Facebook Mobile to Thwart Hackers and Cyberbullies with Password Reset and Social Reporting

Facebook has ported a security feature and anti-cyberbullying tool to m.facebook.com from its web interface. The enhanced password reset feature allows mobile users to have a new password sent to an email address or phone number if they can verify their identity. Social reporting lets users contact the owner of objectionable content, such as an embarrassing photo of them, and ask them to delete it. Facebook is slowly rolling out the features to m.facebook.com, and plans to add them to its native mobile apps such as Facebook for iPhone and Android soon.

With a sizable percentage of users primarily accessing the site via mobile devices, especially in the developing world, Facebook has been making an effort to bring security, safety, and privacy controls of its website to its mobile interfaces. These features will allow users to regain access to their account and protect themselves from defamation without having to find a wired internet connection.

Mobile Password Reset

Currently, mobile users who forget their password can have it emailed or SMS’d to the address or phone number associated with their account. The new enhancements to this interface will help users that may have also lost access to their email address or phone number. When they go to log in on their mobile interface, they’ll have the option to initiate a password reset. They’ll then be able to use social authentication — identifying friends from photos — or other security data to verify they’re the actual owner of the account, and have a new password sent to an email address or phone number of their choice.

A year ago, Facebook began testing social authentication on its web interface to screen suspicious logins. At first, the system ended up locking out some legitimate owners of accounts because they couldn’t identify friends who didn’t show their face in their profile photo, or that they only new from social games. With time, social authentication has been improved such that only photos that clearly show a face are used.  Users already have mobile access to many of Facebook’s other account security features, including the ability to remotely end an active session, and require a two-factor authentication to login.

Mobile Social Reporting

Sometimes Facebook users post content that doesn’t necessarily violate the site’s terms of service, but may offend another user. For instance, a friend could upload a photo of another user in a compromising situation that could get them in trouble with their family or employer. Previously users had to either report the issue to Facebook, costing the site support time in cases where they don’t have the grounds to take action against the offending user, or clumsily message that friend or talk to them in person about removing the content.

To solve this issue, Facebook added a social reporting feature to its web interface in March. This allowed users to click a link on an offensive photo, wall post, or other content and send a pre-formatted message to its owner that links to the content and asked them to remove it. Facebook says this has been a success, with 70% of friend-to-friend requests for content to be removed being honored. Now it’s extending social reporting to its mobile interfaces.

Cyberbullying of this nature is big issue for teens who are also some of the most frequent Facebook mobile users, so mobile social reporting has great potential to protect users. This is the latest effort by Facebook to reduce intimidation on its site, having previously formed a child safety advisory board, and launched a family safety center in its Help Center.

Users who stick to the web interface or that use web and mobile in conjunction might not need these new mobile features. However, if their only internet-connected device is their phone, being able to regain access to a hacked account or get a photo taken down that might have gotten them in trouble using the mobile interface could keep them engaged with the site. Otherwise, a phished account or bully could be the end of their time on Facebook.