Facebook Crosses the Line. Again.

Facebook is now posting advertisements from my account.

Yesterday, a friend sent me an email message that included the following shared Facebook update:

An Ad I didn't Write

Yes, it’s a Facebook update apparently written by me that is promoting a magazine I don’t read or care about. This appeared in one of the groups on Facebook that I’m a member of.

When I clicked the link to see the ad for myself, Facebook prompted me to log in with my friend’s account information. It actually filled in the user ID field with his account name.

I was appalled.

Let’s look at what’s going on here: this is a Facebook update that looks like it was written by me to promote a product I don’t care about.

Is it unreasonable for me to be outraged?

And yes, I checked the Facebook Ad settings. This is the only one that seems as if it should apply and I’ve got it set to No One, meaning no one can see my name attached to any advertisement:

Ad Settings

Why has this happened? How many other times has it happened? Is it happening to your Facebook account, too?

How many more liberties will Facebook take with our privacy in an effort to maximize their bottom line and bombard us with advertising?

Interesting Links, December 2, 2013

Here are links I found interesting on December 2, 2013:

Why I Made My Tweets Private

The short explanation: I was tired of being stalked by a paranoid, neurotic, and vindictive old woman.

How To Make Your Tweets Private

Shame on you! You obviously didn’t take my Lynda.com course about Twitter where I explain how to do this. But since you were nice enough to come visit me at my blog, I’ll give you the simple steps here:

  1. Log into Twitter.com.
  2. Go to https://twitter.com/settings/account. This is the Account Settings page for your account.
  3. Turn on the Protect my Tweets check box.
  4. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Save Changes.
  5. Enter your password if prompted and click OK.

That’s all there is to it. From that point on, the only way someone can see your tweets is if they follow you — and they’ll have to get your approval to do so. While I don’t normally recommend doing this, it’s a good solution if you’d prefer to control who can see your tweets.

I just made my tweets private. It was the only thing I could think of to get my husband’s girlfriend — if you can use that word to refer to a 65-year-old woman — to stop stalking me on Twitter.

How It All Began

It’s been going on since at least November 2012.

Flushing Fish
I think the tweet text makes it pretty clear that the fish was already dead when I tried to flush it.

Back then, while I was cleaning my fish tank’s glass cover, I managed to get a cleaning solution in the water that killed four of the five fish in there. I removed the fish and attempted to flush them down the toilet. Unfortunately, the fish were large and they wouldn’t flush. For some reason, I thought that was funny and took a photo of it, which I shared on Twitter.

Well, my husband’s girlfriend decided that my flushing of a dead fish was evidence that I was destroying my husband’s property — namely, his “exotic” fish. (Nevermind that the fish tank was mine, purchased before marriage, and the dead fish were just tropical fresh-water fish costing about $5 each — if that.) She apparently convinced my husband and his lawyer that they needed an expedited hearing in front of the divorce judge to stop me from doing whatever it is they thought I was doing. They demanded an opportunity to inspect the house and remove his personal possessions so I would stop destroying them. She printed out 25 pages of my tweets — the vast majority of which had absolutely nothing to do with my divorce — and submitted them as “evidence” of my wrongdoing.

This is when I realized a few things:

  • My husband’s girlfriend was in charge of my husband’s side of the divorce. It all came from her; I had confirmation of that later by means I’ve promised not to disclose. My husband certainly didn’t read my tweets (or my blog) and he knew the fish were mine.
  • My husband’s girlfriend was paranoid, neurotic, and likely as delusional as my husband had become. What else could I think? She read a tweet about a fish being flushed and decided it was evidence that I was destroying my husband’s property. Seriously: WTF?
  • My husband’s lawyer was not giving them sound advice — or, if he was, they weren’t taking it. After all, if he’d read the 25 pages of tweets, he’d clearly see that there was nothing in there to indicate that I was destroying anything belonging to my husband. They’d simply look like idiots in front of the judge.

This kind of backfired on them — as so many of their court actions did. My husband was given a date and time to come to our house and retrieve any of his possessions that he was worried about. That meant moving a lot of crap out of the house that he would probably have preferred leaving right there. It also prevented him from accessing the house later, as he tried in May, because he’d already used up his only court-approved opportunity to remove possessions. Oops.

You think she’d learn her lesson. A smart person would. But no: she continued to watch my tweets and attempt to use them to harass me throughout the months the divorce process dragged on.

Show Me Your Weakness and I’ll Exploit It

I have to admit that once I knew she was reading my tweets, it was difficult not to taunt her. She had no life — that was clear — why else would she be so obsessed with what I was tweeting about? Despite my heartbreak over losing the man I’d loved for more than half my life, I had a great life and I tweeted every detail.

I didn’t work much throughout the winter and spring and I traveled a lot, making multiple trips to California, Florida, Las Vegas, and Washington. I shopped for a whole new wardrobe after losing 45 pounds the previous summer. I met new people home and away and did all kinds of things with them. When I was home, I had a steady stream of house guests in the house they supposedly couldn’t wait to get back into. They’d insisted on dragging the divorce on past the original January trial date by asking for a continuance — I made the best of the situation by having a great time while I was stuck there. I tweeted all winter and spring about my activities, making sure I mentioned every fun thing I was doing, knowing just how much it would get under her skin.

A normal person would have stopped reading the tweets. But she’s not normal. She’s obsessed. I accused her in January of living vicariously through my tweets. She read that one, too — I saw it later as “evidence” in court.

She was stuck with my sad sack husband, directing his divorce because he lacked the balls — or moral integrity — to do it himself. I was enjoying real freedom for the first time in nearly 30 years, doing whatever I wanted without having to look at his sour, disapproving face.

And, of course, I packed.

More Tweets in January

The tweets came up again in January when she attempted to get an Injunction Against Harassment on me. I fought it in court. More tweets submitted as “evidence.” I don’t even think the judge looked at them. Why should he? Pages and pages of my usual blather — those who follow me on Twitter know what I tweet about — all copied in triplicate as “exhibits” for the court. I could only imagine what those photocopies cost — law firms charge through the nose for everything!

They showed up with their lawyer. Three of them against me. I won. They had no case.

Another court action backfires on them. Another few thousand dollars wasted fighting the phantoms of her delusions.

The Ceiling Fans

Ceiling Fan Tweet
I really couldn’t resist. Note that I didn’t say here that I removed the ceiling fans; I just insinuated that I did.

When the divorce trial was finally over the other day, I admit I did send one last tweet intended for her consumption, one last thing to really piss her off. The ceiling fan tweet.

During personal property negotiations, she’d listed the ceiling fans as something I must leave behind. I still remember the discussion my lawyer’s assistant and I had about this demand. It went something like this:

Me: She thinks I’m going to take down the ceiling fans?

Her: Apparently so.

Me: Why the hell would I do that? They came with the house. What the hell am I going to do with six southwest style ceiling fans in Washington state?

Her: She’s just trying to get under your skin.

Me: All she’s doing is showing how stupid and petty she is. I don’t want the damn fans.

Of course, she also demanded the curtain rods. But in the final agreement, the curtain rods went to me. I took them, with the curtains — admittedly, mostly for spite, although the ones in the living room and guest room (which were the only ones I really wanted) will look nice in my new home. And although the ceiling fans were not on the list of the items they could keep — after all, I considered them part of the house — I didn’t take them. I just tweeted as if I might have. The ceiling fans had become a running joke with my Twitter and Facebook friends and I knew they’d enjoy the tweet.

Because my husband had refused to inspect the house with me present, it would be at least 36 hours before they could get in to see what I’d left behind. I’m sure her blood pressure was red-lining the whole time, thinking about those ceiling fans.

Sadly, she didn’t stroke out.

It’s Over. Really.

In my mind, the divorce was over. Everything was in the hands of the judge. We’d settled the personal property and I had come away with everything that was mine and the joint property that I wanted, leaving behind far more for them than I’d taken for myself. (My lawyer’s assistant thinks I gave too much away.) I had finally moved out of my house. I was back in Washington, living where I’d spent the previous five summers, working, playing, having a life.

My husband’s girlfriend, however, wasn’t finished with me yet. She just couldn’t let go. She just couldn’t stop harassing me. I guess that when you spend so many months catering to an obsession, it’s hard to call it quits.

I blogged about the latest hilarity here. No need to repeat the details in this post.

It does, however, all come down to tweets. She built her delusion about my ownership of property in Washington on her interpretation of my tweets. Apparently, plain English isn’t good enough for her. In her paranoid mind, she believes everything I’ve written contains a coded message. She reads my tweets and interprets the code she believes they contain. The result: “facts” to feed her delusions.

(A mutual friend of mine and my husband’s can’t wait to meet her. She’s an amateur psychologist and thinks she’ll have a lot of fun trying to figure her out. I’m looking forward to her report.)

Although I made it clear in a recent email to a bunch of people that I think her obsession with my tweets is evidence that she’s sick, I seriously doubt whether that’s enough to stop her from obsessing. And frankly, I don’t want every little thing I tweet about to feed her delusions and get her running to her lawyer to bother mine.

It’s over. I’m free. I shouldn’t have to deal with her crap anymore. Hell, I shouldn’t have had to deal with it in the first place — and I wouldn’t have if my husband was smart enough (or man enough) to rein her in. The only way to break her of the obsession is to take the object of her obsession away from her.

So my tweets have become private, at least for now.

On Facebook and Life History Timelines

How do you want your online history to read?

Today, I unfriended someone on Facebook.

I’d realized, rather belatedly, that about 90% of what this person shared on Facebook consisted of cat photos or videos. I like cats, but not enough to wade through dozens of photos shared in big batches on Facebook every day.

(Maybe other people do like cats that much. Maybe there are people whose sole purpose in using Facebook is to maximize the number of cat pictures they see every day. I am not one of these people.)

She’s not the first of my Facebook friends to share a never-ending stream of content that simply doesn’t interest me. Normally, if I know a Facebook “friend” in real (as opposed to virtual) life, I’ll retain the friendship status but simply stop subscribing to her content. This enables her to keep reading my content (if she wants to), comment on it, and keep in touch via other Facebook features — wall, messaging, etc.

But this person wasn’t really a friend to begin with — just someone I met on Twitter. And with the introduction of Facebook’s Timeline feature, I realized that Facebook is morphing into something new and different where an endless stream of cat photos seems downright idiotic.

The Timeline Feature

The Timeline feature puts every update, photo, event, and detail in your life that you’ve shared on Facebook into a reverse chronologically displayed listing. Here’s what mine looks like today:

Facebook Timeline

At the top of your profile page is a “cover photo” and your profile picture. Beneath that is information about you, your work, and your relationships. After a box containing a few of your friends, you’ll find every single item you’ve ever posted to Facebook.

Let me say that again: every single item you’ve ever posted to Facebook.

Including all the cat photos.

To make it easier for someone to zero in on a particular date, they can drag a slider on the right side of the page. So if you’ve been posting on Facebook for a few years, people can go back in time to see the Halloween party photo when you dressed up like a hooker or your rant about your old boss or the details about the honeymoon cruise with your ex-husband. Intermingled with this stuff is details about your new jobs, vacations, check ins, and other life events you thought (at the time, anyway) were important enough to share with “friends” — or the public at large — on Facebook.

Have you seen the Timeline feature in action yet? If you haven’t, check it out. Be sure to check out yours, too. Even if it isn’t displayed now, it will be in the future.

You Are What You Post

And that brings me back to the reason I wrote this post. With your Facebook history so easily accessible — possibly to the general public (which is Facebook’s default setting for updates) — people can get a real idea of what you’re all about now and in the past. If you care at all about what people think of you, you probably want to examine your Timeline and make sure it shows only what you want to show — and only to the people you want to see it.

If you think you’re revealing a bit more than you want to in your Facebook Timeline, there are a few things you can do, some of which I discuss in detail in a Maria’s Guides post.

Of course, the best way to limit what people see or know about you is to be more discriminating about what you post. Do you really need to share every intimate detail of your life? Every link to Web content you read? Every photo you take with your smartphone? Every other Facebook update you read that you find mildly interesting or amusing?

Every freaking cat picture?

On Facebook, you are what you post — and Facebook has a very long memory.

Outraged about Apple Tracking Your Every Move? Read This.

Once again, mainstream media, fed by tech journalists who should know better, get half the facts wrong and blow the other half out of proportion.

The big tech news these days is the story about Apple’s iDevices, including iPhone and iPad, “secretly” logging location information as you go about your daily business. The information is stored on your iDevice and then backed up to your computer when you sync — just like all the other information on your iDevice. (That’s what a backup does: it makes a copy so you have in case data is lost.) The media grabbed this one and ran with it, making a big deal about privacy concerns and even going so far as to suggest that this data is somehow getting back to Apple, which might be using it for some dark, secret purpose. The “discoverers” of this plot even worked up a program that can extract this data from your backup and plot it on a map. Just to show how thorough this information is, tech journalists were quick to seize it and plot their own movements.

Makes you angry, huh? To think that some big corporation is tracking your every move?

To hear interviewees on the radio, read blog posts and news stories, and read the comments left on blog posts, you’d think the government should be knocking down Apple’s doors and grabbing every storage device in sight to snatch this oh-so-valuable information from them. The media is outraged and they’ve made the public outraged, too.

Don’t Let the Truth Get in the Way of a Good Story

There’s just one problem: The story, as reported by most media outlets and bloggers, isn’t entirely true.

Sure, iOS does log location information in a “hidden” file that’s synced to your computer when you back up your device. And sure, that hidden file isn’t encrypted (although it is hidden). But it doesn’t go anywhere else — certainly not to Apple. As was pointed out by someone actually knowledgeable about the situation in an NPR interview I heard yesterday (sorry; can’t find link), the state of California has laws governing the gathering and use of this information. It would be very stupid for Apple to violate this law.

(And do you honestly think that Apple devices are the only ones logging this kind of information?)

You Said they Could!

Guess what? In the iPhone Software License Agreement users agree to give Apple permission to gather this information:

(b) Location Data. Apple and its partners and licensees may provide certain services through your iPhone that rely upon location information. To provide and improve these services, where available, Apple and its partners and licensees may transmit, collect, maintain, process and use your location data, including the real-time geographic location of your iPhone, and location search queries. The location data and queries collected by Apple are collected in a form that does not personally identify you and may be used by Apple and its partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services. By using any location-based services on your iPhone, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its partners’ and licensees’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing and use of your location data and queries to provide and improve such products and services. You may withdraw this consent at any time by going to the Location Services setting on your iPhone and either turning off the global Location Services setting or turning off the individual location settings of each location-aware application on your iPhone. Not using these location features will not impact the non location-based functionality of your iPhone. When using third party applications or services on the iPhone that use or provide location data, you are subject to and should review such third party’s terms and privacy policy on use of location data by such third party applications or services.

Credit Where Credit is Due

So what’s the real deal? You could probably learn more about the facts by reading a blog post written by someone who discovered this back in 2010. Yes, this isn’t a new discovery. It was uncovered not long after the release of iOS 4. It was presented at the Paraben Forensics Innovation Conference in Salt Lake City in November 2010. It was covered in an Apress book called iOS Forensic Analysis that was released in December 2010. It was published in a paper in January 2011; the same month it was presented at the 2011 44th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

In other words, this isn’t news. Evidently, the “discoverer” who has the most media connections and can shout the loudest gets all the credit.

What’s the Big Deal?

And how can so many people be so outraged about this? It’s absurd in a time when many well-connected iPhone users — and others — are publicly broadcasting their location day in and day out by check-ins on Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, and countless other sites.

The irony of the outrage was best summed up in a tweet that came down my Twitter stream from Mike_FTW yesterday:

7:04: Check-in from bathroom. 7:38: Check-in from café. 8:15: Check-in from bus stop. (Mayor!) 8:35: Bitch about Apple tracking my location.

So what’s the big deal? There’s a log of your locations on your phone and in a hidden file on your backup computer. I’m sure as I type this there’s already an app under development that’ll wipe it clean for anyone who’s really concerned.