The creepy, dark side of Facebook: “i want sex with u”

FB_FindUsOnFacebook-1024As we all know, Facebook is an online social network. Better yet, is the largest online social network in the world — by a large margin. With over a billion people around the globe using it every month, there are many people on the network. Indeed, I’m sure many dotTechies use it. But I don’t. Yes, I don’t use Facebook (on a personal level — I do have a Facebook account to maintain pages for my websites).

It wasn’t always like this. I used to use Facebook. In fact, you can call me somewhat of a Facebook pioneer: I was one of the people who started using Facebook before it become the beast it is today, circa 2005. However, I lost interest in and quit Facebook around 2008 when it started becoming more like MySpace with the then-new apps feature — roughly at the same time those stupid ninja and pirate games started spamming everyone’s wall and feed.

For the longest time, my wife also never used Facebook. Like me, she just didn’t see the attraction to it. Recently, however, she joined up Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family (at their insistence). Although she now wastes her life trolling everyone’s wall, posts, and photos, the original intention was that Facebook makes it easier to stay in touch with people you don’t care about enough to call but care about enough to ‘like’ a photo or comment once in a while.

Because I know how lax Facebook is with user privacy, I made sure to turn up the privacy settings on my wife’s account as much as possible. Or, at least as much as I could find and/or understand. Apparently, I missed some privacy settings because a few days ago my wife received a private message on Facebook from an unknown person (who she did not ‘friend’). What did the message say? “i want sex wit u”.

More specifically, the message said:

“i want sex with u.. i will pay for servic how much u wat …”

My wife, of course, showed me the message and wanted to immediately block that person and/or report their message. However, I stopped her. I was intrigued by this person’s message. What did he (or she, but we will assume he) want? Would he really meet my wife to have sex or did he just want to pass some time by jacking off at my wife’s (presumably nude) photos or videos? My suspicion was this person had no real intention of having sex with anyone. Rather, he just wanted some naked photos or videos, either to pleasure himself with or to blackmail with. To test my theory, I posed as my wife and replied to the message.

The following is the conversation I had with this person, over the next day or two (note: names and places in the conversion below have been censored, to protect the innocent and the creepy):

CreepyVirgin: “i want sex with u.. i will pay for servic how much u wat …”

BrunettesDoYouBetter: “How much will you pay?”

CreepyVirgin: “it depends how the girl is attractive …”

BrunettesDoYouBetter: “Most beatiful girl in the world”

CreepyVirgin: “great ..ca i see your picts ..where you need services …”

BrunettesDoYouBetter: “First i want to see your pics and tell me how much you will pay”

CreepyVirgin: “where are you based ?”

BrunettesDoYouBetter: “Near you baby. I want you so badly. Please send me pics.”

As you can see, I was more or less toying with CreepyVirgin because I had no intention of letting him near my wife nor was I going to send any photos to this person. However, CreepyVirgin’s next message was completely unexpected, very creepy, and caught me off guard. This is what he said:

ABC park XYZ United states is not near to me dear ..dnt fun with me ..but i m serious about this relationship ..do u have skype than come there n do cam chat ..?

(Note: “ABC” park is a real place near where we live, XYZ is the state we live in, and United States is the country we live in. I’ve censored ABC and XYZ for the purposes of this post.)

My first reaction to CreepyVirgin’s latest message was: what the fuck? (Excuse my French.) My second reaction was: how the hell did CreepyVirgin find out where we live? I wasn’t really scared of the fact that this pervert knew where we lived; he seemingly lives halfway across the world and shouldn’t endanger my family. Rather, I was shocked at the fact that he somehow knew where we lived. I was fairly certain my wife made no mention in her Facebook profile of where we live but I asked her anyway and scanned her Facebook profile myself; sure enough, no mention of the area, state, or country we live in.

After some investigation, I found out Facebook literally gave CreepyVirigin our location… without our knowledge. I will discuss this point in more detail — but first let’s get back to the conversation between CreepyVirgin and BrunettesDoYourBetter.

After CreepyVirigin’s last message, I was at a loss of words. Not only was I surprised that he knew our location but also felt my ruse was finished and the game was almost up. So I made a lackluster response (now I wish I could of thought up something more clever); the following is the remainder of our conversation:

CreepyVirgin: “ABC park XYZ United states is not near to me dear ..dnt fun with me ..but i m serious about this relationship ..do u have skype than come there n do cam chat ..?”

BrunettesDoYouBetter: “Baby i will come to you but i want to see you first.”

CreepyVirgin: “but i m afraid ..so i want you to come on skype and ist do live cam chat ………”

I still have not responded to CreepyVirgin’s last message. My wife is insisting it is now time to block this person but I want to hold out in case I have something to say back. If you have any suggestions as to how I should respond to CreepyVirigin, please do share it in the comments below.

After CreepyVirgin’s latest message, I did not respond to him but I jumped on my computer to try to figure out how the hell CreepyVirigin figured out where we live. I first thought maybe CreepyVirgin is friend or family and is playing a prank on us but after viewing CreepyVirigin’s profile and stuff he ‘liked’, I dismissed the thought. (Yep, he ‘liked’ that type of stuff.)

I continued to poke around on Facebook but couldn’t figure out how CreepyVirgin found out our location. No where in my wife’s Facebook profile did it say anything about where we live. My wife’s profile does show her phone number (she had to use it for Facebook verification) so my second thought was maybe CreepyVirgin saw my wife’s phone number and used it to find out where we live. However, I recall modifying my wife’s Facebook privacy settings so that only her friends can see her profile — and thus phone number — so that theory went out the window.

After looking around in my wife’s profile and in Facebook settings, I went to the private messages inbox of my wife’s account because I wanted to copy the conversation between me (aka¬†BrunettesDoYouBetter) and CreepyVirgin. From there I noticed something shocking: Facebook attached GPS location to each message sent to CreepyVirgin! You see, my wife had the Facebook app installed on her smartphone and I had used that Facebook app to communicate with CreepyVirgin. What apparently happened is, my wife’s smartphone had the GPS feature enabled for her phone (the feature that allows apps to use GPS — my guess is she enabled it for use with Google Maps and forgot to turn it off); Facebook grabbed GPS location and sent it with each outgoing message. (My wife’s phone runs Android but I reckon same thing happens on other platforms, like iOS.) This GPS location could not be seen in messages in the mobile Facebook app but was visible in the messages inbox on Facebook’s website when using a computer.

Just to make sure I was not mistaken, I checked my wife’s phone to see if the Facebook app had indeed accessed GPS data, and it had. I also looked in settings for the Facebook app and there is a setting that allows you to enable/disable sending your location alongside messages (it is enabled by default). Apparently this is a per-app setting as opposed to a per-account setting (i.e. you won’t be able to change it from Facebook.com, you need to do it from within the app on your phone or tablet).

I made the appropriate change and then went to tackle the core issue that caused this whole fiasco: the ability for strangers to send private messages on Facebook. I looked around and there appears to be no way to totally stop strangers from sending you private messages on Facebook. However, under privacy settings found at Facebook.com, you can set it so messages from strangers have “lower priority” and are displayed in the ‘Other’ section of your messages inbox instead of the main inbox.

So… yeah. There you have it. The creepy and dark side of Facebook: perverts.

Now, let’s discuss morals of this story:

  • Moral #1 — Facebook is lax with your data. Scratch that. Facebook is very lax with your data. I can see why Facebook wants to allow strangers to send you messages (sort of like email) but I can’t understand why we aren’t allowed to disable the feature totally. Furthermore, I don’t see why the hell Facebook thinks it is a good idea to attach GPS information when sending messages via mobile app. To make matters worse, I don’t understand why Facebook thinks it is a good idea to send GPS information via messages when talking with strangers (i.e. people you have not ‘friended’). Sending GPS information to friends is, in my opinion, unnecessary. Sending GPS information to strangers is just plain stupid. Of course it should be mentioned you can turn off this GPS feature and the person on the other side of messages only gets your GPS information (assuming you have not disabled it) if you reply to them. In this particular situation, CreepyVirgin received our location because I wanted to toy around with him. However, it isn’t hard to imagine a) people replying to messages from strangers asking stuff like “who are you”, etc. and in the process sending over their GPS location and b) not knowing enough about Facebook mobile apps to turn off the GPS feature. This GPS location sharing via message feature should be disabled by default in Facebook mobile apps.
  • Moral #2 — If you mess with others, it may bite you in the butt. (Or, someone may bite your wife in the butt… quite literally.) CreepyVirgin getting our location is mostly Facebook’s fault but I also share some of the blame. If I had not replied to CreepyVirgin to mess with him, he would never have gotten our location.
  • Moral #3 — Modify Facebook privacy settings (from Facebook.com and from Facebook apps on mobile devices) to your liking and don’t accept the default settings that Facebook gives you. This one is simple. Facebook’s default settings for privacy are terrible. So change them. ASAP.
  • Moral #4 — Either don’t let kids use Facebook or monitor them constantly when they use Facebook. In our particular situation, my wife and I are not children. We know exactly how to behave when a pervert sends such messages via Facebook: ignore them (forget the fact that I replied to CreepyVirgin in this specific case). However, it isn’t hard to imagine a child replying to inquiries by strangers via private messages on Facebook and those conversations evolving past a friendly online relationship. This issue is compounded by the fact that Facebook apps on mobile devices send out GPS data; how easy would it be to trick a kid into thinking he or she knows you — and thus getting them to do whatever you want — by telling the kid where he or she lives (thanks to GPS data)? Yeah, think about it.

Anyone have any thoughts or comments about this delightful story? Let us know in the comments below!

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19 comments

  1. Josette Rigsby

    I understand your concern and point. However,

    1. Facebook’s policies are posted. You agree to them when you sign up for the service. You can review them at any time. It uses legal speech, because IT IS a legal document. No company is or should be responsible for an adult signing a contract the adult does not understand. Any rational person will tell you not to sign a contract (or anything else) you don’t understand. Would you sign a store receipt where the amount you’re being charged isn’t listed? No? Well don’t sign blank checks of digital data.
    2. Facebook is a “free”, completely optional service. It is not providing any essential functions for daily life. Adults have to decide if playing mindless games or updating statuses is more important than their privacy. If privacy is more important, they should behave accordingly. The same is true in the real world. If you don’t want to get invited to sales meetings about times shares, don’t fill out those “travel contest” cards with all the small print on the back.
    3. Facebook is breaking no laws. They have lots of people making sure of that. Plenty of brick and mortar companies use similar opt-out tactics and rely on inattention to achieve their goals. Is it nice, no, but that’s the nature of business.
    4. I reiterate, you do not pay a fee to use FB and it is not a non-profit. User data is it’s product. It is a little humorous that people are being given something free and then complaining because it doesn’t work the way they want.

    Ultimately, this issue is much larger than FB. As more of our lives are lived online, we have to become stewards of our digital identity and meta-data. It is our responsibility – not the legal department of some company. You would never give out a house key or credit card to another person without completely understanding what it was being used for, if it would be shared and how you could get it back. You should be just as careful with your digital information because ultimately it is much, much more valuable.

  2. Anonymail

    Thank you! I don’t use the mobile app very often and never talk to strangers in messages, but my app was set to broadcast my location as well. I never really worried about it, since I don’t answer strangers, but the information is helpful and I will pass it along as well!

  3. DonnaRae

    Again you are missing the point. Why shouldn’t Facebook be responsible and post it’s policies and give you the choice to opt in or out. Instead of being sneaky it would be the moral thing to do and it would be the legal thing to do if it were not an internet company. Why are internet companies excluded from the law. Can’t do anything about it in a lot of countries but the US surely can.

    Your point is if you don’t like it just quit. Glad a lot of people think differently. Laws need to apply to Facebook too. We need change.

    Just like JimBo wrote. “Reputable companies should do their very best to protect privacy UNLESS the user decides to opt-in. Not the other way around.”

    [@Josette Rigsby]

  4. AT

    On facebook, I have a bit of a public presence so I do have people message me about different problems they are having. Many times the legitimate messages go to spam. One person who messaged me did something different. He sent a friend request and then messaged me. In the message, he informed me that he had to send the friend request to bypass facebook’s spam filters. Now this person did not abuse the messaging system, but it is interesting on how simple the workaround is. You have to wonder how easy it is to bypass other “Security” locks.

  5. JimBo

    Good article Ashraf. Reputable companies should do their very best to protect privacy UNLESS the user decides to opt-in. Not the other way around. I created a FB account several years ago but quickly got tired of someone posting that they are going to take crap now and will be back later. I go on maybe every six months. Thank you for sharing the dangers. I hope the news channels pick up the GPS enabled by default to complete strangers and runs with it. I hope someone from FB will change the default.

  6. Josette Rigsby

    @Donna I agree that the majority of the public is not saavy enough to understand the intricacies of online privacy. It it’s precisely for that reason that I suggest these people abstain. This issue is larger than FB it really applies to sharing data in general. If an adult isn’t responsible with its data, why is FB or any company obligated to coddle them?

  7. DonnaRae

    I have to disagree with you and side with Ashraf on this one. You are assuming that the normal person that uses Facebook is PC savvy. Most users use Facebook because it is an easy way to communicate without a lot of PC knowledge. And most do not either know or believe that Facebook uses their info for $. Facebook is a business.

    The problem is Facebook does not put out a disclaimer stating that if you use it’s services your info will (not can- will) be used. It needs to be written in laypersons words. Not what the disclaimer is now that is written by an attorney for an attorney.

    Parents need to be responsible for their children’s use of Facebook and all PC activity. But sometimes you just can’t be everywhere. One slip up by a daughter or son could cause dire consequences. It already has.

    Apparently you are assuming that people should do as you would if not happy. But contrary to that thought, people don’t want to just terminate Facebook. They like the ease of it and would rather have blinders on to the unscrupulous behavior of Facebook. Yep, it is Facebook’s responsibility to lift the blinders by being open about it’s practices. We make all public companies not on internet be open. Why not internet too!

    Face
    [@Ms. j]

  8. JonE

    I closed my FB account in 2010 after being a member for two years; I saw the direction is was headed and decided the most secure thing to do was to leave. I closed my FB account for a variety of reasons, but security was the number one reason. Unfortunately, my wife is still a FB member and she knows how I feel about it; I hold FB in the same contempt as I do Microsoft and Google. I have spent hours on her computer more than once getting rid of crapware and worse. I’ve told her more than once about the programs she installs and the sites she visits. After spending hours on her computer multiple times I have given up; it’s her computer and she can mess it up however she wants.

    If it were me, I would just block “Creepy Virgin” and be done with it. You already know how he obtained you location data, you know what he wants, just block him. He isn’t worth your valuable time. On the other hand I do understand your needing to see this through. I can’t say I have anything clever to say, there really isn’t anything else to say, but if you’re determined to see it through then tell him you need to see his pics or have him send you his Skype ID, or both, and if he’s not willing to be forthcoming then there is nothing else to talk about. If you get his Skype ID you will at least be able to see where he lives. And if a video chat is done it should be you sitting at the computer. The only positive there is you will be able to see if he looks like Mater. Or better yet if you have a policeman friend you could have him sitting there in full uniform.

    But, once again, if it were me I’d just block him, be done with it; he’s not really worth your valuable time. Your time is better served writing articles like this one that help your members and guests.

    Security Tip: Never use your real name online: Tip. I know many techies that frequent this site already know this.

  9. ClaudeA

    Ha!

    I discovered how FB promotes the vilest of immoral practices last Summer, and closed my active account. Since late Summer I’ve noticed growing awareness and public attention to how FB is a demon determined to harm people.

    I told my one daughter, who does not like me, that I was leaving, and when I recently tried to send her a message from a minimal FB account I keep for one live-long friend I found she closed her FB account and opened one in her pet’s name, and shows no personal info on!

    Good going, pooch!

    Thank you for confirming why FB is over and done with.

  10. Craig

    I’m in the legal field (not an attorney) and I have seen many plaintiffs civil suits go down the drain (and rightfully so) because of what was posted on their Facebook page. Did you know that that is one of the first places that attorneys go to when their client is being sued, especially in a injury related case. I’ve seen many plaintiff cases dismissed because of pictures on their FB page. Look at all the people that have gotten into trouble over the years for what is posted on their pages. I don’t have nor did I ever have a FB page. You are asking for trouble with these “social” sites.

  11. Ms. j

    I didn’t miss #3 or the underlying point. You indicated you configured your wife’s settings, which I applaud. However, there was an option on the message which was not unselected. That is the fault if the user. I understand your pain, but as a corporation, Facebook SHOULD do whatever is in it’s best interest and that’s what it’s doing. Users should do what’s in their best interest and not use an app they feel is leaking data. I agree many people don’t understand the privacy settings. I’m sure it’s part intentional subversion by Facebook and part trying to strike a balance between users that desire simplicity and those that desire fine grain control. If the app seems obtuse, ultimately it it’s up to you to take control of your data because there us too much inherent risk. You can’t assume the risk and then yelp when there is a negative consequence. Instead, just deactivate your account.

  12. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    [@Beverly] Hehe, I promise I’m human like everyone else :-)

    [@yorck Lindner] Agreed!

    [@Ms. j] First of all, thank you for the comment. All feedback and criticism is always welcome; we like to promote open debate here on dotTech.

    Secondly, you should go back and read Moral #3 where I recommend modifying explicitly Facebook privacy settings (in app or otherwise). It sounds exactly like what you are suggesting.

    Lastly, you are missing the point: the fact that Facebook is making it increasingly difficult to properly manage privacy settings. I like to think I’m fairly tech savvy and if I had no idea that not all Facebook privacy settings are managed via Facebook.com — which, on its own, has already very tricky privacy settings — and that some must be modified in-app, I hate to think how many other people don’t know either. Using Facebook with basic privacy protections should not be a “challenge”. Not broadcasting my location to everyone I message is something I consider to be basic privacy protection, especially when the person receiving the message is a stranger.

  13. Ms. j

    I think you missed a lesson – pay attention to your application settings. All of them. If you doing understand or don’t have time to understand the purpose, then don’t use the app. Few people are willing to navigate away because they enjoy the ease of it all. Of course FB, wants to share your data. User information – you – are its product. Data is an increasingly valuable commodity. It exhausts me to no end to hear people complain about privacy without first fully accepting personal responsibility. Nothing is free. Yes, many social apps make keeping data private challenging. Potential users that aren’t up to that challenge should be mature enough to accept that and not play (or allow their kids to).

  14. Beverly

    Thanks for this info, it’s very scary stuff. Makes me want to delete my Facebook account……almost. True confession: I haven’t logged into my facebook account in over a year. I reckon every one thinks I died.

    Personal revelations sorta makes you a real person now!!! As opposed to……Mr. Boss. Actually It’s kinda reassuring to know Bosses make mistakes too. Like the rest of us earthlings.