Facebook announces New Profile - but is it better? bigger? safer?

Filed Under: Facebook, Privacy, Social networks

Facebook's roller-coaster ride through cloud computing continues apace with the announcement earlier today of the New Profile. (In case you're wondering about that opening metaphor: Facebook is the ride. You are the rider, and you're paying for the privilege with the information you upload.)

Like the new Facebook messaging system announced in mid-November, ambitiously dubbed 'Fmail' by some, and even touted as a possible spam killer by ueberblogsite Huffington Post, the New Profile is not something which is being rolled out to everyone at once.

For a site with 500 million accounts (sorry, Facebook, they aren't all users, and repeating it over and over as if it were a fact won't make it true), rolling out significant changes of this sort over a period of time is a wise operational move.

Also, of course, it means that if the New Profile receives the same sort of response as New Coke did back in 1985, it'll be easier and cheaper to revert to the old style.

The burning question, though, is not whether the majority will like New Profile, but whether it will be better and safer.

I'm in two minds about these changes, not least because Facebook seems to be taking the opportunity to persuade its users to commit yet more information about their day-to-day lives to the social networking juggernaut.

For example, the official About Profile page urges you to Share your experiences, to Discover common interests, and to Highlight meaningful relationships:

"...Give a more complete picture of how you spend your time, including your projects at work, the classes you take and other activities you enjoy (like hiking or reading). You can even include the friends who share your experiences."

"...Your top interests now appear as a row of images — just drag and drop to put your favorites first."

"...Relationships with close friends can be just as important as family. Now you can highlight family members and the other key people in your life, like your best friends or coworkers — all right on your profile."

By all means, embrace the New Profile. But don't rush into sharing ever-more information with ever-more people on Facebook.

Information about your life and lifestyle is much more use to identity thieves, cyberscammers and fraudsters than it is to the average person you might think of as a friend on Facebook.

Be careful out there.

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19 Responses to Facebook announces New Profile - but is it better? bigger? safer?

  1. David Limond · 1415 days ago

    Facebook security has been a talking point for too long now for people not to take the time to understand their security settings.If they haven't taken 5 minutes to learn how to make their profile secure i now have no sympathy for them if their privacy gets compromised.

    • I have set my security to different levels. Plus, the new layout is a tad confusing and breaks existing URL checkers like Norton Safe Web app (http://apps.facebook.com/nortonsafeweb/)

      Also the feature that "logs" login is not altogether perfect. It does not recognize even though I log in/log out within a minutes from the same computer on the same network with the SAME IP Address, Facebook STILL consider each log in as a seperate computer and buggs you to name EACH login. I eventually turn it off. Its a good idea to implement a system like Google's Gmail where all "open" sessions/logins are listed.

    • "Facebook security has been a talking point for too long now"

      Ummm, I don't think so. Most of my friends are artistic and only use computers because they are there and convenient. As a group they don't care a jot about how a computer works, they simply expect it to be there when they want it and for it to work properly.

      To them me telling them they need to be careful about Facebook is like I'm telling them that they need to be geeks. They don't know anyone who has had any security problems so they simply aren't interested. They think I'm being overly evangelical.

      Your attitude says that computers are only for the initiated, for the geeks, for the very few. This may have been largely true 15 - 20 years ago, but computers are now accessible to almost everyone. Facebook needs to do more for security, but they will never be ahead of the baddies. People who are aware of the security issues need to do more to reach people who have no comprehension of the problem. Telling them they are stupid and deserve the problems they may face is not going to get their attention.

      • RoyLoo · 1414 days ago

        Hmmm.... so you're saying that because computers are mainstream, there should be no expectation of users taking basic security precautions and it's up to 'geeks' to insure the 'average' user is secure? Absurd. It's like saying cars are mainstream so the average driver shouldn't have to worry about safe practices and behaviors on the road

        • guest · 1012 days ago

          That isn't a fair comparison. Assuming everyone knows about facebook security is like assuming everyone knows how to change their oil and spark plugs.

    • Tech · 1401 days ago

      Dude, with great power comes great responsibility. We always said that one day the geeks would rule the world and whether people want to admit it or not, we do. But how we use that power will determine how the world views us.

      Our job as geeks is to teach and train people the safe ways to use their computers and the Internet. Just as Christ leads his sheep we should lead ours in the same loving manner. We need to use everything we know and have access to, to educate people. Youtube, eHow, and other sites are available to us to get the information out there. Our children that are growing up in this new era will have the basic knowledge to be able to go out into this digital world with enough knowledge to protect themselves. However, there is a great number of people over 25 that have no clue other than what they hear on the news and typically what they hear is not good.

      Just my 2 cents.

  2. Thu Win · 1415 days ago

    The email system does not work across all platforms. If you try inputing email like @sophos.com or @bbc.co.uk it would say its an invalid email :/ SO its NOT an email killer.

  3. Big Time · 1415 days ago

    I agree with David. Regardless of what Facebook enables you to share, ultimately, it's up to you if you want to share certain posts with everyone or just your family, or anyone in between. It takes a few seconds to make everything visible to only your friends, and if you don't want THEM to see your information, maybe you should think about why they're your "friend" in the first place. Personally, if I don't want someone to see my info, I just don't add them as a friend. It's just that simple!

    • Paul Ducklin · 1414 days ago

      One thing which concerns me is that Facebook urges you to publish information about people around you. It does this implicitly, in the very way its service works, and explicitly through encouragements (see above) such as "you can even include the friends who share your experiences" and "now you can highlight family members and the other key people in your life."

      So it's not just your own privacy attitude and settings you have to be concerned about - it's those of all your friends, too.

      Even staying off Facebook altogether doesn't stop your Facebook-using chums from highlighting _you_ online - after all, Facebook points out that drawing attention to others in your coterie is cool!

      (Have you ever tried to tell someone you know and like who's a Facebook fan that they can't include you in a photo they're planning to take, e.g. when you're at the pub, because you don't trust them not to publish it to world+dog? I have. Interestingly, a year ago, I'd get laughed at by everyone, and the photographer would act all wounded. Today, attitudes are changing. I've objected to photos recently and others in the group have said, "Yeah, me too. I don't want to be in the photo either. I'll put myself on Facebook, thanks." The photographer ended up sheepish, not hurt :-)

      So there's more to Facebook privacy that just your _own_ attitudes and settings...

      • drkvogel · 1414 days ago

        I can never really understand people who wish to keep themselves as private as possible and never appear in photos online... what do they have to hide? What might be the consequences of someone seeing a picture of you online? I'm trying to imagine. Personally, I think that every time I leave the house, I am exposing my face to hundreds of strangers every day, yet no-one but the mentally ill worries about this. Why should we worry about being seen online? I am not saying that you are wrong necessarily but I am trying to understand it. By the way, if you try to view my blog, you will not be able to because it is private. That IS something I want to keep to myself!

        • breed · 1413 days ago

          Having all that information up there might not be a problem today but you never know what groups will be targeted in tomorrow's society. If it happens it *will* be over something the target group does not think is necessary to hide.

  4. Mark Ingebretsen · 1415 days ago

    I posted this link on Facebook. A Facebook friend commented as follows:

    "Ironically, my company's firewalls have a problem with the link to this article. Evidently this article, which apepars to be about security, is hosted on a site with security issues."

    Just FYI . . .

    • Paul Ducklin · 1414 days ago

      Darn. Pity your friend didn't say what was meant by 'security issues'. I had someone complain last week that they couldn't read this site because his company's web filter objected to the presence of the text string 'naked' in our URL. (IIRC, he was able to read the site using RSS. So much for "security" at his company.)

      I haven't heard of any reason other than 1990s naive substring-matching-as-a-dangerous-alternative-for-real-security-oriented-validation for people to be denied access to this site by their employers.

      If your friend would like to email me (duck@sophos.com) with more specific info I'd be happy to dig a little deeper...

  5. concerned · 1415 days ago

    I heard that upgrading to the new facebook will also reset your other settings, like privacy. Is this true?

    • Thu Win · 1414 days ago

      Not that I know. I switched but my privacy options remained the same.

  6. Ed K · 1414 days ago

    Login as a Guest or login via facebook? QED i guess!

  7. Maria · 1414 days ago

    I find the new layout distracting and unnecessary. For security I am glad that someone pointed me to Naked Security. In turn I am doing the same for increasing numbers of people.

    I check here almost daily to make sure that I can be as secure, safe and scam free as possible. A great resource for someone like me who is "untechie".

  8. Maria · 1412 days ago

    I hated it!
    Besides being too reveiling, what happened to the one of the best Facebook features, the mini-blog... I mean, the status next to the name of the person? Sorry, but that's absolutely crucial!
    Please, let our status updates show next to our name again! At least, that...

  9. decisionz · 1387 days ago

    If and when we can pay for our use of Facebook, then we'll get control.

    We'll have some influence on the user interface, we'll have some influence on what information gets given away and sold to advertisers...

    Until then keep aware of the motivations of Facebook. They have a lot of investment they need to justify, they have hired some of the team that created Google Ads, historically the users were called "dumb f***s by the founder.

    Have you ever been asked what you would like Facebook to be?

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About the author

Paul Ducklin is a passionate security proselytiser. (That's like an evangelist, but more so!) He lives and breathes computer security, and would be happy for you to do so, too. Paul won the inaugural AusCERT Director's Award for Individual Excellence in Computer Security in 2009. Follow him on Twitter: @duckblog