Facebook Roundup: FTC, Design Changes, Nestlé, URLs and More

FTC to Facebook: ‘Step Up’ Privacy Protections – The fallout from Google Buzz continues as the Federal Trade Commission turned its attention to Google, Microsoft and Facebook during a recent privacy workshop. Specifically, Facebook as criticized for its recent privacy changes.

“I am especially concerned that technology companies are learning harmful lessons from each other’s attempts to push the privacy envelop,” says outgoing FTC Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour. “Even the most respected and popular online companies, the ones who claim to respect privacy, continue to launch products where the guiding privacy policy seems to be, ‘Throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks.'”

Harbour is especially concerned that these big tech companies weren’t appropriately encrypting consumer data in their clouds and that consumers should have the “ultimate decision” in signing up for new features, given that the FTC seems to want to shape the debate about consumer privacy and “take action” against companies that don’t live up to their privacy promises.

Small Change in Friend Request Emails – Facebook has slightly changed the way it notifies users of friend requests. Before the subject line of these emails was “X added you as a friend on Facebook,” but Wirt points out that the new notices say, “Will you be X’s friend on Facebook?”

Facebook’s URL Shortener Slows Down the Web – URL shorteners, especially Facebook’s, add to the amount of time it takes for a page to load, according to a recent study from Dutch startup WatchMouse, which monitored the redirection time for 14 URL shortening services for a month, every five minutes, from its 44 monitoring stations around the world.

It turns out that uptime is still an issue for some of the URL services, only goo.gl and twt.tl had a perfect 100%, and fb.me was the slowest, adding an average of two seconds to the time between a click and page load, although many others tack on more than half a second to page load time.

WatchMouse announced on its blog that it plans to continue to monitor these URL shorteners and share the results publicly here.

Facebook Passes on Panic Button – The rape and murder of a 17 year-old British girl at the hands of a man she met on Facebook has caused uproar in the UK, where the public and authorities have called on Facebook to install a “panic button” to allow children to report suspected pedophiles. Facebook has announced that it will not install the feature because the current system for reporting abuse was “robust” enough.

Scam Poses As Facebook App – Facebook scammers are using applications to gain access to users’ accounts posing as those “Who’s Looking At Your Profile?” apps that pop up on Facebook pretty frequently. Rik Ferguson reported that this version of spam has at least 25 different copies with names like “peeppeep-pro,” “profile-check-online,” and “stalk-my-profile” that promise users to show them who’s looking at their Facebook profile, but instead infect their profile with spam.

Ferguson wrote that Facebook users who install the app seemingly receive notifications from their friends encouraging them to install the app, and while trying to install the app, users are simply pushed into a similar app to ultimately earn the scammer more revenue.

Facebook Doesn’t Affect Students’ Grades – Facebook’s official blog published an interview this week with researcher Chuck Martin from the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore School of Business and Economics. He found that the amount of time students spent using social media doesn’t affect their grades. Martin studied Facebook, YouTube, blogs, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn as social media on more than 1,100 of his university’s students.

One interesting findings included that heavy and light social media users received the same grades, that’s to say, there’s no correlation between using Facebook and grades. Martin said this is because these students grew up with social media, and so it’s a part of their behavioral patterns, it’s integrated into their lives — not the “distraction” that some worry about.

Facebook Serves as Forum for Nestlé Criticism – One environmentalist group’s mission to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions blew up on Facebook as an Internet campaign from Greenpeace snowballed into an all-out anti-Nestlé campaign. When Greenpeace’s effort to get Nestlé to cut down on palm oil — which contributes to deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and endangered species loss — took to Facebook supporters starting changing their profile photos to anti-Nestlé slogans that incorporated the company logo, eventually many critics started posting to its Facebook Page. Controversy arose after the company asked commenters to not post with altered company logos, which is fair under intellectual property laws, but of course this added to the fray and eventually Nestlé apologized to its fans. An interesting lesson in the pitfalls of social media.

ConnectU Case Continues – Yet another chapter in the ConnectU-Facebook saga played out this week when a New York judge blocked an attempt by ConnectU to force Facebook to respond to subpoenas seeking information about the value of its stock. ConnectU tried to retrieve this information to address a dispute between attorneys Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and the ConnectU founders over how much the attorneys were due for representing ConnectU during its 2007 settlement with Facebook and founder Mark Zuckerberg. The Facebook stock in the settlement was valued at $65 million at the time, but now ConnectU founder believe their stock is worth less, hence the subpoenas. The entire affair is pretty complicated, but explained well by Law.com.