As 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!