Facebook Uses Phone Location to Recommend Friends

Facebook permission creep continues. Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.

Facebook logoA story from Fusion yesterday spells out pretty clearly the case for believing that Facebook is using your phone’s location to guess who your friends might be, and are using that info to make recommendations.

Most Facebook users who have given it some thought assume that Facebook recommends friends for you based on the fact that their phone number or email address are in your contacts. That is partly true, and Facebook did respond to the claims in the Fusion article (emphasis ours):

People You May Know are people on Facebook that you might know. We show you people based on mutual friends, work and education information, networks you’re part of, contacts you’ve imported and many other factors. Location information by itself doesn’t indicate that two people might be friends. That’s why location is only one of the factors we use to suggest people you may know.”

You can see that the Facebook spokesman stopped short of saying that they don’t use location to recommend friends. That language could mean that your location plus any other information (where you live, that you’ve been at that location multiple times, that you’re a Facebook user…) could be enough. It doesn’t cost facebook anything to make a recommendation.

The conclusion in the Fusion article is that Facebook might be doing it, and if you’re troubled by that you should turn off Facebook’s access to the GPS location service in your phone. That’s good advice but…

The article was posted in the Privacy sub at Reddit, which happens to be frequented by people who are experts on the topic – some of them appear to do privacy for a living, others are passionate about their personal provacy. One reader offered the following comment:

“They’ve been doing this for at least 2 years. I drove a mail route and it kept suggesting people on my route with no connections to me at all. Sometimes in the order of the route. This was 2 years ago.”

Facebook suggesting friends for you based on your location is in itself mostly harmless. You don’t have to act on the recommendation. What troubles us is that they’ve never explicitly told us that they’re doing it. By extension, we don’t know what else they are doing with our personal data.

As cool as it might be to Check In somewhere glamorous on Facebook, you might want to consider turning location off. We recommend it, especially for young users.

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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Are Schools Monitoring Social Media Spying?

It seems like there are a group of families in New Jersey who don’t understand the meaning of the words “public” and “private”.

Parents of students at North Jersey’s High Point Regional High School are up in arms after one student was banned from attending the senior class formal after a tweet that was seen by the Principal. The tweet in question, on the day of the formal:

schools monitor social media

“Turned up” means drunk, or otherwise under the influence of something.

As a principal, if you are made aware that a student is going to show up at a school sanctioned event under the influence – because of something that student posted publicly – that is in no way spying. Acting on that information seems like the prudent thing to do, and well within the responsibilities of a principal. Actually, it seems like the only thing to do.

The families seem to be of a different mind. According to an article in the New Jersey Herald, parents are indeed suspicious:

“Over the past year, however, several other parents, teachers, and graduates of High Point — all of whom have asked for their names not to be published — have related similar stories of students being called to the office or questioned based on suspicion of activities frowned upon by the administration. Some suggested it was fairly common knowledge that this was being done.”

According to the same article, Superintendent Scott Ripley had the following to say:

“High Point administration reviews only those materials brought to its attention or that [are] publicly available. At no time does the administration pressure students into disclosing private posts on social media, nor does the administration engage in subterfuge in order to view such information.”

That’s pretty clear. The school is using the resources available to monitor risks in its community. That is not spying.

If what the teen tweeted about the formal was a joke, this is unfortunate, but if missing a party is the lone consequence then that is a lesson well learned.

If you are concerned about what your teens are posting publicly, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

A Few Words on Passwords

Much has been written about the fact that strong, unique passwords are important. The fact of the matter, from what we’ve seen, is that most people – including teens – ignore that advice. They’re ignoring it at their own peril.

I got a message this week from a site that I’d mostly forgotten about called Have I Been Pwnd. The way the site works is that you enter your email and it tells you whether any sites or apps where you use that email address have had user account data compromised. If are told that your account(s) are at risk, you should go to that site and change your address immediately.Have I Been Pwned

Once you’ve entered your email address, they will also send you an email in the future if there is a hacking incident. The email I got this week was to inform me that my Myspace account (!) had been hacked. I don’t use Myspace for anything other than research so no big deal, but it got me thinking about passwords.

Many people may think that its not worth the hassle to have a strong, unique password for each site that you use, but for those who do, there are Password Manager programs that are happy to help.

The Department of Consumer affairs has been nice enough to compile what looks like the go to resource of password manager reviews, along with the following video:

The Consumer Affairs Password Manager Reviews site compares all of the major password manager programs based on password encryption, secure resource usage, self-containment, user friendliness, verifiable design and master password security.

That may be more information than you need but trust us; they’ve done the research for you. If you’re looking to up your password game, the help you need is right here.

 

The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Turn Off Location on Your Teen’s Phone

iPhone PrivacuYour teen’s smartphone knows where it (and he) is, and most of the time that’s a good thing. Many phone functions (like Google Maps) that are a mainstay of the current smartphone experience would not work without location turned on.

You may want to know where your teen and that phone are as well. If you use an app like TeenSafe (or one of many others) to monitor your teen’s location, that too will not work if location is turned off.

You don’t want strangers – especially predators – to know where your teen is, and this is the key pitfall to young smartphone users keeping location turned on. A new study out of MIT and Oxford University reveals that as few as 8 tweets over the course of a day, even to a low-tech hacker, can reveal both the home address and the school or workplaceiPhone location of a Twitter user. Based on our understanding, the same is true of Instagram, or any other app where location is a secondary, if optional, feature of user posts.

The study was designed to illustrate how much privacy social media users could be giving up, but in the case of young users and predators, privacy is far from an abstract construct. Snooping advertisers are one thing; strangers who could do harm a much more significant risk.

The good news is that this is easy to fix. If your teen is an iPhone user, you can go to Settings->Privacy and see whether Location is turned on or off. There is also a list of the apps which have requested access, and which have been granted access. You can turn location off for the phone entirely, or for individual apps. Settings are similarly structured for Android phones.

iPhone location appsWe recommend turning location off entirely for day-to-day use.

If your teen is at the Statue of Liberty, and wants to post a picture with the location marked, she can turn location on to make that post, then turn it off again. It takes a couple of seconds.

If you read this and ask your teen to turn location off, she’s probably comply, but you’ll need to make sure it stays off. We’re sure you wouldn’t encourage your teen to post “I live at 123 Main Street, Princeton NJ” to Twitter. Help her make sure she isn’t doing it by accident.

 

 

If you want to make sure your teen is not at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Control the Ads Your Child is Seeing Online

For the most part, the internet doesn’t know how old your child is. That’s mostly a good thing. If a predator or some other person up to no good is looking for an “internet user” who is a child or teen of a certain age, you don’t want your child to be found.

Internet advertisers also want very much to know how old your child is, and they have some tools at their disposal. Targeted ads, by age or any other data available, are much more efficient for advertisers. They will use whatever information is at hand to get to their desired target audience.

When it comes to legitimate advertisers, it’s mostly good if they know approximately how old your kids are in one specific way. You’d rather not have your child seeing ads for alcohol and other adult products.

All that being said, if advertisers are guessing which ads your kids should see, or have determined that your child is an adult based on her internet activity, there is help available.

Facebook and Google, tow of the biggest internet advertising platforms in existence, make it fairly easy to help your child control which type of ads she sees.

Here’s how to control which ads Google and YouTube show you:

Here are the categories that Google thinks I’m interested in:

Google ad settings

You can find yours by CLICKING HERE (make sure you are logged into Google). If you don’t want ads on a certain category you can uncheck the box, and the change is saved automatically.

According to Google the list is compiled based on my Google search history, my YouTube video viewing history but not my Gmail history. Gmail ads are served by a different platform.

At the bottom of that page, there is a button labeled “Control Signed Out Ads”. If you click on that, you have the option to turn off interest-based ads on Google sites and off. For children and teens, we don’t recommending turning that off, because your kid is still going to see ads, but the chances will increase she will be exposed to adult ads.

Here’s how to control which ads Facebook shows you:

Below is a screen shot of the ad categories that Facebook has chosen for me. You can see yours by CLICKING HERE while you’re logged into Facebook.

Facebook ad preferences

For each category, you can click it and a list of subcategories will appear. You can unclick any that are inappropriate or that you don’t care about.

By the way, Facebook collects a whole lot of information about you, and they’re free to use it. For example, If you “Like” Starbucks on Facebook, they could take one of your photos and put it in a Starbucks ad. I turned off that setting by CLICKING HERE. (see below)
Facebook ads social actions
 

 

 

DID YOU KNOW?: The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). You can cancel at any time. Sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

NCAA Changes Recruiting Rules for Texting, Social Media

Life is about to get a lot more hectic for top high school athletes who are looking for a great scholarship opportunity and a chance to play at a top college. Colleges now have much more leeway in reaching out via text message or social media in some sports, most notably football. Twitter will play a large role.

ncaaIn 2007, the NCAA banned football coaches from electronically contacting recruits. The focus of the ban at that time was text messages but it extended to social media messaging.

Under a rule change enacted this week, schools still cannot contact recruits before Sept. 1st of their junior year, but after that can contact targeted athletes electronically, as often as they want.

Not all coaches are in favor of the change. Urban Mayer, football coach at Ohio State (who incidentally has no problem recruiting top talent), had the following words to share, implying that the NCAA is making the change because existing rules are too hard to enforce:

“The texting thing is the most ignorant thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Do you really want text messages from 100 universities on your phone when you come out of school? The ones I know don’t. ‘What? I don’t want to hear from these schools.’ Some intern is going to be punching text messages on your phone, and maybe you can block numbers and all that, but that’s just too hard, right? Maybe it’s easier for the enforcement because people are doing it, but it just doesn’t make sense.”

247Sports national scouting director Barton Simmons was quoted in USA Today saying that the change makes social media a much more important recruiting tool:
Twitter logo

“In a lot of ways Twitter is better than texting because if you don’t have a kid’s phone number, you have to find it somewhere. With Twitter, you can find him, follow him and he follows you back and you’re on the way.”

As indicated above, when it comes to Twitter, some observers note that recruits will have to follow coaches back in order to be able to receive direct messages (DMs) from them. That’s not entirely true, as Twitter users can set their accounts to enable DMs from anyone. A quick look at the 247Sports top football recruits for the class of 2017, at least one player in the top 10 has a Twitter account that is open to receiving DMs from anyone.

A couple of thoughts for parents of high school football players:

Your teen might need more help managing his time. School and other activities are an important part of life, and you don’t want him on his phone 24/7 fielding incoming messages from coaches.

His social media profiles are likely to get more scrutiny. Some schools are already doing a good job of vetting recruits by checking out their digital footprints; others are not. If schools are eager to find your kid via social media, they will likely spend more time looking at what he posts online.

If you need help ensuring that your child’s social media profiles are not a deterrent to being recruited, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). You can cancel at any time. Sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

ThirdParent Announces Free Audits for a Limited Time

Good news parents: We are very pleased to announce that for a limited time getting a ThirdParent Social Score is FREE (normally a $49 value).

If a college admissions officer of future employer looked for your child online, what would she find?ThirdParent-social-score

ThirdParent’s Social Score is the latest tool to enable better digital parenting, a critical task that most parents find daunting and some, downright impossible. We all know that our teens and tweens are spending hours per day online and on their phones, and that it’s impossible to stay on top of everything. We also know that you value your teen’s privacy. We do as well.

Our Social Score provides parents with a full summary of who and where your teen is online – publicly that is. We scour the internet and social media to locate accounts and social media sites, and flag any public activity that may be unsafe or inappropriate. Each flagged item includes a recommendation for how to handle the situation.

The initial audit gives you the basic outline of what has been happening with your child over the last 12 months. After the initial audit, our ongoing monitoring ($15/month, you can cancel ay time) provides you with daily alerts that flag unsafe or inappropriate activity.

We do not ask for user names or passwords, and private information stays private.

A free version of our service has been a goal of ours since the beginning. We are pleased to announce our free trial for a limited time. Sign up today. There’s nothing to lose.

 

 

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

Google Under Fire for Collecting, Misusing Child Data

In their own words, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. That’s a tall task. This week they’ve announced that they are taking on a very powerful opponent – Google.

The EFF’s claim, filed in a complaint with the FTC yesterday, is that Google is spying on children’s data, including their internet search history, enabled by their role in a vast effort to provide updated technology tools to schools. EFF claims that a number of Google actions violate the Student Privacy Pledge, a legally enforceable document that has been signed by over 200 vendors who sell or provide technology products to schools.

EFF-spying-on-studentsAs part of EFF’s Spying on Students campaign, they examined Google actions related to school Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education, and claim that, without parental consent:

  • Google collected and data mined students’ personal information
  • Google tracked and stored records of “every internet site students visit, every search term they use, the results they click on, videos they look for and watch on YouTube, and their saved passwords”
  • Google also may have shared student personal information with third-party websites

As of yesterday, and ahead of any FTC investigation, Google has agreed to a partial modification of its practices, but it appears that EFF thinks there is a lot of work left to be done.

We talk to parents all the time whose children use school-issued (and mandated) technology devices, software and services, and they have concerns. What we don’t hear is that one of their concerns is the data privacy of their children, but there have been rumblings in the media over the last year that student Gmail privacy might be an issue. EFF is making the issue a broader one.

Google is a huge company with a great position in the education market and a lot to lose. We expect them to do the right thing here.

 

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

This Week in Social Media News For Parents

Stories for the week ending 11/27/2015

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Happy Thanksgiving all

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Reddit announced upcoming changes to its Privacy Policy. For the first time, they will be sharing or selling user information to advertisers. No surprise, but privacy conscious Reddit users are up in arms.

Reddit updates Privacy Policy effective January 1, 2016

reddit-privacy-policy

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A new poll by Naked Security revealed that Mozilla Firefox is the most trusted browser, with Google Chrome coming in second. Sorry Microsoft, Internet Explorer ranked 6th. Quick – can you even name 6 browsers?
Which web browser do you trust? [Poll]

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British singer Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (formerly Cole) – who is gorgeous – sets her Instagram account to private after being body shamed online for losing too much weight. Knock it off people; celebs have feelings.

Why Everyone Needs To Stop Body-Shaming Cheryl Fernandez-Versini

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While most nudity is not allowed on YouTube, everyone knows that there’s a lot of “not safe for kids” content on there – in the videos themselves and the comments. For that reason, and the fact that online videos are an absolute magnet for kids, a dedicated YouTube Kids app was a great idea. Unfortunately, YouTube continues to come under pressure, and this time it’s the NY Times calling them out over junk food ads.

YouTube Kids App Faces New Complaints Over Ads for Junk Food

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Racially charged threats, including death threats against specific students posted on Yik Yak, led Western Washington University to cancel all classes on Tuesday this week. Police are involved but the incident hasn’t been resolved yet.

Western Washington University Cancels Classes After Hate Speech Targets People

 

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.