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Facebook private status updates made public by Storify

Private status updates on Facebook by private users and in secret or private groups are never private, especially with the help of Storify.

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Private social media updates made public through Storify

Julie Pippert, Founder and Director of Artful Media Group, known speaker and communications expert shared with AGBeat how she discovered what she believes to be a flaw in the popular service, Storify, making selected private Facebook status updates from personal profiles, private and secret groups visible to anyone and completely public.

Storify is a free content curation tool wherein users can pull social elements like photos, videos, and status updates from social networks, combining them into one single embeddable widget that is perfect for bloggers and digital publishers, telling the story of an event in its entirety through social reactions. It’s a clever and popular service that brags, “streams flow, but stories last.”

Unfortunately, that has been proven true of private Facebook status updates, no matter a user’s privacy settings, as using the Storify app to grab updates immediately pulls not only the quote from the status update, but the user’s profile picture which is linked to their account, the timestamp of the original status update on Facebook, and the original link.

Below is what a user with the Storify Google Chrome Extension sees on an update I posted in a Secret Facebook Group (note the word “Storify” which is the mechanism that immediately pulls all of the aforementioned data into Storify):

storify

When published in Storify, it appears like so (embedded using the Storify code provided by the service):

This is an example taken from a Secret Facebook Group comprised of a handful of very close friends, where we talk about sensitive health issues each of us have, which would obviously be detrimental for the public to see.

Now, if you are not a member of the secret group, you cannot see anything else inside of the group or who the members are, you do not have additional access to other status updates, but my face and name are now associated with a sensitive topic that the public can see, should another group member have innocently pulled the update as they saw it in their timeline, not realizing it was from the group, or simply not thinking Storify would authorize such a move.

Storify users can only pull status updates from people they are connected with socially, but their privacy settings matter not, and they can pull in status updates from private groups to which they belong, and while none of this offers a window into those users’ accounts or into the secret groups, the Storify tool can turn private Facebook updates public, even if only one at a time.

The discovery of the ability to bypass privacy settings

Pippert discovered this bypass through what she calls a “faux pas accident” by using the Storify app, sharing a friend’s Facebook update who felt her privacy settings were as private as they could possibly get, surprising both women at how easily a private account could become public, even if it was only one status update.

“I felt so terrible about what happened that I started digging and checking,” Pippert said, “and I figured out that although anything can be copied, screen captured or otherwise shared, anyone who installs the Storify app can do it with one click, even if it is marked or otherwise set to be private.”

Pippert explains that she shared a friend’s update about Superstorm Sandy which was very heartwarming, but when she notified her friend, both were alarmed that it could be used publicly, and no matter the content, her friend did not want her name used publicly, which is often the case for executives or government employees whose contracts forbid them from commenting publicly to the press or otherwise.

No notification, reminder, or restriction

Neither Storify or Facebook offered any notification that the content was in any way restricted or private, and there is no way for users to opt out of their content being shared on Storify, even if implied via their ultra private settings on their Facebook account.

“I really like storify and it is so useful, especially with the Chrome app, for capturing content for my job and topics that matter in my work. It’s incredibly efficient,” said Pippert. But she notes that “End of day, you just have to be prepared to have some of your content used beyond in your little sphere. But the people using it have a responsibility too. What that is isn’t exactly clear in every case. We do all have to be responsible with content we put out through social media, even privately. My friend put out great content that reflected well on her. But she didn’t want her name out there publicly.”

“Storify enabled me to nearly bypass that, against her wishes,” Pippert said. “After we talked, I offered to remove her quote.”

What about private accounts on Twitter?

When a Storify app user clicks “Storify” next to a public Twitter user’s update as a means of adding that update to their Storify stream, the following appears:

storify

And when a user attempts to Storify a private user’s update, it doesn’t offer any explanation or notice that you cannot do such a thing on a private user’s account, rather it turns the screen black like so:

private twitter update

Secret Facebook Group updates no longer secret

We noticed some major differences between how Storify reacts to private Twitter updates and Facebook updates, with users being able to read Facebook status updates in a Storify stream that would otherwise be private.

If your company has a Secret Facebook Group where you collaborate, your prayer group has a Private Facebook Group where you share personal intentions, or your friends have a Secret Facebook Group to talk about their abusive husbands, all of that is private within Facebook, but Storify grabs the information, and it becomes a Storify update with all of the attached data.

Take note that the embedded status update above has actually been deleted from Facebook, yet you can still see it on Storify. That is troubling. Here is a screenshot in the event someone at either company tweaks something and it disappears.

It’s time to look at the connection between Storify and Facebook

While there is not likely any malice by Storify here, or even Facebook in how they structure data differently than Twitter, the ability to inadvertently share private information is all too easy with Storify, and Facebook, who is famous for keeping data on their servers even after users delete photos and the like. It’s not in Facebook’s interest to get rid of any data points, as their bread and butter is ad dollars based on aggregated data, and it is not in Storify’s interest to get rid of data points, as they paint an accurate picture of a user’s status update, unfiltered.

Pippert concludes, “It might ultimately be a human problem to solve: capture content from others mindfully and use it thoughtfully, with good communication. Let others know you’re using the content and make sure you are clear to friends your preference about your content being redistributed.”

This is yet another reminder that anything you say anywhere on the web, private or not, is always subject to being shared via third party apps, screenshots, or good old fashioned copy and paste, so never say something online that you wouldn’t say in public, because there really is no such thing as privacy, which is sad and unacceptable, but true.

Regardless of human behavior, the connection between Twitter and Storify proves there are ways to actually protect private information, so it is clearly time to examine the connection between Facebook and Storify.

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More reading:

Storify Co-Founder implies nothing on Facebook is private
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Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Scott Baradell

    January 18, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Excellent, Lani and Julie!

  2. AmyVernon

    January 18, 2013 at 9:26 am

    So glad you wrote about this and Julie tested it out. It once again shows that nothing you write online is truly private. As Julie rightfully pointed out, anyone could screenshot or otherwise share a post at any time, but it takes extra effort and would have to be done purposefully. But with the way the newsfeed is set up, you could easily Storify something that shows up in your newsfeed, not even realizing it’s not public.

    I don’t blame Storify for this – they’re using the API Facebook gives them. Facebook needs to shore this up.

    • Erika Napoletano

      January 18, 2013 at 9:39 am

      Here, here, Amy. Another Facebook privacy issue — when will these be a thing of the past?

    • Julie Pippert

      January 18, 2013 at 4:34 pm

      Yeah, Facebook needs to recognize we’re going to want to use third party apps. I don’t want Storify blocked; I do want better collaboration tat lets it be in line with FB settings.

      That’s exactly what happened — I easily Storified something from the newsfeed, not knowing it was not public.

      I learned my lesson and try to be cautious, and I still use and am a fan of Storify. I just want my confidence back in respecting privacy settings.

  3. Burt Herman

    January 18, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Thanks for the post and I very much agree with your conclusion — anything posted online in a way that others can see it could be copied, so you should think carefully what you write online. (Or even in an email, for that matter, that could also be easily copied).

    This isn’t a technology issue as much as an etiquette issue. Now that everyone has the power to easily publish to the whole world, we all need to think about how to use that power.

    • Danny Brown

      January 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm

      Surely the etiquette should be for technology API’s to respect privacy settings and be unable to let users post private group updates, no?

      • Burt Herman

        January 18, 2013 at 2:51 pm

        It’s up to you to decide what to share online, and whether to trust the people who can see what you share.

        • Danny Brown

          January 18, 2013 at 3:56 pm

          Right. And when it’s to me, I choose to be part of a Facebook Group that’s private. So, it should now be up to any technology scraping feeds to recognize and respect private settings. Maybe something for you guys and Facebook to work out…

          • Burt Herman

            January 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm

            We don’t show anything to people who can’t see it already on Facebook. Only other people in that group can see it, so it’s up to you whether you trust them not to share what you post more widely.

          • Danny Brown

            January 18, 2013 at 4:26 pm

            You’re missing the point here, Burt – you are showing it to people who aren’t part of that private Facebook group, because you’re allowing these posts to be shown in a public Storify stream. I trust the people I’m part of a private group with – i don’t trust technology that ignores privacy settings who say “Don’t blame us if we post private stuff because someone in the group shared it.”

            API’s can recognize privacy settings (why do you think social scoring tools primarily have to use public Twitter feeds for their scores versus private conversations and communities?). It’s easy to shift blame, it’s less easy to do the right thing and build technology that filters private settings and blocks sharing. But the reward for any companies doing this is more than worth the effort.

        • Julie Pippert

          January 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm

          Not that simple IMHO. We get used to Facebook restricting us from sharing private content. You can trust people and trust privacy, yet accidentally or innocently share. I learned a lesson the hard way. There’s a point to that.

      • Julie Pippert

        January 18, 2013 at 4:26 pm

        That’s a great point, Danny! The tools do need to respect the privacy settings. We can use caution–such as choosing words wisely, setting privacy, being in private groups, etc. But as in this article, even a really good statement that reflected well on the person was not okay with her to share. She shared it in perceived privacy and public share could have negatively affected her job. Not because she said anything wrong, but because she was not able to make a public statement.

  4. Ike Pigott

    January 18, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    I would enjoy Storify so much more if it had more privacy options of its own.

    For example, it’s a great tool for curating a cross-platform, extended conversation. But what if I want to share that compilation with a limited group? Storify has no “Unlisted” option, like YouTube and Posterous have to great effect.

    Until it has that feature, I can’t afford to use it.

  5. Nick

    January 22, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Is this news? A friend can publish your content with storify or they can take screenshot of your post. Where is the difference?

  6. christof_ff

    January 23, 2013 at 5:45 am

    I don’t get what the problem is – they could just as easily take a screenshot, or publish private printed correspondence.
    Surely the lesson is don’t trust you innermost thoughts with stupid people who are likely to share it with the world??

  7. Edward Cullen

    March 8, 2013 at 12:35 am

    Nice post. I am fully agree and satisfied with your conclusion.

  8. Pingback: Your Private Facebook Posts Can Be Publicly Shared Through Storify | Live Shares Daily | Sharing Updated News Daily

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Social Media

Facebook wants your nudes now to protect you from revenge porn later

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook, attempting to get in front of revenge porn, is requesting that users send in all of their nudes.

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In a heroic and totally innovative attempt to combat revenge porn, Facebook has come up with the following solution: “PM US UR NUDEZ.”

No seriously. They want your nudes.

But don’t worry, they’re only going to be viewed by a small group of people for manual confirmation of said nudes, and then stored temporarily… for reasons.

That part gets a little fuzzy. Some sources report that Facebook isn’t actually storing the images, just the links. This is meant to convert the image to a digital footprint, known as a hash, which is supposed to prevent the content from being upload to Facebook again.

Others say Facebook only stores the images for a short period of time and then deletes them.

What we do know, is this is a new program being tested in Australia where Facebook has partnered with a small government agency known as e-Safety and is requesting intimate or nude photos that could potentially be used for revenge porn in an effort to pre-emptively prevent such an incident.

Revenge porn is basically when someone uploads your personal and private photos online without your consent. Rather than address the issue of whether or not it’s such a good idea to take photos on a mobile, hackable device, it’s better to just send a large corporation all your nudes… through their Messenger app. /sarcasm

For your protection.

According to the commissioner of the e-Safety office, Julie Inman Grant, however, they’re using artificial intelligence and photo-matching technologies… and storing the links!

If this isn’t convincing enough, British law firm Mishcon de Reya LLP wrote in a statement to Newsweek, “We would expect that Facebook has absolutely watertight systems to guard the privacy of victims. It is quite counter-intuitive to send such intimate images to an unknown recipient.”

Oh, she wasn’t joking.

I’m not sure how many people still hold onto old intimate photos of themselves, but I am doubtful that it’s enough for this to really be effective as it only prevents intimate photos from being shared on Facebook. At least that’s the plan.

Reactions to this announcement have largely been met with amusement and criticism ranging from commentary on Mark Zuckerberg and Co. being total pervs, and theories of shared Facebook memories: “”Happy Memories: It’s been 1 Year since you uploaded 47 pictures of you in your birthday suit”!

Either way, I can only imagine someone’s inbox is flooded with crotch shots right now, and Zuckerberg has a potential new industry in the works.

Just sayin’.

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Twitter reports that after a year of slashing expenses and putting itself in a position to sell data to other companies, it’s expected to be profitable. What’s surprising (considering how #huge Twitter is) is that this the first time that it will be profitable based on “generally accepted accounting principles” – #GAAP!.

In the 11 years since Twitter took to the field, it has never once met this standard, operating at a loss of nearly 2.5 billion dollars since its inception.

Twitter has struggled of a number of reasons, but particularly after going public in 2013 it suffered declining user growth, the rise of the #twittertrolls (coincidentally, Troll’s are discussed in my favorite TIME piece about the internet – located here), and competition from Facebook for the tough realm of advertising.

Since 2013, shares fell steadily, but things have increased thanks to some optimistic changes – the promise to crack down on harassment and abuse, a feed arranged by algorithm instead of time, and Twitter’s most vocal fan of late, President Donald Trump.

For the numbers fans, Reuters provides some input: Twitter’s loss narrowed to about 21 million down from 103 million this year. They have worked to cut a great deal of expenses -16 percent across the board broadly impacting sales, marketing, and R&D.

This kind of focused core improvement (can) help tip the balance sheet on the expenses side – but generating revenues remains a challenge due to slow growth. Twitter hopes to relieve this by working out some deals to sell data – the currency of the 21st century.

Several months ago, TechCrunch made perhaps the most important observation – that despite the fact Twitter has changed the world, changed our marketing, and empowered us to connect with other people, it has remained unprofitable. Many small and large businesses profit from Twitter, but in these 11 years the company hasn’t #sharedinthewealth.

Twitter is touching every realm of business and for American’s, is touching every aspect of their lives given its new form as the preferred medium of the political sphere. Given that, they have much to do to change.

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Is Facebook a potential Slack killer?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook’s steady ascent from social networking into the business world is giving Slack a run for their money.

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When it comes to the business realm, Facebook has steadily been increasing their reputation. Though Facebook is pinned as the social network, they are now proving to everyone that they can dominate in the professional sector as well.

Last year, Facebook launched an ad-free version of the site meant for the office called Workplace. Initially, 1,000 companies were signed on to try out this “Facebook for the office” in its starter phase.

As of last week, Facebook announced that 30,000 organizations currently use Workplace. These aren’t just small time companies. Some of Workplace’s users include Starbucks, Lyft, Spotify, Heineken, Delta and most recently Walmart.

It seems that overnight it grew from another side project to a valid rival for other professional communication tools like Slack.

Slack is the go-to site for business professionals. With over 6 million users and acquiring more every day, Slack is the place for teams to collaborate in real-time. It has virtually replaced email and external software when it comes to internal communication.

Slack has been successful at acquiring small corporations to use their service.

The problem is that Slack has yet to join forces with larger clients that have now turned to other applications. Just last year, Uber left Slack because they could not handle their large-scale communication needs.

In addition to being able to handle the needs of large companies, Facebook also offers cheaper services than Slack. A premium account with Workplace costs $3 per user each month while Slack charges double at $6.67 per user each month.

With the rapid growth and major reputation of Facebook behind it, many predict that Workplace will replace Slack, and other sites like it, in the not so distant future.

Recently, Facebook also launched the Workplace desktop app and plan to include group video chat. The biggest obstacle Workplace faces is the association with Facebook. It is ironic, since it is also their greatest strength.

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