Here’s how it works.
Take a look at your friends on Facebook.
See any that have refrained from listing their romantic status? Where they work? Their hometown? Where they went to high school? Their birthday?
How dare they protect their privacy from phishers, data brokers and Facebook’s targeted advertising!
Well, as of last week, Facebook has positioned “Ask” buttons next to fields our friends haven’t filled out.
We can just click on the button next to those woefully blank fields, and Facebook will nag our privacy-hoarding friends for us, telling them that so-and-so requested their whatever – relationship status, blood type, maternal line of mitochondrial DNA …
As Ars Technica points out, Facebook up until now has “directly, politely” asked us to fill out our interests and likes in certain categories, and to fill out personal history portions that we’ve left blank.
When we don’t fill out those fields, Facebook makes automated, educated guesses about things such as where we work and where we went to school.
But the polite, direct route must not have proved sufficient when it comes to feeding Facebook’s data-hungry, targeted-ad fueled engines.
When you look at friends via your desktop browser, you’ll see the “Ask” button on the profile’s top-left “about” box wherever they’ve left pertinent information fields blank.
Those “Ask” buttons will also appear when clicking through a user’s profile on mobile browsers, according to Ars.
A Facebook representative told Ars that the “Ask” feature has actually been rolled out in waves to users since January, though that rep couldn’t answer whether it’s been in the form of the “Ask” button that’s now live across the site, or whether it’s been a function that’s been there but more buried.
I was thinking of clicking “Ask” to test out this new process of weaseling personal factoids out of cagey friends, but considering that all of my friends (well, OK, maybe just some of my friends!) read Naked Security’s posts regarding Facebook and privacy, I figured they’d e-beat me up if I did.
They know that to keep safe online, the less private information we share, the better. Why hand strangers intimate details about ourselves?
Of course, you can get into trouble in other e-places besides Facebook, so here are our Top 10 tips for staying safe online.