Facebook Debuts a ‘Privacy Checkup’ Tool to Help You Better Control Your Data

Facebook Debuts a ‘Privacy Checkup’ Tool to Help You Better Control Your Data

Image via Reuters.

On Thursday, Facebook released a new tool to help you understand and control your privacy settings on the site. 

First announced back in April, the Privacy Checkup tool lets you see and adjust who can view your data, as well as which apps can access it. It is navigated, curiously, with the help of a nameless blue dinosaur –– let’s call him Clippyosaurus –– who pops up now and then and reminds you to review your privacy settings to “make sure they’re set up the way you want.”

Per the company’s blog post:

“Today, we’re starting to roll out Privacy Checkup, which helps you review and control who you’re sharing with.

“We know you come to Facebook to connect with friends, not with us. But we also know how important it is to be in control of what you share and who you share with.”

The release is likely a move for Facebook to improve its public image, which has been marred by several privacy scandals in the past several years.

The Privacy Checkup tool attempts to both simplify the process of changing your sharing settings and demystify whom you’re sharing with.

The tool isn’t a cure-all. While it might help you better understand what you’re sharing and with whom, for example, it doesn’t change the fact that Facebook farms out your detailed personal data to advertisers for profit by default. (Click here to find out how to turn off that lovely feature.)

Anyway, below is a quick run-through of how the tool works:

When you access your privacy settings via the lock symbol in the upper-right corner of Facebook’s navigation bar, your (Mac-using?) dinosaur friend will appear and be like, “Hey, privacy, blah blah blah.”

Facebook’s Privacy Checkup

After you click Privacy Checkup, a box will pop up on your screen. Via this tool, you can monitor Your Posts, Your Apps, and Your Profile.

The first page is a basic run-through of who can see the updates you write on your page.

Facebook Privacy Checkup screenshot

The second is a survey of which apps are connected to your Facebook. I’ll admit it’s nice to have quick access to this, as I often try out an app once or twice and then forget about it. With this tool, I can remove its access to my data with one click. You can also adjust who sees your activity on the app.

Facebook Privacy Checkup screenshot

Finally, you’re shown all the basic personal info on your profile and given the choice to adjust what it says and who sees it.

Facebook Privacy Checkup screenshot

That’s all it does! At the very least, this simplifies the convoluted process of adjusting your privacy that’s caused so many problems in the past.

Follow Alyssa Bereznak on Twitter


Twitter Begins Testing a ‘Buy’ Button for Instant Purchases

Twitter Testing a ‘Buy’ Button in Tweets

Twitter on Monday began testing “buy buttons” that let people make purchases directly from marketing posts fired off at the globally popular one-to-many messaging service.

The move comes as Twitter works to ramp up its appeal to people curious about what is happening at any given moment and to advertisers eager to connect with them.

“This is an early step in our building functionality into Twitter to make shopping from mobile devices convenient and easy, hopefully even fun,” group product manager Tarun Jain said in an online post.

“In our test, the entire purchase can be completed in just a few taps.”

The test was limited to a small group of Twitter users in the United States who access the service from mobile devices powered by Apple or Android software, according to Jain.

Users will have the option of having payment and shipping information encrypted and stored to speed up future purchases.

“We’ll be starting the test with a group of artists, brands and nonprofit organizations, so follow them now and look out for great products over the coming weeks,” Jain said.

The list of launch partners included Home Depot, Burberry, The Nature Conservancy, Soundgarden and Twenty One Pilots.

Tapping into e-commerce
Advertisers will be able to pay to “promote” Twitter messages featuring buy buttons the same way other marketing tweets can be more prominently displayed.

Financial terms of the buy button arrangement were not disclosed.

In July, Facebook began testing a feature that lets users of the leading social network make purchases by simply pressing an on-screen “Buy” button.

The test was limited to a few small- or medium-sized businesses in the United States.

“People on desktop or mobile can click the ‘Buy’ call-to-action button on ads and page posts to purchase a product directly from a business, without leaving Facebook,” the California-based Internet titan said in an online post.

The intent was to gauge the potential to drive retail sales through the Facebook newsfeed or on pages at the online social network, the post indicated.

Social networks are eager to seize the potential of tapping into e-commerce, especially as purchases using smartphones or tablet computers grow increasingly common.


Orkut shutting down September 30

Ten years ago, Orkut was Google’s first foray into social networking. Built as a “20 percent” project, Orkut communities started conversations, and forged connections, that had never existed before. Orkut helped shape life online before people really knew what “social networking” was.

Over the past decade, YouTube, Blogger and Google+ have taken off, with communities springing up in every corner of the world. Because the growth of these communities has outpaced Orkut’s growth, we’ve decided to bid Orkut farewell (or, tchau). We’ll be focusing our energy and resources on making these other social platforms as amazing as possible for everyone who uses them.

We will shut down Orkut on September 30, 2014. Until then, there will be no impact on current Orkut users, to give the community time to manage the transition. People can export their profile data, community posts and photos using Google Takeout (available until September 2016). Starting today, it will not be possible to create a new Orkut account.

Orkut, the service, may be going away, but all of those incredible communities Orkut users have created will live on. We are preserving an archive of all public communities, which will be available online starting September 30, 2014. If you don’t want your posts or name to be included in the community archive, you can remove Orkut permanently from your Google account. Please visit our Help Center for further details. 

It’s been a great 10 years, and we apologize to those still actively using the service. We hope people will find other online communities to spark more conversations and build even more connections for the next decade and beyond.


Facebook Reveals Search Warrant of Hundreds of Accounts


Facebook revealed that since last summer it’s been fighting a court order that required it to disclose social-media information involving hundreds of people.

“This unprecedented request is by far the largest we’ve ever received — by a magnitude of more than ten — and we have argued that it was unconstitutional from the start,” Chris Sonderby, Facebook’s deputy general counsel, wrote in a statement Thursday.

The situation raises concerns over privacy in the digital age, when much of a person’s sensitive information is often available online and on mobile devices. This week, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected warrantless searches of cell phones, saying the practice went against the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure. The court added that modern cell phones are “not just another technological convenience.”

Facebook said 381 people’s accounts were subject to warrants out of an unspecified New York court, though only 62 were later charged in a disability fraud case. The company said it was under a gag order, preventing it from discussing the case or notifying the people affected until recently.

Facebook, the largest social network in the world, asserted that the search was “overly broad” and allowed the government to keep the seized photos, private messages, and other information indefinitely. It has called for the government to return the data and claimed the search ignored the Fourth Amendment.

Facebook, as well as other tech companies like Google and Apple, discloses data on the number of search warrants, subpoenas, and emergency disclosures requests it receives from government bodies. Facebook said that from July to December 2013, it received 12,598 total requests from US law enforcement, requesting information from 18,715 users or accounts. In all, some data was produced from 81 percent of the requests, Facebook said.


Facebook is cutting back on spammy auto-posts

Don't care what level your friend finished in
Don’t care what level your friend finished in “Candy Crush?” Facebook wants to make such posts rarer in your News Feed.

(CNN) — For the second time in just over a week, Facebook has done an about-face on a feature that has bothered some users for a while.

Fewer automatic posts will be showing up in your News Feed telling you what a friend is listening to on Spotify, which level they just defeated on “Candy Crush” or when they’ve posted a filtered selfie on Instagram.

The social-media giant has announced it will be giving those posts less clout in its News Feed algorithm — the tool that decides which posts you’re mostly likely to want to see — while giving extra emphasis to actions your friends choose to share.

So, to use the Spotify example, you’ll be less likely to see an automatic post when a friend listens to a song but more likely to notice when they share a playlist they just created.

“We’ve found that stories people choose to explicitly share from third party apps are typically more interesting and get more engagement in News Feed than stories shared from third party apps without explicit action,” Facebook’s Peter Yang wrote in a post on the company’s blog for developers.

“We’ve also heard that people often feel surprised or confused by stories that are shared without taking an explicit action. In the coming months, we will continue to prioritize explicitly shared stories from apps in News Feed over implicitly shared stories.

Yang said that app creators will have to start specifically request that actions from their app be automatically shared.

“If your app is currently publishing stories implicitly, we encourage you to consider these options instead,” Yang wrote, listing tools that let users tell their friends what they’re up to.

They include a new tool that lets app users share their activity directly in Messenger chats (say, with all your friends who still play “FarmVille?”) and the ability to add the “Like” button, already appearing on more than 10 million Web pages, to mobile apps.

And Facebook is walking the walk, too. Instagram, which Facebook purchased in 2012, was among the first third-party apps to get rid of automatic posts.

Reactions on social media have been largely positive, even if many posts have a “What took you so long?” feel about them.

“Great news to start my day. I am truly happy,” wrote Lynda Appell, a Twitter user from Philadelphia.

“Hope Farmville’s in there,” Sarah-Jane Boden, founder of marketing group Soul Providers, added on the networking site.

The change came less than a week after Facebook announced that all new users will have their privacy settings default to “Friends Only” and that existing users will get messages urging them to make sure their settings are where they want them.

Critics have questioned Facebook’s commitment to privacy over the course of its 10-year history, claiming the company would prefer users share as openly as possible — which advertisers like — than adjust their settings to be more private.

But changes in recent months suggest the social platform has decided on a different tack.

Last month, Facebook rolled out the ability to log in “anonymously,” preventing other websites and third-party apps from collecting data about you.

Are you Aware that Facebook Had Keyboard Shortcuts?


Whether you like to admit it or not, you probably spend a good amount of your life on Facebook. And I’m willing to guess that you’d prefer not to waste your life away looking at wedding photos of people you barely know.

Which is why it’d behoove you to learn some handy desktop keyboard shortcuts for the site. Yes, that’s right –– Facebook has its own keyboard shortcuts, which can help you zoom through the site without dragging around your mouse.

Here’s a full list of the most useful keyboard tricks:

News Feed shortcuts
You can use these when you’re browsing the News Feed, that list of stories you see in the center column when you surf to www.facebook.com.

  • j and k: Tab down and up between posts. Press j to go to the next post; press k to go up to the previous post. You’ll know you have selected a post because a thick black line will show up to the left of that post.
  • l: Like or unlike a selected story.
  • c: Comment on a selected story.
  • s: Share a selected story.
  • o: Open the attachment of a selected story.
  • p: Post a status. Press p to get your cursor in the new status box and start typing.
  • / (slash):Open up the search box.
  • q: Search chat contacts.
  • Enter: Tab from the tagging, location, or feeling sections to the text box when making a post.

And, most importantly, if you forget any of these

  • ?: Open the list of keyboard shortcuts while in News Feed.

Access keys
You should be able to use these from any page on Facebook.

These guys vary by what browser and computer you’re using. So you’ll have to remember the specific code (below) that precedes each access code number. So if you want to open up Help on Chrome for Mac, you would hold down the Control, Option, and 0 keys.

Internet Explorer for PC: Alt + [#], then Enter

Firefox for PC: Shift + Alt + [#]

Chrome for PC: Alt + [#]

Safari for Mac: Control + Option + [#]

Firefox for Mac: Control + Option + [#]

Chrome for Mac: Control + Option + [#]

Even if you integrate two or three of these into your everyday Facebook stalking, you might be able to shave a few minutes off the time you spend online every day. Use it to get a beautiful manicure, like the hand model pictured at the top of this post.


Twitter Officially Rolling Out ‘Mute’ Feature

Twitter's new mute function will be available on its iPhone and Android apps and its website.
Twitter’s new mute function will be available on its iPhone and Android apps and its website.
  • Twitter is rolling out a “mute” feature that will let you silence certain users
  • The muted user won’t know you’ve muzzled them, and you can unmute them anytime
  • New function will roll out to all Twitter users “in the coming weeks”
 (CNN) — You know that friend who has an opinion or a joke about everything? Sure, they’re entertaining, but sometimes you wish you could get them to shut up.

Now on Twitter, you can.

Twitter is rolling out a “mute” feature that will let you silence certain users in your feed. Once you’ve muted them, their tweets and retweets will no longer be visible in your timeline, and you won’t receive their push or SMS notifications, although @ replies and mentions will still appear.

“In the same way you can turn on device notifications so you never miss a tweet from your favorite users, you can now mute users you’d like to hear from less,” Twitter said in a blog post late Monday.

The mute function will be available on Twitter’s iPhone and Android apps and its website and will roll out to all Twitter users “in the coming weeks.”

Twitter says muted users will still be able to favorite, reply to and retweet your tweets, but you won’t see any of that activity in your timeline. Muted users you follow can still send you a direct message.

But the muted user won’t know you’ve muzzled them, and you can unmute them at any time.

In this way, the mute tool is similar to Facebook’s feature that lets you hide friends’ updates without unfriending them and, presumably, hurting their feelings.

The change is Twitter’s latest attempt to give its 200 million-plus users greater control over their interactions on the social platform. The company must hope it will be better received than its last similar update.

In December, Twitter tweaked its settings that allow users to block others who harass or annoy them. The change allowed the blocked user to still see the profile and tweets of the person who blocked them and to retweet their posts. But after a furious user backlash, Twitter abruptly reversed itself.

Unlike muted users, blocked users can’t follow you on Twitter.

Some Twitter users were questioning the need for a mute feature Tuesday, saying people should just unfollow users who annoy them.

“I find the #twittermute thing hilarious. It’s just the Internet switch it off and go for a walk!” wrote Stewart Lee, a Web officer for a foundation in the United Kingdom.

Others, of course, just made jokes.

“Forget Klout, now we need a ‘Muzzle’ ranking showing your Follower-Mute ratio,” said Christian Christensen, a university professor in Stockholm.

Configure Your Facebook Privacy to Avoid Getting Fired

How to Configure Your Facebook Privacy to Avoid Getting Fired

In the same way that opening your mouth can get you in trouble, anything you post to Facebook has the potential of putting you in hot water, too. It can cost your job, if you’re not careful.

So if you care about being employed, here’s some advice: Get your Facebook privacy settings in order before you post.

To make sure that your posts are reaching the right eyes, and only the right eyes, Facebook has provided easy-to-use sharing and privacy options. Here’s how to use them (or, to put it another way, here’s how to keep yourself out of trouble).

From the Update Status box
Before sending off a new post, you can actually designate who gets to see it by clicking the drop-down button just to the left of the Post button. Here you’ll find options for sharing with the Public, which lets everyone read it, and with Friends, which lets only people you’ve added as friends read it. You can also share with different lists of friends, which can either be created yourself from scratch, or by Facebook automatically.

It might be a good idea to create a list of friends who will enjoy your rants and raves — and that does not include your employer, or any potential employers. Here’s how.


The Status Update box.

Manage lists of friends
Facebook’s automated lists are tied to interests like school, work, and location, as well as frequency of contact. You can edit these lists and create new ones from the Friends settings section. Get there by clicking the Friends header on the left side of your News Feed/Home page (left below).


Selecting the name of a list from here (above right) will bring you to its page. Click the Manage List button, and then select the Edit List option to add or remove friends from the list (below).


Manage List button from a list’s page.

Next, you’ll see an edit window where you can add and remove friends from your list (below).


Another way to add friends to specific lists is from a friend’s profile page. Click the Friends button to show a drop-down menu with options (left below).


Add friends to lists from their profile pages.

Now that you’ve created a privacy-friendly list, make sure you’re sharing your personal posts only with that list, and not “Public” or “Friends.”

Who can see my stuff?
The options above will keep all your future posts from reaching people whom you’d rather they not. But what about your old posts? That’s where the Who can see my stuff? settings come in.

To view these options, click the menu arrow (below) from the Facebook home page. Then select Settings from the drop-down box.


On the left side of the General Accounts Settings screen, you’ll see different categories. Select Privacy. You’ll find the Who can see my stuff? section first in the Privacy Settings and Tools screen.

Turning on the Limit the audience for old posts on your timeline option will change all of your posts that were previously public to friends-only.


The Activity Log
Another option in the same Privacy Settings and Tools menu called Review all your posts and things you’re tagged in will bring you to the Activity Log (which can also be accessed from the home page Settings menu). The Activity Log (below) allows you to go through and remove yourself from other people’s posts that have you tagged.


The Activity Log.

This is for the times your friends check you in somewhere you’re not supposed to be (or maybe when your mother posts an embarrassing picture of you). Clicking the pencil icon and selecting Delete will take the post out of your Timeline and remove your name off of your friend’s post. You can also manually modify the audience of your own previous posts in the Activity Log.

And that’s about it. Take these measures to avoid needless oversharing and ensure that your Facebook activity is viewable only by the groups of friends you choose. And remember, if you do choose to share posts with your boss, make sure to stay off Facebook on your so-called “sick days.”