Urban Legends and Facebook Graphic Search: Telling Truth from Fiction

by Geek Squad Agent on ‎11-06-2013 03:24 PM (1,714 Views)

Mark Twain once said  “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Never has this been easier than online — especially when it comes to fears of others infringing on their privacy. I was taking a spin through my Facebook feed not long ago and ran across this post from a few of my friends:

Hello to all of you who are on my list of contacts of Facebook. I would like to ask a favor of you…. You may not know that Facebook has changed its privacy configuration once again. Thanks to the new “Graphic app”, any person on FB anywhere in the world can see our photos, our “likes” and our “comments”.

 

During the next two weeks, I am going to keep this message posted and I ask you to do the following and comment “DONE”. Those of my friends who do not maintain my information in private will be eliminated from my list of friends, because I want the information I share with you, my friends, to remain among my friends and not be available to the whole world. I want to be able to publish photos of my friends and family without strangers being able to see them, which is what happens now when you choose “like” or “comment”. Unfortunately we cannot change this configuration because FB has made it like this.

 

  1. So, please, place your cursor over my photo that appears in this box (without clicking) and a window will open.
  2. Now move the cursor to the word “Friends”, again without clicking and then on “Settings”.
  3. Un-check “Life Events” and “Comments and Like”. That way my activity with my family and friends will no longer be made public.
  4. Now, copy and paste this text on your own wall (do not “share” it!). Once I see it published on your page, I will un-check the same.

Thanks for helping me out with this!!

Now, the kneejerk reaction to something like that is fear — followed by reposting of the same message, and an almost automatic following of whatever advice is given in the post… which got me thinking. This seems somewhat conspiracy theorist territory to me — so I needed to check it out.

 

How did I do that? By simply copying a segment of the text and Googling it — along with the word “Scam”. And just like that — BINGO! We have a confirmation: it’s simply yet another online urban legend.

 

New privacy concerns about Facebook seem to surface every time they change their platform in any way. This message contains some inaccuracies and construes the recent changes FB made to their search capability as a feature allowing strangers to see things we just as soon they didn’t. I discovered the new Graphic Search works the same as all other Facebook functionality – it is controlled by the sharing settings you set in the Privacy Settings and Tools section of the site.

 

First thing I discovered is that there is no “Graphic app.” I assume the message is referring to Facebook’s new Graphic Search capability because that is the only recent upgrade of the platform to use the term “Graphic.” The fact is Graphic Search just makes it easier for users to find content on Facebook using regular language-based search and some added filters. As a more effective search engine, it makes it easier for users to find content that they would have had to spend a little more time digging around for in the past. But it is not searching content that wasn’t available to users already.

 

More good information about Graphic Search is available from Facebook here.

 

If you, like my friends, are concerned with who can see content from or about you on Facebook, then go to the Privacy Shortcuts menu in the toolbar in the upper-right-hand-corner of your FB feed page (the padlock image) and adjust your settings accordingly. (check out this article about managing your privacy on Facebook on Graham Cluley’s security blog. )

 

How can you avoid being taken in by scammers like this in the future? Well, if something sounds too good to be true (or too horrible, for that matter), head over to www.snopes.com and look it up there (or type “Snopes” and whatever the topic is in your search bar). Chances are, you’ll find out that it wasn’t actually true — and you can avoid the embarrassment that often follows.

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