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Facebook's "Evil Interfaces" 244

Posted by Soulskill
from the click-here-for-sunshine-and-puppies dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Tim Jones over at the EFF's Deep Links Blog just posted an interesting article on the widespread use of deceptive interface techniques on the Web. He began by polling his Twitter and Facebook audience for an appropriate term for this condition and received responses like 'Bait-and-Click' and 'Zuckerpunched.' Ultimately, he chose 'Evil Interfaces' from Greg Conti's HOPE talk on malicious interface design and follow-up interview with media-savvy puppet Weena. Tim then goes on to dissect Facebook (with pictures). So, what evil interfaces have you encountered on (or off) the Web?"
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Facebook's "Evil Interfaces"

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  • Ok, honestly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:28PM (#32058270)
    Honestly, FB should just give us decent privacy controls because the majority of their users won't bother. So its a win-win. FB gets to use whatever they want and the small number of us who want better privacy controls are pleased.
    • Re:Ok, honestly (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:42PM (#32058376)
      You could always ... not use Facebook. What they don't have, they can't use.
      • Re:Ok, honestly (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:51PM (#32058442)

        That doesn't stop 'friends' putting information about you on their profile or tagging photos with your name.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Rude Turnip (49495)

          Conduct all your debauchery in the privacy of your own home and you'll be OK.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          That doesn't stop 'friends' putting information about you on their profile or tagging photos with your name.

          I don't have any friends so I don't have anything to worry about. People thought I was crazy for being an anti-social loner. Now the joke is on them.

        • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

          Tell your friends to stop, or use the "un-tag" feature to remove yourself. If people put stuff up that you don't like, contact them. Un-friend people who have no business posting about you, or keep them as friends so you can watch what they do. It ain't perfect, but it's not as hopeless as you make it. Best option is to only hang out with people who share your values systems, or at least respect yours.

        • by Mikkeles (698461)

          Kneecapping usually does, however. As an additional bonus, they probably won't want to be your "friend" anymore.

        • The privacy debate is already complex enough without nutters like you joining in. What the hell is a company supposed to do against someone uploading material about someone else? Ban the use of all names and photos? Demand written permission from every person mentioned, every person in any picture?

          If other people publish information about you, then it is up to you to stop it, not facebook or any other company. Because that could never work short of shutting down all publishing everywhere.

      • Re:Ok, honestly (Score:5, Informative)

        by FictionPimp (712802) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:07PM (#32058560) Homepage
        I actually deleted my facebook profile last week. But that doesn't mean they are actually going to delete my information or prevent anyone from tagging/talking about me.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by gyrogeerloose (849181)

          I actually deleted my facebook profile last week. But that doesn't mean they are actually going to delete my information [...]

          More true than you might think.

          I played around on Facebook for a few weeks just to see what it was all about but as soon as I heard about their new policies concerning member info, I closed my account. After I finished the process, however, a page popped up letting me know that all I had to do was to use my password to log back on again and everything would be back the way it was.

          Apparently, "closing" a Facebook account doesn't do much.

        • Re:Ok, honestly (Score:5, Informative)

          by Ron Bennett (14590) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:31PM (#32058748) Homepage

          Did you unfriend everyone, delete all messages, pictures, etc?

          If no, log back in (your account will likely reactivate automatically) and delete everything out of it, and then DELETE the account.

          Note that "deactivation" (the acct will persist indefinitely; reactivate automatically) is different than "deletion"; prime example of an "evil interface".

          If delete is truly want you seek, use the delete account link shown below.

          http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=delete_account [facebook.com]

          After "Deleting", do not attempt to log in for at least 2 weeks to test it's gone (I'd suggest waiting even longer, such as a month), because otherwise FB may think you're changing your mind and reactivate the account even despite choosing to delete it.

          Ron

          • I deleted all my pictures and I did use the delete account link (not deactivate) but I didn't unfriend everyone. I was thinking in two weeks when they 'really' delete it that would take care of that part for me.
          • If no, log back in (your account will likely reactivate automatically)

            Haha, it's like Facebook saying "Oh, I knew you weren't serious. Please, stay, I need you, don't leave, no, don't!"

            And to be extra sure, you should log back in, download all your images, make new images of random data but that match the size of the previous ones (matching hashes are a bonus), then upload these in place of the old ones, wait a day (for everything to get flushed to backups), then delete everything. This way even if they

            • I'm pretty sure anyone who would actually go to that level to get rid of their account is also so paranoid they would have never signed up. Or a "cleaner" (in the mafia sense) covering up a crime. Actually it almost sounds like a job opportunity.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            When you delete/modify your data, FB actually appends the new dataset to the end of their DB table and makes its "current" pointer point to that. The data actually never gets deleted. This is not an RDBMS.

        • I actually have never been to Facebook nor signed up. But that doesn't mean they're going to prevent anyone from talking about me.
    • Re:Ok, honestly (Score:4, Insightful)

      by RajivSLK (398494) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:44PM (#32058852)

      I've been using facebook for a long time now. I know all about zukerberg's questionable past and general sliminess. But tell me this, what lack privacy settings is everybody complaining about? I checked the privacy page just now and it seems I have control over everything I can think of. And the interface is pretty straight forward. Is there something I'm missing? Or are people just having a knee jerk reaction here?

      This is a serious question, if there is a important privacy setting missing from facebook I want to know because I use it everyday.

      • Re:Ok, honestly (Score:5, Informative)

        by Ron Bennett (14590) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @04:09PM (#32059014) Homepage

        Yep, in one word, "Apps".

        Furthermore, the privacy settings are not as straight forward as they seem. Case in point is Facebook's new instant personalization feature that will show one's interests to others, including the general public - see link for more details.

        http://www.pcworld.com/article/195385/facebook_gets_a_little_too_personal.html [pcworld.com]

        On a related note, the number of Facebook friends one has is a risk in of itself ... you may have your privacy settings locked down tight, but what about all your friends?

        The more "friends", the more risk of one or more of them being "hacked" and your "private" information being leaked out as a result. Then there's the related issue of "friends of friends", which is in and of itself is seemingly innocuous, but can become a privacy threat when one of them uses the same app you and/or friend does. "Rogue" friends are another privacy hole - very easy for one or more to slip in, especially for members who already have large friend lists.

        Ron

      • Re:Ok, honestly (Score:5, Interesting)

        by zuperduperman (1206922) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @05:41PM (#32059568)

        If you really think you understand your privacy settings on Facebook and you have not invested a significant amount of effort to do so then you've most definitely been "zuckerpunched". There are all kinds of odd things sequested away in dark corners of the settings and profile page.

        My most recent was when a bunch of people I barely knew started congratulating me on my birthday. Even though I'd disabled all the ways I though that information was available. Turns out there was another setting somewhere under "Profile", I think, with a checkbox that said something like "reveal my birthday to everyone".

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Culture20 (968837)

        I've been using facebook for a long time now. I know all about zukerberg's questionable past and general sliminess. But tell me this, what lack privacy settings is everybody complaining about? I checked the privacy page just now and it seems I have control over everything I can think of. And the interface is pretty straight forward. Is there something I'm missing? Or are people just having a knee jerk reaction here?

        This is a serious question, if there is a important privacy setting missing from facebook I want to know because I use it everyday.

        Until about a year ago, you were allowed to set your profile picture and friends list to be viewable by "friends only". Now they're completely public. Same now (starting last week) with Work History, Education History, Current City, Hometown, Likes and Interests. What's worse is that there are options in the privacy settings to make you think you're putting the information for these things in as viewable for "only friends", but it doesn't do anything, and there is hidden text on another page explaining w

  • by MRe_nl (306212) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:36PM (#32058338)

    "So, what evil interfaces have you encountered on (or off) the Web"?

    Outlook Express.

    • by kjart (941720)

      Outlook Express.

      Outlook Express has been my favorite mail client for quite awhile (though I've been using Outlook 2010 for awhile and the conversation view is growing on me). In fact, I always found the UI rather simple and straightforward - what are the evil parts of the interface you're referring to?

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        what are the evil parts of the interface you're referring to?

        The "kill puppies" button. Or is that only on my copy of Outlook?

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by gyrogeerloose (849181)

          The "kill puppies" button. Or is that only on my copy of Outlook?

          Nah, mine has that too. It's right next to the "Famine" button, between the "Pestilence" and "War" buttons.

          • by dgatwood (11270)
            In the event of true famine, they would make a good, albeit socially appalling food source. So I can see how pestillence leads to famine, which leads to killing puppies, but how does killing puppies cause a war?
      • Where to start.
        Shoddy craftsmanship. Highly illogical. Dumb all over (and maybe a little ugly on the side).
        After using PINE http://www.washington.edu/pine/ [washington.edu] for a couple of years I was confronted with OE on someone's computer somewhere. It was like a kick to the balls. Now get of my lawn : ).

        http://www.nthelp.com/50/Outlook_error_codes.htm [nthelp.com]

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      An interview conducted by a puppet with annoying music dubbed over the first several seconds of each interviewee response.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hurricane78 (562437)

      That’s nothing. KDE4 even beats Windows ME in this regard.

      - Placing and resizing plasmids on the dashboard can literally drive you insane. Because after doing so and releasing the mouse button, you *have* to stay on that element, or the plasmid will reset its position to what it was before. Also it is extremely annoying. If you got two elements right next to each other, the drag bar of the wrong plasmid always keeps popping up right between holding the mouse over the right plasmid, and pressing down t

      • by richlv (778496)

        ok, this was so wrong i just have to answer.
        note, i'm an oldtime kde user, and i still use kde 3.5.10 (on slackware) on my main computers.
        currently i'm typing this on a temporary computer with kde 4.3.something. and you know what ? i actually like a lot of things about it enough to consider upgrading from kde3.

        That’s nothing. KDE4 even beats Windows ME in this regard.

        - Placing and resizing plasmids on the dashboard can literally drive you insane. Because after doing so and releasing the mouse button, you *have* to stay on that element, or the plasmid will reset its position to what it was before.

        first, they are PLASMOIDS.
        second, you must have some very old version of kde4 - i don't recall sever seeing that problem even when trying out some older kde4 release.

        Also it is extremely annoying. If you got two elements right next to each other, the drag bar of the wrong plasmid always keeps popping up right between holding the mouse over the right plasmid, and pressing down the mouse button. But since it is hard to see which one you are now dragging (both drag bars are transparent and looking the same), you are always manipulating the wrong one. It takes elaborate mouse acrobatics to get it to do what you want. So much that I’d strangle the designer, right here, right now.

        that also sounds like some older v

    • ...for an appropriate term for this condition

      Collateralized Debt Obligation

    • Re:evil interfaces (Score:5, Informative)

      by GeckoAddict (1154537) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @04:12PM (#32059028)
      I see your Outlook Express and raise you a Lotus Notes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:39PM (#32058356)

    I tried to change my password and now I can't log in anymore.

    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @06:03PM (#32059674) Journal

      Oh hell, all of slashdot is pretty much evil. It whispers to me: "Visit me, don't work, don't eat, kill your loved ones and strangers. Mod ME!" And I obey.

  • Instead of privacy controls, how about not entering information you want to keep to yourself or a select few from ever getting on the site in the first place ? It's already been proven that what is private now will not necessarily be kept private, and there's always leaks and whatnot. Is it really that hard to just NOT put certain stuff on these sites to begin with ?
    • What happens when your friend decides to post the information on Facebook, innocently thinking that they have selected a particular privacy level when they have not?
  • When the URL is http://gdddmfm.eiiwihh817266.ooe7.com
  • by sphealey (2855) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:41PM (#32058370)

    As soon as you see the word "richer", as in "richer user experience", hold on to your wallet. The only thing rich about a "richer user experience" is how rich it is going to make the person forcing it on you.

    sPh

    • by thms (1339227)
      Indeed, that is what Web 2.0 is all about:

      You generate all the content, they make all the money!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LihTox (754597)

      Just using the word "experience" in this way is a red flag. "Hello! I am a friendly corporation pretending to be your friend! Boy, I am sure enjoying this fun experience!"

  • Less deceptive now (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RobertM1968 (951074) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:42PM (#32058382) Homepage Journal

    FB has become less deceptive in some of their newer things. Not that it's a good thing (the method they have done so). Want to list a certain thing about yourself? Sure. If you have it linked to the page/group/whatever about it. Thus exposing your interests and yourself to the world.

    ...or you can have your profile info page blank.

    No option C anymore.

    So, nowadays, it has become more of a use of strongarm tactics to ensure that your data is everywhere and available to anyone as opposed to deceptively tricking people into doing so.

    I'm not sure which is worse. The current method for me (well, if I cared. Anything I put on FB on my info section is already all over the web or the Star Trek Phase 2 site or IMDB).

    One's very annoying (the "we're posting this info linked to you wherever we choose, or you can choose to have an empty profile" method) and the old method is deceptively evil (the "we'll simply confuse you into allowing us to post your info unless you take the time to stop and read what you are doing and opt out" method).

    I guess a lot of people were getting smarter - especially with so many warnings online and via other FB friends telling people to click/unclick new "hidden" privacy options on FB every time a new change rolled out. So, FB got smart in creating a new way of using that info with no privacy settings to prevent them from - either post the info so they can do what they want with it - or remove all the info entirely.

    • by jo_ham (604554) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .999mahoj.> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:52PM (#32058448)

      How about the deceptive photo uploader?

      I went to upload some photos and it told me that the only way to do this way to use the new shiny facebook photo uploader app, and asked me to install it. I said no (no way, in fact) and cancelled out of it, only to be directed to a page that said "you will have to use the simple uploader but it's not as good". Wait, what? Didn't you just tell me that the new app was the only way to upload photos now (yes, yes it did)?

      It's things like that - tricking people into installing facebook apps - that make me question their motives.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RobertM1968 (951074)

        How about the deceptive photo uploader?

        I went to upload some photos and it told me that the only way to do this way to use the new shiny facebook photo uploader app, and asked me to install it. I said no (no way, in fact) and cancelled out of it, only to be directed to a page that said "you will have to use the simple uploader but it's not as good". Wait, what? Didn't you just tell me that the new app was the only way to upload photos now (yes, yes it did)?

        It's things like that - tricking people into installing facebook apps - that make me question their motives.

        LoL... that is why I said "LESS deceptive" instead of "Not deceptive anymore" ;-)

    • by GIL_Dude (850471)
      Interestingly, the main article linked clearly shows a check box that allows you to turn off making your list of friends available. I go to that same page they are showing and the check box is no longer there. Also, they have a very deceptive page for setting your "visibility" of various things (home town, likes, interests, etc.). It has the normal drop-down for "everyone, friends only, friends of friends, and custom". However when you set them to say "friends only" and re-visit the page a few minutes later
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:45PM (#32058404)

    For those interested, there are two related research papers available by Conti and Sobiesk. The first Malicious Interface Design: Exploiting the User [acm.org] was just published this week at the 2010 WWW Conference. The other is from IEEE Security and Privacy Magazine, Malicious Interfaces and Personalization's Uninviting Future [rumint.org]. (PDF)

    • by bit01 (644603)

      The first Malicious Interface Design: Exploiting the User was just published this week at the 2010 WWW Conference.

      And has a helpful demo of malicious interfaces ACM have a pay login link deceptively labelled "Full text Pdf".

      The other is from IEEE Security and Privacy Magazine, Malicious Interfaces and Personalization's Uninviting Future. (PDF)

      This at least is genuine.

      ---

      DRM; you don't control it means you don't own it. It reduces the value and that means the vendor gets less for it.

  • Ticketmaster (Score:4, Informative)

    by fermion (181285) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @02:54PM (#32058464) Homepage Journal
    So I was buying a ticket through Ticketmaster, which is a harrowing process. I don't normally do this, so I did not know how harrowing. I will not even discuss the deceptive practice of displaying a total price for tickets, then add in a $6 charge at the very end.

    Here is what I found reprehensible is that when I choose to not store my credit card information on their site, a pop up window with the their privacy policy pops up. Clearly, if it so important to them that I keep my credit card information on their site, then it stands to reason that they intend to misuse it in some way. Ticketmaster already lied to me about the amount they were going to charge to credit card, who knows what else they lie about. Perhaps I was being enrolled in a club that would charge me $50 a month to have priority access to future purchase opportunities. I don't know. I don't know why they would confuse the user and kill a sale just to get to keep my credit information.

  • by rockwood (141675) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:00PM (#32058508) Homepage Journal
    Most gas stations have the gas grades from lowest to highest, left to right respectively. However some gas stations reverse the order from right to left, thus possibly hitting the more expensive high grade. Damn evil oil companies :)
    • by Skapare (16644)

      I thought it was the other way around.

    • by RajivSLK (398494)

      Seriously? Every pump I've been to has the grade shown in 2 inch high letters directly on the button with the price shown directly above. When you press the button it lights up and the price is displayed at the top. How could you possibly cock this up?

      More worrisome is the recent revelation that many gas pumps to under dispense fuel by 2 - 3%. The government here (BC) did a random test and found a lot of cheating...

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Saturday May 01, 2010 @03:10PM (#32058588) Homepage

    Should have gone with that name.

    • It's actually a volume question. If we all would start using that term, and then get some well known people to follow suite, *WE* would define the term. I must admit I like the whole idea of using "zuck" for any deceptive activity that impacts your privacy - I would support that no problem. "Evil interfaces" is, sorry, total crap.

      First of all will it confuse people with Google's "Do no evil unless we make money on it", secondly it's not very creative and about as juveline as the content of that video the

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Carewolf (581105)

      I prefer zucking as the equivalent of phishing information out of users. Facebook zucks information, other phish. After zucking, FB then zuckmines for profit!

  • Anyone use Lotus Notes at work? Maybe it is just me....

    • What about SAP? Dear god...

      And while we are dissing business applications, I find the default Sharepoint site layout to be confusing, infuriating and generally shitty to use. Really, even MS could have done better there.
  • I love it when I get a pop up from a virus scanner, or fake youtube page that looks like XP on my Mac. The XP theme on OS X is so out of place.
  • Anybody remember Real Media? I hear that they've mostly cleaned up their act, but once upon a time they pulled every trick they could think of. If you started an order on their web site, they would take you to a page with what you want to order, checkmarked, and then a whole bunch of worthless stuff beneath the page fold, also checkmarked. If you didn't uncheck all of the stuff beneath the fold, they would charge you for all of that stuff too. I'm not sure if the full price was even listed before you filled

  • The Pirate Bay (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fyoder (857358) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @04:25PM (#32059104) Homepage Journal

    thepiratebay.org has something of a classic. Search, find, click, go to the download page, but wait, don't click on the big green "Download" button, that's for a toolbar or something which no doubt they get paid a little something for every time someone clicks. What you want is the smaller "DOWNLOAD THIS TORRENT" link underneath the inviting big green "Download" button.

    No big deal since I like TPB, and what does one expect of pirates? "Yarrr, suckered ye good Jimmy me lad, now give us rum."

  • Quite possibly the most important info on Facebook is your friends. You can have an empty profile you still have all your friend connections. And if you have 10 friends who said in their profiles that they all went to the same school. You probably did too.

  • Ponzibuddy, uhm Bonzibuddy...

  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Saturday May 01, 2010 @05:30PM (#32059524) Homepage
    Mark Zuckerberg is a cock. Like anyone he is just doing what he can to be rich but he is shitting all over a lot of people and unfortunately people seem to be fine with this because they don't realise the negative effects of FB until it hits them.

    Mark is not going to give up access to your data, it is what makes him rich, so people need to realise it's not smart to talk about your vagina or how drunk you got in such a public area. Once they realise that's dumb then maybe they'll tell Mark to quit shilling their data and that little twat will have to find another way to get rich.
    • by T Murphy (1054674)
      Problem is, most people may never figure it out even when those negative effects hit. Facebook itself doesn't do anything- it's the companies paying for your information that are doing harm. Unless people learn how those marketers got your information, facebook won't have to worry about people wising up- that would only happen if mainstream news picks up the story and sells it as the latest big scare. Chances are that will never happen.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken

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