Tag Archives: Facebook

Concordia unblocks Facebook

Concordia University announced today that it will, effective Monday, unblock access to Facebook from its wired network.

Concordia blocked access to Facebook in September – but intentionally left it open on its wireless network, in residences and in its libraries – out of concerns for “spam, viruses and leaks of confidential information related to use of the social networking site.”

This line of reasoning was criticized – even mocked – by Internet experts like Michael Geist, who argued none of these things are specific to Facebook.

It also led to coverage in the media: CBC, Gazette, McGill Daily and others.

So what changed? Officially, it was reopened because of improved security:

After the recent improvement of certain security checks and procedures at Concordia, including the installation of a new firewall, the university made the decision to officially reinstate Facebook.

Again, it’s unclear how a “new firewall” will protect Concordia against whatever ills it attributed to Facebook. It used phishing as a prime example, and it’s unclear how a firewall will stop those kinds of activities.

But realistically, the growth of Facebook has meant the loss of productivity from its use (my guess for the real reason behind its original blocking) is outweighed by its value as a communications tool – between students and professors, between the university and its alumni, between sports teams and their fans.

Concordia reminds its network users to use best practices for safeguarding personal information and passwords.

Livre de visage, là

Facebook has launched a Canadian French site, about a year after it launched a French French site.

The translation was done with the help of Facebook users in Quebec, I guess because Facebook is too cheap to hire a real translator for a week to make sure they get it right. These crowdsourced translations caused problems last time, but I don’t notice any glaring errors so far.

Among the translations:

  • “Posts” becomes “publications”
  • “More” becomes “d’avantage”
  • “Tagged” becomes “identifié”
  • “Wall” becomes “babillard”
  • “Edit Options” becomes … uhh … “Edit Options” (oops)

By-election politicians on Facebook

As a follow-up to my overview of the candidates in the Sept. 8 by-election in Westmount Ville-Marie, here’s a quick rundown of the campaigns’ Facebook strategies (sorted by number of supporters):

(UPDATE Aug. 19: Mr. Larivée has joined the club, so I’ve updated the list as of today)

Anne Lagacé-Dowson (NDP)

  • Fan page: YES
  • Supporters: 511
  • Personal page: NO

Marc Garneau (Liberal)

  • Fan page: YES
  • Supporters: 370
  • Personal page: YES
  • Embarrassing personal information on personal page: NO

Claude William Genest (Green)

  • Fan page: YES
  • Supporters: 178
  • Personal page: YES (Though his profile pic is of a chimp hugging a bird)
  • Embarrassing personal information on personal page: Open wall, “flirt” box on his profile page, and photos of him dressed as a pimp. Does that count?

Charles Larivée (Bloc Québécois)

  • Fan page: YES (though it’s actually a group, not a fan page)
  • Supporters: 120
  • Personal page: YES
  • Embarrassing personal information on personal page: Nope, it’s wiped clean

Judith Vienneau (Rhino)

  • Fan page: YES (but no photo)
  • Supporters: 8 (ouch)
  • Personal page: YES
  • Embarrassing personal information on personal page: Plenty of TMI boxes on the profile page. Also, apparently wanted to be leader of the Libertarian Party. Maybe Rhino was her second choice?

Guy Dufort (Conservative)

  • Fan page: NO
  • Personal page: YES (private)

Many politicians have fake “personal” profiles setup, which I think is largely irrelevant since Facebook invented the fan page. So I won’t take any marks away from Lagacé Dowson for that. But Dufort and Larivée not having any Facebook exposure at all? That’s just not right.

Facebook destroys privacy, eats babies

So apparently some intern law students have filed a complaint against Facebook for having the audacity to allow people to share their personal information with others.

Facebook certainly has privacy issues, as I’ve previously explored, and there’s no doubt that they’re trying to exploit this information for all it’s worth.

But the fact remains that, as Facebook points out, all this information is shared voluntarily. If you don’t want people to know your religion, don’t publicize it online.

The Facebook problem is a problem of user education, not Big Evil Corporations. People need to learn that as the Internet becomes more efficient at connecting and compiling information, they can’t rely on privacy through obscurity anymore. We must assume that anything we type into our computer and send over the Internet will eventually be plastered on a billboard for our parents, employers and ex-girlfriends to see and mock. And we must be vigilant about keeping our private information private. No matter how fun it might seem to break that rule just once.

Who got the Facebook scoop?

I was all excited when I saw a post from TQS’s Jean-Michel Vanasse praising a rival network’s coverage. Finally, I thought, we’re starting to see the pointless war between networks start to mellow.

Unfortunately, he was being sarcastic. Pointing out that a recent EXCLUSIVE SPECIAL REPORT OMG from another network (he doesn’t name it, and a quick search doesn’t find it online it’s TVA’s J.E., and the video is online) copies one he did in October.

The amazingly important issue? That lots of Facebook users will accept people they don’t know as friends.

I know. Get that Pulitzer engraving pen ready, folks.

What’s hilarious about all this is that Vanasse himself was scooped by Jean-René Dufort’s Infoman, who set up a profile for a wanted murderer and got politicians and celebrities to befriend him a month earlier.

Not only did the Infoman report come out before the others, it’s a whole lot funnier and more interesting.

Facebook watches you poop

Facebook

This morning’s paper features a big story by yours truly on the issue of privacy on Facebook.

Specifically, it talks about Montrealer Steven Mansour, who last summer found out that in order to delete his Facebook account he would have to first delete every wall post, comment, photo, note, everything he had ever done since he first registered his account. One at a time. It took him 2,504 steps. He’s not crazy about having to go through all that effort.

The same issue annoyed UK blogger Alan Burlison and others, but Facebook wouldn’t budge until the New York Times took it up last month. That led to the company proclaiming it would be easier, without making clear exactly what it was changing about the process.

Currently, on Facebook, you can “deactivate” accounts, which makes them inaccessible (though reports of fragments being left behind are common). But deleting them completely requires an outside-the-box email exchange with Facebook staff.

Not unexpectedly, Facebook didn’t respond to my request for a clarification about their policy.

Neither did Canada’s Privacy Commissioner’s Office, when I asked whether it had received a complaint from Mansour and/or were investigating Facebook. The office’s PR contact got back to me finally, and says he’s looking into whether there are any investigations concerning Facebook.

Mansour has a roundup on his blog of reaction to his story and other Facebook privacy issues. Only some involve conspiracy theories about links to the CIA and stuff.

The article also touches on TRUSTe, an organization that counts Facebook as a member and seems to do nothing to rein them in; Facebook’s draconian terms of use; and what Mansour thinks needs to be done to safeguard privacy rights online.

Habs on Facebook

There are a lot of famous people on Facebook. There are also a lot of non-famous people there who for some reason get kicks out of pretending to be famous people.

Among the victims of this non-financial identity theft are members of our Montreal Canadiens, very few of whom actually have legitimate Facebook accounts. There are dozens of fake Saku Koivus, Alex Kovalevs and Andrei Kostitsyns around.

So it’s hard to say whether the following fan pages are official or not. They probably aren’t. But at least there’s one per player, so we can consolidate.

There are some obvious missing ones (the Kostitsyns, Markov, Tom the Bomb Nonstopoulos), but it’s enough to validate your existence by expressing your fandom electronically, the way fandom is meant to be expressed.

Online survey shows people are online

I just got alerted to this OMG EXCLUSIVE OMG story at Branchez-Vous, which claims that 1 in 4 francophone Quebecers over 18 is on Facebook, and that number goes up to 54% when you limit it to adults 18-24.

Those numbers seemed suspiciously high to me, especially since before this week Facebook was an English website and therefore its reach in Quebec was lower than the rest of Canada.

Then I came across this:

Ce sondage a été effectué en ligne auprès de 1257 répondants du 11 au 15 février 2008. Sa marge d’erreur est de 2,8%.

So this was an online survey. Not only does that outright dismiss the non-trivial (albeit dwindling) portion of Quebecers without regular Internet access, but online surveys are notoriously unreliable. More importantly, it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that those willing to take online surveys are more likely to have the kind of free time to waste online that would make them more likely to be members of Facebook in the first place.

So take those results with a grain of salt.

Montrealers for More Facebook Groups!

Everyone knows that real change doesn’t come from letter-writing campaigns, action groups, hired lobbyists or complaints to the media. Real change comes from joining Facebook groups. Because when you’ve joined a Facebook group advocating something, politicians notice.

Or maybe it’s just journalists, with column inches to fill, who take notice. And their editors, desperate to show that they’re hip to this Internet thing, encourage them.

So in that spirit, here are some local-interest Facebook outrage groups. Look for stories about them in your local newspaper soon:

Oscar Peterson metro won’t be easy to accomplish

The local media have been all over plagiarizing The Gazette reporting on a Facebook group that advocates renaming the Lionel-Groulx metro station after Oscar Peterson. Groulx was a racist, the suggestion goes, and Peterson would be much more befitting of a metro station name.

The group has exploded in popularity, due to both the media coverage and regular word-of-mouth. It has over 1,000 members now.

The idea isn’t new, actually. It’s been going around for quite some time. Other proposed new names for Lionel-Groulx include Yitzhak-Rabin and Gabrielle-Roy.

Unfortunately, it’s somewhat of a non-starter for two reasons:

  1. The Lionel-Groulx metro, like most metro stations, is actually named after a street nearby, namely Lionel-Groulx Ave.
  2. The STM currently has a moratorium in place against station renaming, thanks to the rather unpopular Longueuil-Université-de-Sherbrooke mess.

And that doesn’t get into the whole mess about renaming something from a francophone name to an anglophone one.

Personally, I think it should be renamed The-Jackal.

UPDATE (Feb. 28): The inevitable backlash group has already been formed.

UPDATE: Elsewhere in the blogosphere:

Should journalists start checking ID?

The Agence France-Presse news agency has banned its journalists from using Wikipedia and Facebook as sources in news stories. This comes after it was caught with its pants down quoting liberally from a fake Facebook profile setup in the name of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of slain former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

On one hand, many non-journalists might argue that it’s obvious such user-generated sites should not be considered authoritative.

But this story exposes one of journalism’s Achilles heels: In general, we take people at their word that they are who they say they are. Unless there is something suspicious that would lead us to believe otherwise (like someone giving their name as Hugh Jass), we ask people for their names and we trust that they’re not fooling us.

Is this wrong? No matter how good we get at our jobs, journalists will always be vulnerable to pranksters and others who intentionally try to mislead us. (Insert Iraq war comparison here.)

Should we just accept that as an occupational hazard, or should we start checking ID whenever we want to quote someone by name?