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Right thing; wrong way.

To combat spam and “prevent” strangers from hacking into your Facebook account, Facebook is adding new security features. One new mechanism, called “social authentication,” involves showing the user a friend’s headshot and asking the user to match a name to that face.

CNN says:

“Two Facebook users in particular should be advised to opt in to the feature. Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s CEO, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were both victims of intruders on their Facebook pages this week.”

Is this an effort to “work around” users like me who will not “tag” friends in photographs and thus provide information that can be used in widespread facial-recognition systems? Think – those cameras that keep popping up at every intersection….

Facebook recently implemented facial recognition on its site. Google’s Picasa has facial recognition in versions from 3.5 on; Apple’s iPhoto has it. I did not request it. Did you?

The CNN article says:

“This multiple-choice photo quiz is a new take on a common Web system called Captcha.”

“The older method displays a picture of some squiggly letters and asks you to type those on the keyboard. It’s used for verifying that a site’s user is a person and not a computer program looking to exploit systems.”

Capcha works fine. There are less-invasive ways to distinguish HUMAN imposters. So why does Facebook CHOOSE to implement a verification of the faces and identities of friends and family?

Facebook reduced spam from partners’ applications by 95% last year, according to the company’s technology chief, Bret Taylor.

A Facebook engineer was quoted by CNN:

“The vast majority of people who have used Facebook have never experienced a security problem,” Alex Rice, a Facebook security engineer, wrote on the company blog.

Exactly. So why the choice of identifying or verifying the identification of photos as a security system? There are so many OTHER ways!

Facebook has also started to roll out the option to use a secure connection while browsing. ‘Bout time…!

When solving security problems, it is important not to “dig yourself a deeper hole.” The NEXT time Facebook is hacked (and it WILL be), the hackers may retrieve identified and verified PHOTOS of you, as well as the other personal information that they could have retrieved about you in the past. Also, conceivably, identified photos of you might wind up in the hands of governments or marketing people, such as those who construct “billboard” advertising with cameras to present YOU the optimal ad, based on your demographics (heck, let’s base it on the file we’re building on YOU personally, since we can identify you from photos).

Does this make you more secure? (Think – the hacker who has obtained other personal information about your and your family now can identify you on sight during your next trip to the store – or – the corporate criminal who can “rob” you in more subtle, “legal” ways.)

Isn’t it enough that Facebook and its partners/customers already have your complete social graph of friends, family, and so much more?

-Bill at

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