Recently Facebook has been flooded with posts of “Be Like Bill” memes and posts from various local news organizations warning of the danger of the site that generates the custom meme. What is the truth? Should you give up custom memes and personality quizzes? Is it all a lot of nonsense? Your Dirt Farmer team has a guide for you, to help navigate these (and all) types of apps safely. Check out the details below and please do share.
So what to do with these? The meme’s and little quizzes on these online apps are fun, the news articles are scary – but are they TRUE? Always do your own research. Don’t believe what you see on the internet or on the news. Sensationalism sells – these companies make money by getting viewers/readers and selling ads based on the number they have. Unfortunately, many are more than willing to stretch the truth to do it, so it is always wise to check for yourself before sharing or believing this type of information. Now let’s walk through some research on Be Like Bill and safe usage of apps on Facebook. We will start with definitions of some of the terms used in the warning articles – Facebook App, Clickbaiting and Clickjacking.
Let’s go with Facebook’s definition of what a Facebook app is. (For example FarmVille is an app, as are many of the iq tests, and mini quizzes that folks share)
What is an app on Facebook?
“Apps and games are developed to enhance your experience on Facebook. You can add the apps and games that interest you from the App Center.
Apps and games on Facebook that are created by third-party developers must follow the Facebook Platform Policy. If you see one that isn't following these policies, please report it.
The info found in these apps and games is stored on developer servers that aren't hosted by Facebook. The developers are responsible for their servers, and Facebook can't remove info from them. If you want to remove any info you give to an app or game, please contact the developer.
Note: You’ll need to give the app or game permission before you can start using it.”
Now let’s look at Google’s definition of Clickbaiting
“(on the Internet) content, especially that of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular web page.”
So CLICKBAITING is something geared to get your attention and get you to click on it and visit a website to view their other content.
Finally Google’s definition of Clickjacking
“the malicious practice of manipulating a website user's activity by concealing hyperlinks beneath legitimate clickable content, thereby causing the user to perform actions of which they are unaware.”
This one is much more insidious, it involves mis-labeling a link to get you to click on something you otherwise would not.
For example take a look at this Facebook ad. It claims that Tom Cruise has gotten married to get attention and purports to be from US Magazine, a popular celebrity magazine that many people feel pretty comfortable clicking on. HOWEVER when you hover your mouse over the link (this works with most if not all links on Facebook) without clicking, the link address appears in the bottom left corner of the page. It actually goes to a little known “fashionweeklymag.com” url NOT to US Magazine. This is clickjacking, a link that appears to be going somewhere that it is not to mislead you into clicking it. Sites that do this may contain adware, malware or spyware.
In contrast have a look at this link from our Dirt Farmer Fan Page. When you hover your mouse the bottom left matches – both say www.farmvilledirt.com so you know that we are being honest with where we are asking you to go.
Now let’s move on to the Be Like Bill Controversy and scandal.
Many of the articles cite the Better Business Bureau as their source for Blobla.com, the home of Be Like Bill being dangerous. However when you actually go to the BBB’s website and read it’s Social Media warning, it doesn’t even reference Blobla or Be Like Bill. This article quotes a BBB official as saying they are checking it out but have not ruled. That official Steve Bernas, does check out as real by visiting the BBB’s website. Snopes.com, the renowned fact-checking site found no evidence of Blobla/Be like Bill being malicious in their investigation. What’s more Blobla/Be like Bill is not even a Facebook app. Using it leaves nothing in your list of apps, it is simply a share dialog as you will find on many safe websites including ours. Since it is only a share dialog, you can sit there and play with it to your heart’s content and not give it ANY information other than your first name if you do not wish to share it on your wall.
While the “Be Like Bill” warnings currently appear to have been mainly sensationalism – and are themselves clickbaiting – they do raise some valid points. It is very possible to have your personal information hijacked by making social media choices. Let’s take a look at the safe use of apps on Facebook.
First of all NEVER give an app or online quiz that you are using casually your phone number. You could unwittingly be authorizing a text-message subscription service with a monthly charge, or opening yourself up to scam callers. This is different from securing an account with a large well-known company like Facebook, Google or Twitter with a phone number, as these quizzes often appear on small unvetted websites.
If you are interested in doing a certain meme or quiz and are uncertain of the safety of the site, a great place to check is Sucuri. Sucuri is a free online scanner, where you can simply paste the url of the site you are curious about and click scan and it will check it for you for malware and blacklisting and injected spam status. We searched Blobla, home of the Be like Bill meme and two popular quiz generating apps Nametests and Meaww. See the results we got below.
(please note the “additional actions recommended” are buying their security software for any websites you own, click the link and see for yourself)
Another way to be safe is to review the permissions that you are giving an app before clicking to approve and making sure that A- the app needs them to function and B – you are comfortable enough with the site to give them. This can be done retroactively with apps that you have already authorized as well.
With a new app, click on “edit the info you provide” to see what it is asking for.
Simply scroll down the pop-up and review the permissions. If you uncheck any and the app does not work you will need to consider again whether you are willing to give that particular bit of information or if you’d rather just not use the app.
With this particular app – Meowshare - I attempted to uncheck email address, because I don’t see any reason for them to have it, based on what the app offers. (A game like FarmVille does need your e-mail address to validate support contact options, but for a quiz why? Despite the fact that it was not marked required, the app would not proceed without it so I opted to pass on the quiz. That does not mean Meowshare is unsafe, it simply means that each individual should make informed choices on privacy.
What about apps that you have already installed? It is a good idea to review these regularly too, to make sure that nothing has installed itself by clicking a bad link – and to make sure that you still want all you have. Leaving an app that is no longer used, allows it to continue collecting personal information that you have given it permission to collect.
To do so, click on the down arrow in the upper right of your home page, then click on settings.
Then click on APPS on the left.
All apps that you have installed on your account will be visible. (You may have to click see more at the bottom to see all)
If you hover your mouse over an app you will see a pencil to edit – this allows you to review and change what permissions you have given the app.
You will also see an x to remove the app if you no longer want it.
When you click on edit, you will see a popup simliar to the one with the new app. Remember that removing permissions can cause an app not to work. For example if you remove access to your friends list from FarmVille, you will no longer see neighbors on your bar or friends in stalls. Your friends will also not see you to gift to. If you remove access to friends list or photos from those online “which friend is…” type quizzes they will no longer be able to function. So consider the functionality of an app that you are uncomfortable with the permissions of and determine whether it is best to remove the permission or remove the app. What permissions have been requested/granted may vary across apps as seen below.
After reviewing the apps that you currently have installed, it is also wise to scroll down and click edit review “apps others use” This determines what information your friends share with apps you do not use.
There’s quite a list of your information that is available to them, so review it carefully and uncheck any that you do not wish to disclose in this manner. (Default is ALL checked). Some of them are rather invasive. Why does an app that I don’t use but my friend does need to know MY religious and political views? Check this carefully and allow only those that you are comfortable.
That’s all for now, stay tuned to the Dirt Farmer for the latest FarmVille news and information.