know how).

Do Not Track Law Introduced in California Senate

According to the Los Angeles Times, “California is putting itself in position to lead the fight for increased online privacy by trying to pass the country’s first so-called do-not-track law to keep personal data from being grabbed off the Internet. Legislation by state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) would create a mechanism to allow users of smartphones, tablets, computers and any other device that accesses the Internet to tell website operators they don’t want their online habits monitored.” The Times article goes into the specifics of the bill and offers a strong analysis of the current state of affairs regarding do not track and Internet privacy legislation.

Quick Hits: Feds Investigate Third-Party Mobile Applications

In today’s Quick Hits, we talk about the Epsilon data breach and a federal investigation into how smart phone applications use personal information from users, among other hot topics.

Federal Prosecutors Investigate Information-Sharing Practices Among Smart Phone Applications

The Wall Street Journal reports that “federal prosecutors in New Jersey are investigating whether numerous smartphone applications illegally obtained or transmitted information about their users without proper disclosures.” The online streaming music website Pandora was one of the companies contacted as part of the investigation. The probe may not necessarily involve criminal charges, but is the first attempt by government officials to investigate the multi-billion dollar mobile app industry.

What is Epsilon and Why Does it Matter?

In a well-written and level-headed article for MSNBC’s The Red Tape Chronicles, consumer advocate Bob Sullivan talks about the recent data breach at the e-mail marketing management firm Epsilon. In his report, Sullivan explains why the Epsilon breach matters to consumers and the steps they can take to protect themselves from identity theft.

Sullivan also talks about the greater issues related to the data mining industry and speaks with privacy experts, including Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Web Companies Fight Back Against French Information Directive

In an effort to protect user privacy and information, “more than 20 Web firms active in France, including Google, Facebook and eBay, have filed a complaint against a decree that requires them to store users’ emails, passwords and other information for a year.” According to The Hill, “the decree requires e-commerce firms to store that information, as well as telephone numbers, password hints, mailing addresses and pseudonyms, for up to a year so the data can be used by police or other authorities as part of an investigation.”

Swiss Court Rules that Google Street View Violates Privacy Rights

According to a PCWorld report, “a Swiss court has ruled that Google is breaching citizens’ right to privacy with its Street View service and should take greater steps to obscure people caught by its cameras.” Google Street View has also faced criticism in Germany, where regulators obligated Google to provide a tool that would allow individuals to have their homes or business blurred out.

Mario Armstrong Offers Online Reputation Management Advice on The Early Show

Digital lifestyle expert Mario Armstrong appeared as a guest this morning on The Early Show on CBS. During his segment, Mario talked with The Early Show’s Chris Wragge about the importance of online reputation management. In addition to some great advice on how to keep your reputation looking good online, Mario also gave a nice shout-out to Reputation.com.

Check out the segment in the video above. For more great tech advice from Mario Armstrong, visit his official website or follow him on Twitter.

Quick Hits: Photoshop Scam Sweeps Across Facebook

In today’s Quick Hits, we talk about a new Facebook scam, how one chef’s online rant may have hurt his credibility, and Consumer Watchdog’s aggressive demands for new Google CEO Larry Page.

Facebook Photoshop Scam Affects Over 600,000 Users

A new scam is sweeping across Facebook at incredible speeds, racking up more than 600,000 victims in just a short time. According to The Atlantic, the scam works like this: “On their Facebook Chat window, users are receiving messages from friends that read, “hey, i just made a photoshop of you.” The message includes a link to a third-party application that asks for access to your profile, access you’ve likely granted to dozens of outside apps in the past. Once you’ve fallen for the trick, the app distracts you with pictures of animals with human-like faces as it quickly goes to work spamming your Facebook friends via Chat.” If you get a message on Facebook like the one described, do not click on the link.

Chef Reveals He Ignored Gluten-Free Requests in Facebook Post

A chef who formerly worked at the New York City restaurant Tavern on the Green may have hurt his ability to get another high profile cooking job after posting a rant on Facebook describing how he ignored diners’ requests for gluten-free food and served them gluten-packed food anyway. According to the New York Daily News, the chef’s rant has been picked up by popular food blogs and is gaining significant attention on websites dedicated to Celiac disease – a disorder linked to gluten consumption.

Allure.com: Why Do You Post Photos on Facebook?

Responding to a study that claims women post more photos online to gain approval and esteem, Allure.com writer Elizabeth Angell asks readers to offer their own opinion on the subject. Angell argues that the researcher’s conclusions aren’t necessarily accurate and that women post content to social networking websites because they like to stay connected.

Consumer Watchdog Challenges New Google CEO to Support Do Not Track

According to The Hill, consumer privacy group Consumer Watchdog has challenged new Google CEO Larry Page “to support a Do-Not-Track regime for Internet privacy outlined in a California state bill.” The challenge comes as Page takes over for departing CEO Eric Schmidt, who was criticized by many privacy advocates for his official stance on privacy issues. Schmidt will remain at Google in an advisory position.

Forbes Op-Ed Calls Adoption of Privacy Regulation the “Birth of the Privacy Tax”

In an op-ed for Forbes, Adam Thierer, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, argues that Internet privacy legislation would be harmful to businesses and consumers and would eventually results in the “birth of the privacy tax.” Thierer argues that privacy advocates haven’t made a clear case for privacy harm and, therefore, haven’t shown the need for privacy regulations. However, Thierer focuses only on the issue of Internet advertising in his editorial, rather than on the more insidious kinds of data abuse going on among data miners and information aggregators.

Quick Hits: Facebook Sued for One Billion Dollars

In today’s Quick Hits, a man sues Facebook for one billion dollars, a man donates a kidney to a Facebook friend, and a teacher calls her students “future criminals” online. And no, these stories are not April Fool’s Day jokes.

Former Senate Candidate Sues Facebook for One Billion Dollars

Former Justice Department prosecutor and U.S. Senate candidate Larry Klayman is suing Facebook for an unbelievable one billion dollars over a claim that the company didn’t work quickly enough to remove a page calling for a third Palestinian intifada against Israeli Jews. Facebook removed the offending page, which had garnered 340,000 fans, on March 29th.

Google +1 Seeks to Improve Google’s Social Credibility

Despite being one of the most successful technology companies on the planet, Google has so far been unable to crack the code of social networking. All of the company’s efforts to date have been met with lackluster response by users, all while Facebook has grown by leaps and bounds. With its latest effort, the +1 Button, Google hopes to have finally figured out social by incorporating a recommendation engine into its search results. This article from CNN Tech discusses +1 and how it may or may not be a success for Google.

Facebook Claims 250 Million Mobile Users

Facebook’s unprecedented growth has expanded the company beyond the realm of the desktop computer to the lucrative (and possibly dangerous) world of the mobile phone. According to recent Facebook statistics, over 250 million users visit the set via their mobile phones. That doesn’t include the individuals who access Facebook via dedicated smartphone applications. As more and more people use Facebook via mobile devices, is there an increased risk to user data?

Man Donates Kidney to Facebook Friend

In perhaps the ultimate test of Facebook friendship, a Michigan man donated one of his kidneys to a stranger on Facebook after seeing a message asking for help from the man’s wife. The transplant occurred recently, and both men are doing well.

Teacher Investigated Over Facebook Comments About Students

Another day, another story about a teacher who didn’t think before posting on Facebook. In New Jersey, an elementary school teacher is under investigation by school administrators after leaving comments on her Facebook page that said she felt like a ‘warden” taking care of “future criminals.” The teacher has been suspended pending a full investigation.

Sen. John Kerry Says He “Misspoke” Regarding Google’s Commitment to Privacy Legislation

According to the office of Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Kerry “misspoke” yesterday when he said that Google was on-board with his efforts to develop and pass Internet privacy legislation. Kerry’s office reports that the Senator has “discussed the bill with Google officials but those talks are still ongoing.” Sen. Kerry’s online privacy bill is just one piece of legislation floating around Congress as consumer demand for privacy protection heats up.

Erasing the Digital Past: Reputation.com Profiled in The New York Times

New York Times Profiles Reputation.com

In a new feature for the New York Times, Nick Bilton explores the growing business of online reputation management and why it is critical for individuals and businesses to take a vested interest in how they appear online.

In the article, Bilton talks with Reputation.com CEO Michael Fertik about how negative content can spread like “metastasized cancer,” causing an individual’s personal and professional life to fall apart under the weight of negative search results and an inaccurate online image.

For those unfamiliar with online reputation management, Bilton’s piece delivers a compelling introduction to the subject. In his interviews with Michael Fertik and other ORM experts, as well as victims of defamatory attacks online like Internet personality Julia Allison, Bilton shows why online reputation management matters and how services like Reputation.com can help.

In one telling quote, Reputation.com CEO Michael Fertik summaries the way that the social web has made online reputation management a necessity:

“Social networks, online comments and oversharing online have created a threat to everyone’s reputation and privacy. Now people are trying to figure out how to put that toothpaste back in the bottle.”

If you’re one of those people trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube and you need help, contact Reputation.com today. Our team of advanced client solutions providers can help you determine the best course of action to protect your reputation and manage negative content online. To learn more about our proactive reputation management solutions, check out MyReputation or call us at 877-735-3058.

Video of GoDaddy CEO Shooting Elephant Creates Internet Uproar

In another example of how an ill-conceived Internet post can have grave repercussions for business, GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons has thrust his company into the angry crosshairs of the Web after posting a video showing him shooting an elephant during an African hunt. The domain registration company is known for pushing the limits with its salacious and sometimes controversial Super Bowl commercials, but this controversy may actually cause harm to the GoDaddy brand.

According to Mashable, the video shows Parsons shooting the elephant during a trip to Zimbabwe. Parsons claims that he did nothing wrong in killing the elephant, because it was destroying a local farmer’s crops and he was given permission to hunt it. Most Internet commenters aren’t happy with the explanation, however, and it already seems to be hurting GoDaddy’s business.

After animal rights group PETA found the footage on Parsons’ blog, the organization immediately began leading the charge to have customers dump the company for a different registrar. Picking up on the groundswell of anger against GoDaddy, rival domain registrar NameCheap.com has begun a special offer allowing GoDaddy customers to switch their domains to NameCheap for .99, with proceeds going to an elephant preservation charity.

There’s no word yet on how many people have taken PETA’s lead and switched registrars, but “GoDaddy CEO” has been a top trending topic on Twitter for hours now and searches for GoDaddy briefly caused the story to appear on Google’s “Hot Topics” list.

While Parsons is unlikely to apologize for shooting the elephant, this story demonstrates how a business leader’s personal postings can have a significant impact on a company’s online reputation. The Internet reacts extremely quickly to these stories. In some cases, the outrage reaches a crescendo and quickly dies with no major damage. In other cases, however, Internet anger is enough to cause a company considerable financial risk and long-term reputation damage.

Only time will tell which of these two outcomes faces GoDaddy.com.