Facebook Farmville Leaks and Privacy

Matt Barton's picture

It looks like Facebook is back in the news over security issues again, this time over a leak in apps including Farmville and a Texas Hold'Em game. The leak amounts to leaking real names and your friends' names to advertisers and trackers. I hope that no one using Facebook nowadays has any illusions about the company's lukewarm approach to securing their privacy, but the fact that headlines like this still arouse controversy suggests otherwise. At any rate, I'm of the opinion that Facebook's unacknowledged quest to wean people from internet anonymity is a good thing.

We've discussed internet anonymity at Armchair Arcade before, most recently in the context of Blizzard's real name controversy on its forums (Blizzard eventually backed down from forcing its forum denizens to reveal their true identities).

Who really cares about internet anonymity? Lofty principles aside, I find it's mostly pirates, perverts, racists, nuts, office sloths, and of course misanthropes. Try to imagine going anywhere in public with a mask over your head and a voice-disguise machine. You could claim all you wanted that such a getup was necessary to protect your "security" and "identity," but you'd still be a nut. Sane people don't wear masks because they know how to behave in ways condoned by the majority of their fellow citizens. For the exact same reason that we'd be wary of someone wearing a mask in a grocery store or public park, we should be wary of anyone demanding anonymity on the internet. They simply aren't up to anything good.

Anonymity should only be granted in cases where it benefits society, not just the individual. A good example of warranted anonymity is whistle-blowing, particularly when the cover-up is dangerous to the public. In these cases, it makes perfect sense to protect the person's anonymity, but of course we shouldn't act on the information until an *official*, non-anonymous follow-up investigation proves the whistle-blower was legitimate. Of course, it's hard to tell if we should take the whistle-blower seriously until we confirm that he or she has some real connection to the incident, but I assume that a responsible organization would at least demand that they themselves know the true identity of the whistle-blower. There are other examples of legitimate anonymity, of course, such as surveys, certain types of customer feedback, and so on. Again, in most cases it makes sense that at least someone on the receiving end knows the true identities to avoid fraud. Voting itself is anonymous, yet we must show our identification to vote. The current system of email verification and such are much too weak by comparison.

What internet privacy nuts want is not really anonymity but immunity. They want to be able to say whatever they want about anything, regardless of the potential of causing real damage by libel. They also want protection for illegal or illicit activities online, such as downloading copyrighted games, illegal gambling, or accessing pornographic websites. They also want to abuse Facebook and such on company time. In short, these people are behaving reprehensibly, in ways that ultimately harm their fellow citizens. In fact, they are anti-social and a threat to everyone else.

A simple principle to live by is simply not to post anything or, in fact, to say anything that you wish to keep private. Indeed, the whole notion of internet privacy is ridiculous when one considers how easy it would be for messages to remain private--simply by not posting them! Sure, it is embarrassing when something you thought was being sent only to one person gets broadcast. Yet it is precisely when the message is most incriminating that it benefits society for it to be exposed. So a cheating spouse or corrupt politician gets busted when an incriminating Facebook message gets leaked. How is that a case for internet anonymity? I'm not saying I want cameras installed in my home, but I certainly don't mind seeing them on traffic signals or shopping centers. Why would I want to protect criminals by protesting the cameras?

Some folks wish to injure others with their comments and postings--all behind a mask. Such people are cowards at best, criminals at worst. Any man or woman of honor would be ashamed of such conduct.

If Facebook's laxity and shenanigans are doing anything to wean people off the idea of "internet anonymity," more power to them. Hell, I may even jump on Farmville and start spamming everyone with my piglet updates.

Comments

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Where's the "Like" button?

Where's the "Like" button?

n/a
matty
Offline
Joined: 10/16/2010
I agree completely. I use my

I agree completely. I use my real name all the time online, I am just careful about what personal information I post. The way I always looked at it was simple, no matter what ANYONE says if you post something on the internet it will always be findable by someone, even after it has been *removed*. Have some common sense about what you say and do online just like any other public forum and for the most part you will not need anonymity.

Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
Same here

I tend to use my real name all the time. I treat the Internet just as any other public place.

n/a
Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/04/2006
Internet anonymity is cruel, but perhaps unavoidable.
Matt Barton wrote:

Some folks wish to injure others with their comments and postings--all behind a mask. Such people are cowards at best, criminals at worst. Any man or woman of honor would be ashamed of such conduct.

I think this quote reveals more philosophical tangents than might first be obvious at first. Yes, of course, people shouldn't post stuff they would be ashamed to say in real life. Even though I've posted lots of stupid stuff.

Anyhow, the above quote by Matt seems to imply (to me) that Matt received some anonymous criticism via the Internet that angered him. Yes, anonymous criticism is cowardly. Pretty much all of us who've been on the Internet, or God forbid, actually produced a publicly consumable product (writing, videos, music, etc.), have received anonymous, hateful, and most likely "B.S." criticism that really shouldn't bother you, yet it somehow does, if you let it. I've received some criticism in the past, but the less "constructive" it was, the more it didn't matter to me. "F**k you, loser," I would think, and then move on.

But, compared to you guys, what I've done pales compared to your achievements. Spiderman said, "With great power comes great responsibility." I paraphrase that by saying "With great achievement comes great criticism." It must be tough, being you guys.... but if you can look at it as "par for the course," as part of the "achievement" package, then maybe that would be helpful psychologically. After all, Matt (to address you directly): who are these anonymous scumbags that attack you? Are they even in your league? Do they have a PhD? Have they written several published books? Do they have respected videos online? Of course not! No way! They're scum, and you know that. If they had worked hard for something in their life, they wouldn't be so quick to tear another achiever down. That's just straight-out logic.

Now, to my MAIN POINT:

Are the diatribes against net anonymity (notably from both Matt and Bill) based on ending COWARDICE, or is it based on SQUELCHING CRITICISM and imposing conformity? After all, without anonymity, you guys would have to deal with a lot less hateful, hurtful, ridiculous criticism. And even if there was no anonymity, would it really stop these 12-year-olds from posting? Are they even old enough to consider all the ramifications and concequences?

Of course nobody likes criticism, especially if it's hateful and mean. But does any decent, compassionate person enjoy GIVING criticism? Do YOU like to do it, in front of everyone, for all the world to see, with your name attached, etched in the annals of history? You might call it "brave" to do so, but I can't recall any of the principals of AA ever posting direct criticism to any member here. Perhaps towards obvious trolls, but other than that, I can't think of anything during all the time I've been here (which was pretty much from the beginning of AA) that I've seen it. That is to your credit, of course.

And since I ("Rowdy Rob") have been here so long, and have posted many messages, CERTAINLY I must have come up in private conversations between the Admins. I imagine that a great deal of that wasn't (or isn't) favorable. You are holding out on me, and on other members here.

Of course I'm not asking you to trash me, or anyone else, publicly, because that wouldn't be commonly decent to do so. I agree with you on that point. Keep it to yourselves; I don't want to know (although I already think I do, and I agree with you!). I'm just making a philosophical argument here. You have to admit, there is that barrier that comes up when you want to criticize anyone "to their face," in front of everyone, because if not done properly, it can make you look more like an ass than the person you are criticizing. Plus, things could get really ugly here in the forums if you guys, or the other "decent" forum members, decided to become "brave."

For the record, I've never posted anything on the Internet that I would consider to be hateful. Heck, I didn't even post under "Rowdy Rob" until I joined my first Web forum, "Monroeworld," and I only did that because it seemed everyone else was posting under aliases too (i.e. "Blacklily" and such). And I, being new to Web forums, thought that it was expected, standard procedure, to use an alias. Before that, I've always posted under my real name on local BBS's, Fidonet, and Usenet. Yes, there were some real-life ramifications. "Rowdy Rob" just carried over from Monroeworld to here when you guys started up, and I stuck with it. "Rowdy Rob" really is/was my real-life nickname amongst my friends and coworkers, and even my past girlfriend(s) called me "Rowdy," rather than "Robert." I'm comfortable posting as "Rowdy Rob."

I consider "Rowdy Rob" to be a fun web "handle" (in CB jargon) or nickname, but not an alias. Just like Rob Daviau was formerly "MaximumRD." To me, "MaximumRD" says more to me than "Rob Daviau" about him. It's a fun "web handle," but not an anonymous alias he's ever hid behind. Likewise, everything I've ever posted online is the real me. I may say it verbosely, but I can honestly say I mean everything I say! I'm a good-hearted, well-meaning, intelligent, opinionated, honest (sometimes brutally), wanting-the-best-for-everyone kind of person. I think that comes through in my messages here (I hope). That's the real me. As for the bad: I'm lazy, unreliable, flaky, overtly verbose, and perhaps just a touch not as mentally solid as I used to think I was. Yeah, I said it, so you don't have to. (If you were PAYING/EMPLOYING me, though, most of those negatives go away.) I know the negatives come through here too. And in "real life," there are more positives/negatives. So be it, I'm still human.

I just did a web search for my real name, and you know what I've found? That I'm DEAD, that I'm a registered sex offender, or that I've been convicted of DUI, among other highlights. Of course, none of that is true; those are other guys who happened to share my same name. There's also a "Robert Owens" that happens to be a very popular "House/techno" singer in Europe. Sadly, that isn't me either. It seems my name is a very common one.

The only way to weed out the common names and force true accountability is to have a controlled, traceable database, with full information (address, age, etc.) accessible by EVERYONE. Without that, what's to stop me from posting crazy stuff under YOUR name(s)??? To prevent that would require a very large international database, which would arouse true privacy concerns, if not outright "Big Brother" concerns. THAT'S the step that a lot of privacy advocates would really be concerned about.

There are SEVERAL scenarios that I can think of, that I won't post publicly (and possibly give other sickos some ideas) where your "real" name can cause havoc on the Internet, directly affecting you, if your name isn't a particularly common one. And if your name is a relatively common one (like mine), then it's almost like being anonymous anyway.

Although anonymous net postings can hurt when directed at you PERSONALLY, I do find that as an overall trend, anonymity seems to be quite informative. Pretty much any political news story on the net has comments that seem to indicate what a significant portion of people feel, even though they're posted anonymously. A lot of them are quite crude, ridiculous, racist, or otherwise sick, but those people are out there, venting. I had no idea how sick the world really was until I got on the Internet!

Ok, I've droned on long enough. Brevity is not my strong point. But hopefully there's some food for thought here. Internet anonymity may be infuriating and annoying, but it is the REALITY that you must deal with. My suggestion: anyone who criticizes you "behind a mask" is a person who's criticisms don't count!

Another thought: If you AA guys really feel so strongly about this, why not REQUIRE that people post here under their real name? I say this, even though I haven't seen the usual web "sickness" on this forum (thank God!), so it might not really apply here.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
First off, Rowdy Rob, I don't

First off, Rowdy Rob, I don't recall us ever talking badly about you in public or behind the scenes (and can't recall a reason we would have had to). In fact, we rarely talk badly of others in front of or behind the scenes. Behind the scenes we are perhaps more frank than we are in public, but otherwise it's all pretty much the same. If we disagree with someone or have something "bad" to say about someone, we are generally public about it, which I think has been evident in the 7 years here at Armchair Arcade or prior to that at other places. I'm very measured in my own criticisms when I do actually criticize as is evident by how careful I've been with the Pandora people, even though I found myself nodding in agreement when someone said the words "pyramid scheme" the other day. Part of that is maturity and part of that is experience--it's just best to really think before you criticize.

To be clear, I'm a champion for Internet accountability - one manifestation of which is the use of real names - for very pragmatic reasons. We are a species of bullies and the easiest way to bully is to do so from a position where there are no ramifications, which is what the Internet for the most part provides through relative anonymity (to be fair, in the most extreme cases, the authorities can often track an offender down, though obviously not always). This can be very dangerous as the very weak among us can't always handle that. As I/we have posted about previously here on Armchair Arcade, this can result in the unpleasant revealing of information that shouldn't be revealed, injury, or even death. As you say, with great power comes great responsibility and the Internet - which by its nature gives us the ability to speak to the world - is among the greatest power.

As I've stated in previous posts, I agree that children should not be held to the same standard as adults and I'm all for pseudonyms for the under age. If we pick an age - say 16 or 18 - and use that as the dividing line to "be yourself", I think that's fair. If that were the case, it would be much easier to identify and ignore baseless rants from the anonymous "cowards" because they're underage and don't really know any better.

And yes, some of this does relate to our public work. For instance, people publicly pirate PDF's "Vintage Games" and "Wii Fitness for Dummies" and brag about it on Twitter and all kinds of sites. What do they care, though, because they have the name "dummies24" and can be open about offering our work for free. It doesn't matter what they do in the real world and that the real world would frown upon stealing because their real world lives are shielded from their virtual lives. Sure, that can be a good thing in some cases, but there are clearly downsides to that. From a less sinister standpoint, yes, part of that is anonymous attacks, which both hurt and can have real consequences on perception, hurting sales, hurting opportunities, etc. Negative criticism is fair when it's backed by some facts, but the reality is a lot of negative criticism is rooted in nothing more than not liking the person or persons, or having an agenda, which only serves the attacker.

For the record, I've always used my real name, even as a kid in the 80s (at least whenever that's possible; sometimes you CAN'T use your real name). Part of that was/is ego, part of that is truly believing in standing behind what I am and what I say. Luckily, I've rarely been enough of a jerk for me to be concerned about how I'd be perceived in the future.

Really, as the pervasiveness of the Internet continues in our day-to-day lives, it's only a matter of time before the way we act on it as a group will have to evolve along with it. Already privacy or the lack thereof is being challenged. I see the end result being the end of anonymity out of a very practical necessity. At some point, the real and virtual worlds will be so intertwined that it will be impossible to differentiate between the two and the same rules will have to apply to it all. That seems logical to me.

n/a
Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/04/2006
Anonymous cretins, freedom of speech, and oppression.
Bill Loguidice wrote:

First off, Rowdy Rob, I don't recall us ever talking badly about you in public or behind the scenes (and can't recall a reason we would have had to). In fact, we rarely talk badly of others in front of or behind the scenes. Behind the scenes we are perhaps more frank than we are in public, but otherwise it's all pretty much the same.

Sorry for the way I worded that. It was late, I was bleary-eyed, and I had a couple of glasses of wine in me (I occasionally like to imbibe before bed). What I was trying to do, in my drunk-off-my-ass state (ok, that's an exaggeration), was to self-depreciatingly use myself as an example, rather than someone else, of the limits of the "say-it-and-mean-it, accept-the-concequences" position. In civilized society, people generally conduct themselves civilly, even if they occasionally want to let loose with their real feelings. We wouldn't want it any other way.

The arguments I'm hearing from you and Matt (who started this subject), is that Internet anonymity allows for people to behave online in ways they couldn't get away with in civil society. There's no accountability, no consequences, and no humiliation or fear. You can just let your sicko self unleash and vent onto the world, completely disregarding the effects of your actions on other people. I cannot argue with you on this point; the darkest, sickest side of humanity is unleashed and generally unchecked on the Internet. And the potential, and REAL, damage is enormous.

So what's the solution? What I'm hearing from you guys is "the way things are is ridiculous; people should be forced to be better through the elimination of anonymity. This is the way it should be." But....

HOW DO YOU DO IT? What is the actual, practical system? What is the mechanism? Can you think of any way that doesn't reek of dangerous censorship, or of a way that does not have the potential to give control of the Internet to a system that could end up being a totalitarian regime?

I've never been to a Chinese website (to my knowledge), since I can't read Chinese, but I imagine that the Chinese Internet experience is much more civil than what we are used to. They also are heavily censored, with many differing opinions, particularly against the government, squelched.

You guys are saying "This sucks. Internet anonymity is giving cover to a bunch of hateful idiots. We need to expose these people and make them accountable." Ok, I agree, but... how do you do it? You guys are venting out of anger, saying "this is the way it should be," but how do you do it without outright censorship? And are you not actually saying that you want to place YOURSELVES in control of the Internet?

Bill Loguidice wrote:

As you say, with great power comes great responsibility and the Internet - which by its nature gives us the ability to speak to the world - is among the greatest power.

To turn your argument around on you, "with great power comes great responsibility," who gets the power and responsibility? The U.N.? The commercial Internet providers? A power-mad regime? It could all lead to some level of censorship or totalitarianism. "This guy criticized our government.There's his real name! There he is, everybody! Get him!"

Since the Internet is regulated differently in most countries, even if you squelch hate in one country, there's no stopping someone else in another country from posting such hate against you, unless you either have a world-wide regulating body, or you have walled-off Internet "countries." And that can lead to censorship, or at least the loss of sovereignty of a nation governing its own people. And it can certainly cripple the dialogue and international friendships that have leaped beyond the borders of countries and have developed. It's happened right here in AA for example, with AA "masthead" representing at least three countries!

What I'm reading not reading from you guys is a practical MEANS or method to control the Internet and stop the sickness, without the intimidation of censorship or repercussions. You might state your honest, intelligent, heartfelt opinion, and be humiliated and killed for it.

You're saying "this sucks, it should be better," but there's no workable proposal from you. In some countries, if you speak out against the regime without anonymity, you're dead, or at least are looking at prison time! HOW DO YOU CONTROL THE INTERNET? I don't like hateful scum any more than you do. I'm all ears for a practical, free-speech-guaranteeing solution.

Then there's the point that a "real name" may not actually be the "real name" of the actual poster. With all the hacking going on, it's entirely possible that the "real name" you see is actually a hacked account, with another sicko as the actual culprit. This has actually happened; I recall reading about the FBI tracking down an IP address of a child porn ring, visiting the house in question, and discovering that the IP adress belonged to a little old lady in an apartment with an unprotected WI-FI address. Obviously, it wasn't her, but that means any number of people in her apartment building could have been the real culprit(s). If "real names" are enforced, I imagine that a lot of black market "real name" accounts could become big business.

What's the means? What's the mechanism? What's the solution? And who gets the ultimate power? The squelching of true thoughts and feelings is a high price to pay to protect you from someone saying "you suck."

Rob Daviau
Rob Daviau's picture
Offline
Joined: 05/19/2006
Good POST!

Now that was a great post there Rowdy! I certainly think you posted some interesting points. My method of choosing MaximumRD as a username certainly was nothing fancy, when I decided to open a Youtube channel specifically about classic gaming I knew I wanted something that stood out. I had considered a PC support type of channel very seriously but decided that kind of thing could really bog down my free time and be frustrating so I decided to go with a classic gaming channel and since I loved "Maximum PC" magazine I thought "Hey, something similar, let's change "PC" to "RD" and see how that works. Of course it was never my intention to have a user name as a means of being anonymous, I just felt it was dynamic in some way. I did think of it in terms of "MaximumRD" IS me, it is my online presence or persona, MaximumRD is that guy that loves classic gaming but right from the start I still said MaximumRD is that 42 year old married fellow from Canada that loves classic gaming so really I behave online under that name the same way I would as Rob Daviau, I would not want to damage the name or rep of MaxRd anymore then I would my own "real name" but then again, that's me, I never intended to be any different. Of course I certainly cannot deny I to have been the victim of trolling, I could go on and on about that to but I wont, these days I try to live by the same rules I preach which is ignore/block and if required report but do NOT feed the trolls or waste any more time then necessary engaging them. Anyway, interesting thread and points brought up by everyone.

n/a
Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
Philosophically speaking, I

Philosophically speaking, I agree with Habermas about the need for two distinct spheres: a private and a public sphere. You absolutely need to have some measure of privacy in your life, which I think of as a home, family, ability to keep a private journal, and so on. However, once you bring someone else into it, whether by posting to the internet or getting up on an actual soapbox and ranting, that's the public sphere. Both are essential, and you can't (at least according to Habermas) have one without the other.

Part of having a strong public sphere is being able to engage in rational-critical debate. That is a form of debate that advances thought and should be protected. It is not necessary to have anonymity, however, nor should you have blanket immunity. Again, there are libel and slander laws that punish you for some types of lies (especially when those lies have a measurable economic effect). Indeed, your influence in the public sphere expands as your reputation evolves over time, and you establish a certain reputation and credibility. To me, anyone insisting on anonymity has already radically compromised his position. Why the mask? It could only mean that the person is afraid that his position might negatively affect his reputation (or perhaps it's someone who wants to be two-faced). Or maybe the person is afraid of being found out and revealed as a liar or slanderer; in any case, fear is the prime motivator.

Imagine how much less moving the "I have a dream" speech would have been if MLK JR. was known only as "Kewl Dawg 66" and said it all anonymously. He might be alive today. But look at who insists on anonymity--the Ku Klux Klan. Or consider how vile those political adverts feel when it's obvious that a particular candidate supports them, but prefers to make it look like some third party put them on without their knowledge or consent. Yeah, right.

I absolutely support free speech, but "free" as in the ability to say it, not the ability to evade the consequences. You saw what happened when I publicly criticized Mobygames for their copyright policy. We got some emails asking us to take down the post, but we left it up. Sure, I could have posted it under "Hyperwing 16" or whatever and pretended I didn't know anything about it. That would have saved me any hard feelings from the Mobygames team, but it would also have been cowardly.

n/a
Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
Nothing against 'handles'

I have nothing against people using a nice and fun internet 'handle'. I am just being very pragmatic. I do use internet handles in some places like Mark1970 or Lactobacillus, LactobacillusP.
Very good discussion by the way!

n/a
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Nothing wrong with it, except...
Mark Vergeer wrote:

I have nothing against people using a nice and fun internet 'handle'. I am just being very pragmatic. I do use internet handles in some places like Mark1970 or Lactobacillus, LactobacillusP.
Very good discussion by the way!

I wouldn't either if it had a real name behind it. In other words, I might know you virtually as "Mighty Jack", but it would be associated to the real world "Jack Mehoffer", so there would still be accountability (apologies for the crude Howard Stern reference).

n/a

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.