Posted by : Amitha Amarasinghe Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Dailymirror.lk reported yesterday, “the police women and child’s bureau (Sri Lanka) has received over 50 complaints against the social networking website Facebook”. Below are some extracts of the news story, to set the tone for my today’s post.
The bureau said they have received close to 20 such complaints within the last two months and they have launched an investigation into these complaints. The bureau added these perpetrators use the Facebook account holder’s name when they commit these acts.
When Daily mirror online inquired from the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) the Director General of TRC, Anusha Palpita said they have not received complaints regarding the misuse of Facebook.
The police women and child’s bureau said that they have requested TRC to look into the possibility to restrict access to Facebook. However the TRC says access to Facebook is an individual right.
“Access to Facebook is a human right so we can’t take measures to block the site. Besides, if we take measures to block the site, the internet speed will reduce and this will effect the country’s reputation in the technological aspect,” Palpita said.
If you are non-Sri Lankan who is reading this post, don’t be surprised by the police’s request of blocking access to Facebook as a solution for this problem. Police in this part of the world hit the ‘ban button’ too quickly on anything, because that is the easiest way for them to control the number of complaints they receive against anything. After all, hitting the ‘ban’ button on internet sites is not a new thing for this part of the world. It wasn’t too long ago that Sri Lanka Telecom (the number one ISP of the country) blocked access to all the websites hosted at ghs.google.com, (including Amisampath.com) as a quick solution for blocking access to couple of porn sites hosted there. It took me two days to get this site accessible by Sri Lankan IP’s once again. We have seen Pakistan and Bangladesh blocking access to Facebook; that time for a totally a different reason.
What ever it is, we cannot discount the concerns of the people who made those complaints to the police. Facebook predatory and Facebook impersonating are some serious cyber crimes taking place on Facebook, which some involvement of the law and order is required (god’s sake, not the easiest ‘ban’ button). While it is still unclear how we can tackle these Facebook crimes with regular law enforcement entities; we somehow have to think of how we can minimize the vulnerabilities of becoming a victim of a Facebook crime. Here are some of the tips I always give to my friends, who ask me for advice after becoming a victim of a Facebook crime.
1. Do not send friend requests to strangers or accept friend requests from strangers
As a policy, I only accept friend requests from people whom I have at least met once in the offline world. I have exempted this rule for few friends I met on other online communities, with whom I built a long-term trust before friending them on Facebook. A stranger can commit a crime against you in the streets, or at any other place. So, why can’t they on Facebook?
2. Do not add people you don’t trust
They may be not strangers, but you know they have some strange ‘tastes’ by working so closely with them for some time. If it is really not a burning need for you to have them as a Facebook friend, I suggest it is better to keep them away.
3. Beautiful girl with a sexy profile picture and with 2000 odd friends? You’ve been targeted by a ‘honey pot’
This is a famous ‘Facebook Trick’ by affiliate
spammers marketers to attract more people to their audience. They use either a half naked profile picture or sometimes extremely innocent looking female face. Either way, they are trying to attract guys with a ‘bias’ towards anything hot or innocent and then slowly sell their affiliate products to these people.
This trend is excessively evident in Sri Lanka, with hundreds of profiles appearing on Facebook with familiar Sinhalese female names. The best method to identify such profiles is the number of friends. An average FB user is having 130 friends on FB. According to ‘Dunbar’s number’ an individual can maintain meaningful social relationships with up to a maximum of 150 people at a time. Sri Lankan local customs and traditions prevent, an average Sri Lankan girl to limit her friend network, even to a lesser number. If this is the real situation, why didn’t you think twice before accepting a friend request from a stranger girl with a hot profile picture and over 2,000 friends and with a stylishly matched name on profile like ‘Archana Alahakoon” or “Tashi Chaathurya”? Now go back to your Facebook profile and see how many “honey pots” you have fallen into.
4. Do not upload photos of your friends who are not on Facebook
This is very hard to do for an amazing group photo which features 10 of your best friends, and 9 of them are already signed up with Facebook, while the odd one guy is still living under a rock. But, this becomes an easier decision for a solo photo you took of a friend who attended your birthday party (who also doesn’t have a FB account). You don’t know, if that friend decided to stay away from Facebook as a conscious decision. You are violating her privacy, by sharing a photo of her with your Facebook friend network. By doing so, you are risking her to become a victim of a Facebook crime.
5. Know your privacy settings. Use it wisely
Most of the problems people face with Facebook, can easily be solved by adopting the right privacy setting. I recommend you to take “Only me and my friends” option for most of your content. Facebook’s default choice for most of your content on Facebook (status updates, links posted, videos uploaded, photos uploaded etc) is either “friends of friends” or “my friends and networks”. This allows the strangers in your friends’ networks to view your photos at any time. For example, if A and B are friends on Facebook and if C is a friend of B, but not of A; let’s see what happen when A uploads some photos with “friends of friends” privacy setting. With this setting, if A uploads some photos and ‘tag’ B on one of these photos, C will get to know this story on his Facebook home feed. C can then click on that photo of B, and go to A’s album even though C is not a friend of A. Then, C can even download all the photos in A’s album to his personal computer. Just imagine if this “C” guy is a pycho, and he found some photos on A’s album of a beautiful young girl. That could be the starting point of what Sri Lanka police women and child’s bureau is investigating at the moment. Therefore, please go and check your privacy settings to see if you have controlled who can access your content on Facebook.
6. Never over expose on Facebook
Over exposure here refers to as in both the contexts; over exposing your or your friends’ important body features in the photos that you upload, and over exposing your personal life. There are more personal and secured ways of sharing some of these sensitive photos with your friends. Use email or a flash drive instead. When it comes to exposing your personal life, think twice before exposing too much about what you are going to do next weekend with your someone special, or what do you feel about your friends, family or work colleagues. This type of information can give a chance for the “psycho” guy to profile you better, and craft a well master cyber attack on you. Always have fun with friends on Facebbok. But keep a limit of what you are sharing. After all, we still have text messaging, telephone and email; if you really want to share such personal matters with your close friends.
7. Never save your password on a public computer
Not even on your office computer. At night, office computers are not yours, so you don’t really know who is accessing it, right? If you are surfing from a public machine, always delete browser history, saved forms & passwords, and cookies before you leave.
I think these seven tips will help you to make Facebook a safer environment for everyone to have fun. Hopefully, Sri Lanka police will sort out these matter without going to the extreme of pushing the ban button. We don’t want to list ourselves as the 3rd South Asian nation to block Facebook, this time for a different reason.
Image Credit: http://newzar.wordpress.com
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