This morning Facebook announced the release of several new tools to help users stay safe while using the site. Soon, users will be able to enable two factor authentication to add an additional layer of security to logins. HTTPS browsing has been improved, and the anti-bullying social reporting tool has been rolled out more areas of the site. Facebook has also redesigned the Family Safety Center to be more visually oriented and easy to navigate.
With such a large user base and open Platform, safety issues are inevitable, so Facebook is trying provide as many preventative tools and resources as possible.
In January, Facebook began allowing users to browse the site over a secure HTTPS connection. Facebook recently noted that 9.6 million users are now browsing with HTTPS. However, third-party applications must specify a secure canvas or tab URL, otherwise users are shown a roadblock indicating they’d have to be switched to an HTTP connection to use the app. If users accepted the switch then navigated away from the app, they would still be using HTTP. Now Facebook will automatically return users to HTTPS whenever they finish using an app that doesn’t support it.
Last month at President Obama’s White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, Facebook launched its social reporting tool that lets users message bullies to ask them to stop, and message friends to ask for advice. These options were initially only available on Facebook profiles and walls, but now users will find them on Pages, Groups, and other native Facebook apps.
Two Factor Authentication is a new feature that’s currently undergoing gradual rollout.If enabled, after users enter their email and password, they’ll be prompted to enter an additional code that will verify them as the account owner. Facebook doesn’t specify how the feature can be enabled or how the code will be received, confusing some readers of the announcement. The option will likely appear under in Account Security settings, though, and codes will likely be delivered via SMS similar to Google’s Two Factor Authentication and Facebook’s one-time passwords.
The Family Safety Center augments resources Facebook launched last April with new explanations of the site’s philosophy, the Facebook community, and safety tools. User can navigate kid-friendly graphical interface to explore areas designed for parents, teens, teachers and law enforcement, or Like Facebook’s Security, Safety, and Privacy Pages.
Despite Facebook’s continuing security improvements, the blog of safety and security company Sophos yesterday called for a drastic overhaul of Facebook’s policies. It demands that new features be turned off until users opt in, that app developers be individually vetted, and that HTTPS be enabled by default.
However, these demands are self-serving for a company that makes its money on security products, and don’t take into account the potential negative impacts these changes would have. Most users wouldn’t take the time to opt in to new features, which would lead to a stale user experience for those didn’t, and diminished social value for those that did. With millions of developers creating applications, vetting each individually would mean sizable delays between when apps were built and when they could launch, as well as enormous additional costs for Facebook. Finally, HTTPS slows down browsing, which could lead to fewer page views, engagement, and social interaction per session.
Facebook is striking a proper balance between providing adequate security tool and maintaining a dynamic user experience and development Platform. At this point, it falls on users to educate themselves with these resources, and protect themselves on Facebook the same way they have to anywhere else on the internet or in the real world.