Category Archives: Discussion

Celebrities Taking On #ALSIceBucketChallenge Raise Millions For Charity

Earlier this year the world of social media came under fire for ease with which it allowed the #neknomination drinking challenge to spread. Critics said it promoted reckless and irresponsible drinking, and this was sadly proven correct by several deaths due to instances of accelerated and excessive consumption of alcohol in acts of one-upmanship.

However, this month we are seeing the same social mechanism of publicly nominating friends and peers put to an altogether better use in the form of the #ALSIceBucketChallenge. ALS is a form of motor neurone disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The challenge dares nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads, and then to make a donation to the ALS Association.

The viral spread is one again achieved by nominating other participants once you have been covered in icy water. As well as having deep pockets, celebrities also have an unfathomably large social reach, especially when combining their audiences.

Here’s an example of the #ALSIceBucketChallenge, courtesy of Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, who nominates actor Tim Robbins, music legend Bruce Springsteen, and – at the behest of his young daughters – Niall Horan from 1Direction, before being drenched in freezing water:

When celebrities start challenging each other publicly on social media, the content will inevitably have a viral spread reaching far and wide. So it should come as no surprise to hear that as of August 18th, the #ALSIceBucketChallenge had raised $15.6m (in the US) since July 29th.

To give you an idea of how much of an impact the social media campaign has had on the ALS Associations fundraising efforts, the amount received in the same period last year was less than $50,000.

As well as creating one of the platforms enabling the challenge to spread so effectively, Mark Zuckerberg was also just one of many tech leaders to find themselves beneath a bucket of icy water. The Facebook founder went on to nominate Bill Gates, who took an amusingly engineered approach to his own drenching.

There are plenty of amusing videos appearing each day from film stars, chart-toppers, sporting heroes and business leaders alike. Which #ALSIceBucketChallenge has been your favourite? Comment below, let us know…

Twitter Experiment Displays Other Users’ Favourites In Your Timeline

Twitter is experimenting with a new feature on the timeline, however users don’t  appear to be best  pleased with it so far. This latest tweak is to do with Favourites, and it essentially treats them in a similar way to retweets, as far as the main timeline is concerned.

Users have now reported seeing tweets in their timeline that users they follow have favourited, or further separated still, popular tweets from accounts that other users follow.

As the example above shows, Peter Kafka is seeing content on his timeline that he didn’t ask for, but is being shown purely on the basis of other users’ actions, while TheNextWeb’s Martin Bryant captured a much more ironic example of Twitter’s latest feature experiment:

The new feature – if implemented across the board – might change the way we use Favourites. Retweets are an intentional act of broadcasting other users’ content to your own followers, whereas Favourites are a way of marking things for your own personal reflection or posterity. When the things you mark for later attention are broadcast to your followers it puts an entirely different spin on things, as people researching topics will often favourite tweets/links to content that are completely against their beliefs or position.

With social networks most changes to the norm are generally met with a certain degree of discontent or mistrust, and this latest experiment from Twitter appears to be no different. While the company is yet to comment on the most recent changes, it did release a statement last year that does provide an overview on how Twitter goes about conducting its product experiments.

Have you experienced any of Twitter’s feature experiments? What are your thoughts on seeing other people’s favourited tweets in your timeline? Leave a comment below with your views.

Facebook Supported By Google, Microsoft & More In Privacy Case

You may recall back in June that Facebook had been issued with a court order demanding that it hand over the data of some 381 users who were being investigated as part of a fraud trial. The social network lodged an ultimately unsuccessful appeal, and had to release the personal data – including photographs and private messages – to the authorities.

The story has now resurfaced after several large tech firms in the US have argued that the original search warrant was a breach of the US Constitution. In court documents filed in New York, companies including Google, Microsoft, Dropbox and Twitter  have thrown their support behind Facebook, claiming that the original process violated the First Amendment, which protects against persons’ belongings falling subject to “unreasonable searches and seizures”.

The BBC has seen the documents submitted to a New York court, and reports that the following tech firms have declared their support for Facebook:

  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Yelp
  • Dropbox
  • Pinterest
  • Foursquare
  • Kickstarter
  • Meetup
  • Tumblr

Google and Microsoft said that they had “a strong interest in the resolution of the issues in this case”, as they have had to deal with similar issues in the past. This also seems to be a case of the strong looking after the weak, with a lawyer representing some of the medium-sized companies saying that “smaller entities, such as start-ups and other developing companies, may not always have the resources to litigate”.

If the bigger firms are able to establish a precedent that may protect smaller businesses in the future, then that will be of benefit to the tech community as a whole.

Financial Conduct Authority Says Firms Should Keep Offline Records

New guidelines published by the Financial Conduct Authority have specified the importance of keeping a record of social media communications and interactions. Many industries have their own rules and regulations regarding the appropriate use of social media, and what systems companies and operators should have in place in terms of records keeping.

This new release from the FCA details some of the pitfalls of using social media to communicate with customers, and offers advisory remarks based on the different formats and norms of various social networks. On the subject of record keeping, we’d like to reproduce two of the points from the FCA document:

2.23 We remind firms of their obligations to have an adequate system in place to sign off digital media communications. This sign-off should be by a person of appropriate competence and seniority within the organisation.

2.24 Firms should also keep adequate records of any significant communications. As well as helping to protect consumers, these records enable the firm to deal effectively with any subsequent claims or complaints. Firms should not rely on digital media channels to maintain records, as they will not have control over this: social media in particular may
refresh content from time to time, with the consequent deletion of older material.

The important point to pick up on here is that firms “should not rely on digital media channels to maintain records, as they will not have control over this”. When you don’t hold the data yourself, you can never be 100% certain that nothing will happen to it, or that the ones holding the data won’t change the accessibility or ease of use.

Only by owning your own copy of the content you post  – and any subsequent interactions  – can you be fully in control of your data. SocialSafe is one such application that allows social media users to download, store, search and do more with their own copy of all the things they have said on their social networks.

Even if there are no legally binding regulations that apply to your business or industry, the FCA’s document is well worth taking a look at as it contains plenty of useful advice that can be heeded by any business, or indeed any individual. Click here to view the Financial Conduct Authority’s Guidance Consultation for Social Media and Customer Communications.

Class Action Lawsuit Against Facebook Gathers Momentum In Europe

Facebook is facing another class action lawsuit over user privacy, originating in Europe. Earlier this year a case was brought against Facebook claiming that the social network had been reviewing users’ private messages “for purposes unrelated to the facilitation of message transmission”. This time the class action is being spearheaded by the Austrian law student Max Schrems, and more than 17,000 people have now signed up to join.

The group – headed by Schrems – claim that Facebook has been engaging in following “unlawful acts”:

  • Data use policy which is invalid under EU law
  • The absence of effective consent to many types of data use
  • Support of the NSA’s ‘PRISM’ surveillance programme
  • Tracking of Internet users on external websites (e.g. through ‘Like buttons’)
  • Monitoring and analysis of users through ‘big data’ systems
  • Unlawful introduction of ‘Graph Search’
  • Unauthorised passing on of user data to external applications

If you’ve not actually heard of Max Schrems before, you may well be familiar with the Europe vs Facebook group that he heads up. He is also the sole named claimant in this case, meaning that anyone else participating in the action will be free from the risks of having to pay any associated costs. Schrems is seeking to claim damages of €500 per user for the alleged data violations by Facebook, and with tens of thousands of users joining the class action, the bill levied at Facebook would be well into the millions if successful.

More details on this legal movement and the Europe vs Facebook group can be found on the FB Claim website set up by Schrems.

We’d just like to take this opportunity to reiterate that while SocialSafe is an application that allows you to download your personal data from Facebook – and other social networks – we never see nor store this data ourselves. Everything you choose to back up with SocialSafe is entirely yours and 100% private – we never hold your data and you can always access it.

Why Are You Seeing So Many Random Videos In Your Facebook News Feed?

Have you noticed an increase in the number of videos that you’re seeing in your Facebook News Feed lately? Well there’s an explanation for that based on your own behaviour and those pesky ol’ Facebook algorithms that seem to polarise audiences.

You should be aware of Facebook’s auto-play function, introduced last year, that starts playing videos (admittedly silently) regardless of whether or not you’ve clicked on them. The algorithm detects when you pause your scrolling to watch them, and will then deliver even more videos. This was confirmed in June by Facebook’s Product Manager, Brett Welch:

People who tend to watch more videos in their News Feed should expect to see more videos near the top of their Feed. Conversely, people who tend to skip over videos without watching them should expect to see fewer videos.

However, these subtle tweaks to the News Feed algorithm that determine the frequency and type of content that is served up in your News Feed can be subject to abuse and exploitation.

Mashable’s Annie Colbert describes the situation as a “sneaky viral video spam problem“. Her article looks at the example of a handful of pages with nothing in common sharing the same irrelevant viral video content (without the appropriate rights to license the footage, incidentally), purely to get their pages into more and more people’s News Feeds by virtue of the fact that the video itself has proven to be popular elsewhere.

So what can we do to avoid seeing ‘spam’ videos appearing in our News Feeds? Well, short of not watching any videos in an attempt to adjust Facebook’s algorithmic  measure of us, it seems as though we’ll just have to be patient while Facebook works on ironing out these creases.

Apple co-Founder Threatens To Leave Facebook Over Data Ownership Concerns

A lengthy article about the Facebook Terms of Service – and how it more or less gives the social network carte blanche to do what it likes with all of your data – has caught the eye of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who is not best pleased that he doesn’t appear to own his own profile picture.

The article in question is from the US edition of the Huffington Post, and breaks down a lot of the salient points of Facebook’s Data Use Policy and Terms of Service, which the overwhelming majority of us will have accepted without reading. It also goes on to elaborate on how our Facebook information is combined with some of our general internet browsing data to come up with ‘inferred’ information about you from evidence and reasoning rather than from explicit statements.

But it’s more the question of data ownership that was ruffling Wozniak’s feathers, to the point where the Apple co-founder is considering leaving Facebook. Sharing the Huffington Post article on Facebook, he included the following message:

“Not right. My profile picture is owned by Facebook, not by myself, etc. I may not be here much longer.”

steve wozniack huffington post facebook pictures

Data ownership and the issues of privacy when our personal information is posted online is becoming an increasingly sensitive subject for individuals and privacy groups alike. Here at SocialSafe we firmly believe that the individual should be the single biggest owner of their personal data, which is why we have been helping users of social networks take control of their data.

The SocialSafe application allows users to download their own copy of the information they post to social networks (updates, tweets, photos, messages, posts and more) to their own machines. Once this information is stored in the users own private, local library they can they do more with it, such as search across multiple networks, create collections, export to PDF and see their most popular content.

Looking forward, we are working on expanding SocialSafe to support personal data from all sorts of sources. To start taking back control of your personal data now, download SocialSafe for free and back up the content from your social networks.

Which Social Media Records Did The #WorldCup Final Break?

Given the amount of people who actively use social media, and the amount of people to whom football is more or less a religion, it should be of little surprise to hear that Sunday’s World Cup Final broke Facebook and Twitter records.

Germany’s extra time victory over Argentina managed to elicit 280m interactions on Facebook (posts, comments or likes) from fans and observers across the globe. That figure eclipsed the record for the most Facebook interactions for an event, which had been set at 245m by the 2013 Super Bowl.

A new record was also set for the most tweets-per-minute, which peaked on Sunday at 618,725 and comfortably broke the record set earlier in the week when the hosts Brazil were annihilated 7-1 by eventual world champions Germany (580,106 tweets-per-minute). However the Germany vs. Brazil game still retains the record for the most tweets in a game, (36.6m), with only 32.1m tweets being posted during the World Cup final.

They were two very different games, with the record-setting Germany vs. Brazil game descending into the viral sharing of memes before half an hour had even been played, while the Germany vs. Argentina final was a much more tense affair during which people may have been less inclined to aver their gaze from the match to a second screen.

Another interesting fact came from Facebook, with the social network revealing that the top five countries participating in the global interactions were the USA, Brazil, ArgentinaGermany and Indonesia. It’s a little surprising that the two countries battling it out in the World Cup final were not the top two countries in terms of Facebook activity, although as stated, it’s reasonable to assume that both the Argentinians and the Germans would be glued to the match itself, rather than posting to social networks.

Were you active on social media during the football World Cup? What were your favourite moments from Brazil 2014? There many memorable tweets, posts and viral memes doing the rounds, and it must be said that social media really did provide a supplementary layer and subplot to what was already a fantastic global occasion.

If you have a particular favourite social media moment from Brazil 2014 then please link to it in the comments section below.

John Hurt Asks You To #TakeBackControl With Respect Network

Regular readers of this blog should be aware that SocialSafe recently became one of the founding partners of the Respect Network, whose core principle is to empower and encourage individuals to #TakeBackControl of their privacy and data.

To remind us that we as individuals need to take steps to protect our privacy, the Respect Network has created this simple but emotionally provoking video:  “Who’s Watching You—John Hurt Asks You to #TakeBackControl”

Hopefully this video should remind you all that what you put online seldom stays private. Despite our best intentions, whenever we post things online or submit information to a third-party, our personal information is often available to a much larger number of people than we’d originally intended.

Here at SocialSafe we are proud to be a Respect Network founding partner, and believe that being able to #TakeBackControl is just the start. Once you have your personal data under your own control, then you can begin to do more with it.

We have started to make this possible for our users in terms of their social network data with the SocialSafe application. By backing up your own local copy of the content from your social networks, you can then search across all of your networks at once, create collections of content export raw data, PDFs and so on.

For more information about how the Respect Network operates, and to claim your own personal cloud name, please visit the main Respect Network site, and #TakeBackControl.

Instagram Moved 20 Billion Photos To Facebook – Did Any Fall Through The Cracks?

Unbeknownst to the hundreds of millions of Instagram users, the infrastructure that holds all of their photographic creations has quietly been dismantled, relocated and rebuilt. Impressive stuff, when you consider the quantities of data involved – the service now stores in excess of 20 billion digital photos.

Since 2010 Instagram had been using Amazon’s cloud computing service, but the number of virtual machines required to run Instagram on Amazon was getting in “the thousands”. Historically, when Facebook had acquired other, smaller properties, the process involved shutting down the service in order to incorporate it into the world of Facebook. However, according to Facebook engineer George Cabrera, in the case of Instagram “the service couldn’t take any disruption”.

So in what Facebook called ‘Instagration’, the team in essence had to carry out multiple organ transplants while both patients were still conscious. Or as Mike Kreiger, founder of Instagram, explained:

“The users are still in the same car they were in at the beginning of the journey, but we’ve swapped out every single part without them noticing.”

The project was complicated, but the team behind the data transfer have successfully transitioned Instagram to now run from its own dedicated machines inside one of Facebook’s facilities. If you’re particularly interested in what the team had to do to make sure the whole thing went off without a hitch, then check out this article by WIRED’s Cade Metz:

How Facebook Moved 20 Billion Instagram Photos Without You Noticing

While everything seemed to go smoothly, whenever your content or data is held by a network or third-party that may encounter scaling issues or could indeed be absorbed into another company’s infrastructure, there will also be a concern that data could be lost along the way. While the ‘Instagration’ is a great example of data migration done well, it’s also a reminder that there’s always the potential that the actions of others could cost you what’s yours.

We believe that the individual should be the one who owns and controls their personal data, and that is why we built the SocialSafe application to allow you to download your Instagrams, Facebook Messages, Tweets, Followers and so on, all to your very own personal data store. There’s no reason to think that the networks themselves won’t look after the originals properly, but accidents can and do happen, so why take the risk?

Start building you own personal data library today, by downloading SocialSafe for free, and backing up your memories from the social networks you use.