Socializing with Facebook Now Easier than Ever

Article by George Norman (Cybersecurity Editor)

on 17 Mar 2009

We have plenty of news to report about the popular social networking site Facebook: users can now make their accounts public, Facebook Connect has been ported to the iPhone, Yahoo has released Pingbox for Facebook, and Kevin Mitnick (former hacker turned security consultant) was blocked from accessing his Facebook account by the company itself, even though he went to great lengths to prove it was really him. Last but not least, it seems that Facebook popularity is on the rise as traffic to the aforementioned site has increased considerably for the past month.

This is on top of our previous reports on Facebook updating its home page and providing Arabic and Hebrew versions available to the general public. Since there are plenty of things to report upon let’s not waste any time with meaningless chatter – even though wasting some time until Apple showcases the iPhone OS 3.0 might not prove such a bad idea.

Until now, you could not set your profile so that it could be viewed by anyone on the web, but with the recent privacy changes that Facebook has implemented, you can do just that. “By changing your Profile setting to "Everyone", anyone who finds you through a search on Facebook or sees a post or comment you make can now click on your content and view the elements of your profile you've opted to make open. While some special rules remain in place about who can see your profile if you are a minor, people generally won't need to be friends with you or share a common network in order to view your content if you choose the new "Everyone" setting,” explained Facebook’s Mark Slee.

iPhone apps can now become even more sociable than ever before thanks to Facebook Connect, an extension of Facebook Platform that was launched about a month ago. What Facebook Connect does is it allows you to “take your online identity with you all over the Web, share what you do online with your friends and stay updated on what they're doing”.

Joe Hewitt explains: “If you've used Facebook Connect on the Web, this will seem pretty familiar. You can now use Facebook Connect on your iPhone in the same way you can for a website. Simply download any application featuring Facebook Connect and log in using your Facebook account from your iPhone. Then, you'll be able to easily find your Facebook friends. They will be able to see the same profile information as they can on the site, controlled by your privacy settings. You can also share what you're doing with your iPhone applications with all of your Facebook friends by publishing stories back to your profile.”

Pingbox is an embeddable instant messaging program that Yahoo! provides to users that want to add it tot their web page and chat away directly in the browser window. All you have to do is add Pingbox to your Facebook profile and any visitor can send you an instant message without having to sing into Yahoo! Messenger or download additional software.

“Pingbox, our embeddable IM application for web pages, is now available for Facebook. The same customization tools are available in the Facebook version, so you can personalize your online and offline greeting, choose from dozens of designs, and if you wish, require your visitors to give themselves a nickname before they can IM you,” explained Product Manager, Sarah Bacon.

Kevin Mitnick, social engineering hacker that after spending time in jail turned away from “the dark side” and started working as a security consultant, found himself locked out of his Facebook account for weeks. It seems that Mitnick was unable to prove that he is who he says he is. Even after he sent Facebook an email from his corporate e-mail account, Facebook did not believe him – because you have to send them an email from the address you used to set up your account.

When asked to comment on the situation, Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt said that the situation occurred because Facebook is deeply concerned about the user’s safety and privacy. The ironic twist is that getting people to believe he is someone else is Kevin Mitnick’s specialty – or at least it used to be in his good old hacking days.

Last but not least, Hitwise reports that Facebook traffic over the past month has just about doubled – the actual traffic increase was of 149%.

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