It looks like Facebook updated some of its safety and security tools in April, to the delight of privacy advocates everywhere. The updates came barely a day after security firm Sophos sent the social networking giant, which boasts over 500 million users, an open letter about privacy and security concerns. (A brief summary: Sophos recommends privacy by default, vetted app developers, and enforcing secure HTTPS connections by default, all the time.)
Also last month, Facebook made a series of promises at President Obama’s White House Conference on Bullying Prevention last month that they would update and expand security for the purposes of “creating a culture of respect on Facebook and across the web.”
The new safety and security tools are:
Two Factor Authentication
Though turned off by default, this feature, dubbed “login approvals,” will require you to enter a code that is texted to your phone when you login from an unrecognized device. If you ever lose access to your phone, you can still login from a previously-recognized computer. If Facebook sees a login from an unrecognized device, it’ll ask you to verify the account the next time you login–and if it isn’t yours, you’ll be prompted to change your password.
New and Improved HTTPS
In January, Facebook added an option for HTTPS support–an encrypted, secure connection, similar to that used in online banking transactions. In its improved form, if you use an application that isn’t HTTPS-enabled while in HTTPS mode, Facebook will switch you back to HTTPS once you’re done. (HTTPS still, however, isn’t the default option.)
Improved Social Reporting Tool
Facebook’s new tool allows users to send private messages to community members that post offensive content. (It was previously introduced in March as a way to report offensive photos, but has now expanded to include profiles, pages, and groups). The tool directs users on how to communicate with harassers with a “What Can You Do” screen that has options like “send a message,” “remove as friend,” or “block.”
Updated Family Safety Center
The “Safety Center,” added to the site in April 2010, has been redesigned and updated to the “Family Safety Center.” Now the information center includes the site’s philosophy on safety and tools/resources, and has sections for teens, parents, teachers, and law enforcement members. It also includes links to off-site news articles. Also on April 19, Facebook indicated that it would “be providing a free, downloadable guide for teachers, written by safety experts Linda Fogg Phillips, B.J. Fogg and Derek Baird” to “help educators with social media in the classroom.”
Hopefully, Facebook’s new security precautions will better aid teens and parents alike against dangerous online attacks.