Bot-a Hari Lives
June 9, 2011 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Facebook Espionage. Weiner did it to himself. But that doesn't mean there aren't people out there looking to do it to you. Henry Copeland, blogads founder, has uncovered suggestive evidence of bot-spies on facebook being used to track personal information of influential people. All you need is the photo of a hot chick.
posted by Diablevert (37 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can't say it any better than one of the commenters on the blogads post: "Here is an idea: Don't let anyone be your Facebook friend unless you actually know them, and don't let anyone but your close personal friends see anything beyond a Limited Profile, and also don't use Facebook."
posted by blucevalo at 7:34 AM on June 9, 2011 [13 favorites]


This is why everyone needs at least two facebooks. One where you're a fake you, and one that's a complete fabrication.
posted by Eideteker at 7:45 AM on June 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


One where you're a fake you, and one that's a complete fabrication.

That's why I created Nicole Bally.
posted by staggernation at 7:50 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


But Facebook is where I keep my secrets!
posted by blue_beetle at 7:50 AM on June 9, 2011


man .. I have an old co-worker who has some 1200 friends like that .. I figured they were fake pr0n attractors or something .. (Granted, their stuff was more explicit, and their wall was usually something more like "come visit my site at xxxx to see more sexy pics!") ..
posted by k5.user at 7:57 AM on June 9, 2011


Huh. I didn't realize how hard it was to just not be friends with people you don't actually know.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:00 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I salt my Facebook profile with enough false information that no one could reliably guess what I have and haven't done -- plausible deniability.

Here's me last weekend, snorting coke off a rockstar's ass!
Here's me last weekend, wind scuba diving in the Carribean!
Here's me last weekend, working in a laboratory, trying to solve the common cold!
Here's me last weekend, running a marathon to raise money for your favorite cause!


Please ignore the picture of me, asleep on the couch at 8:30pm, cuddling my cats. That's not real at all, it's a hoax perpetrated to make me look boring. If anything, I am not boring.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:02 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Which is more phony? The people who create fabricated FB profiles or the ones who post always-happy-not-really-reflective-of-my-life postings with their actual profile? Hard to believe anyone is surprised by fakeness on the web these days.
posted by dgran at 8:03 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the real story here is her abs.
posted by fuq at 8:07 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


All you need is the photo of a hot chick.

That turns out to be true a solid 70% of the time. Seriously, just carry one around in your wallet and call it a multi-pass. Works for everybody.
posted by penduluum at 8:15 AM on June 9, 2011


I just wanted to mention that the article uses the word bimbot to describe Ms. Bally. What a wonderful made-up word; perfectly descriptive of the fake yet alluring profiles that exist on places like Facebook, Match.com, and OKCupid.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 8:17 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, her abs are redonk. But I was mostly struck by the simplicity of this little mind hack. I'm sure a lot of public figures are already forced to treat their FB profiles as if they're public anyway. But I still bet you could glean a lot of potentially useful personal info about their likes and dislikes and connections. Plus there's a sort of charming timelessness to it. You want a powerful straight man to give up the goods, send in a hot chick, from Delilah through Mata Hari to Nicole Bally....
posted by Diablevert at 8:20 AM on June 9, 2011


All you need is the photo of a hot chick.

That's actually all that Dr. Who's psychic paper is.
posted by drezdn at 8:21 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Lady Gaga To The Rescue.
posted by zarq at 8:21 AM on June 9, 2011


penduluum: "All you need is the photo of a hot chick.

That turns out to be true a solid 70% of the time. Seriously, just carry one around in your wallet and call it a multi-pass. Works for everybody.
"

Well, make sure it's not from a magazine or you get busted like George Costanza. "What'd you do? Cut this out of a magazine or something? That's me! It's from a Clinique ad I did."
posted by mkb at 8:22 AM on June 9, 2011


How many FaceBook users are there now? And how many cases of serious abuse that cause more than irritation or inconvenience--one thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand, one-half million? Of course there appear to be instances that have been deadly or seriously damaging. However, I would suggest it is a very safe place to play and socialize--perhaps significantly safer than the "real" world. It is a matter of perspective and risk. I would guess that it is the imprudent, and in some cases the vulnerable, who risk the most. Also, for those who demand transparency from government, business and public officials I hope they demand the same of themselves in profiles. Prudent but honest.
posted by rmhsinc at 8:33 AM on June 9, 2011


I propose a new job for our social media economy--the reality avatar. Say you are a pasty CS post-doc with a brilliant billion-dollar idea but an unpronounceable name who can't get the time of day from anyone in Silicon Valley.

You need to pitch an idea to brilliant people? You hire a reality avatar, a highly photogenic young woman with a European accent, a brilliant smile, and impossibly full hair. She friends the person on facebook, agrees to their subsequent and inevitable lunch date request (which the target guy will send regardless of their marital status, who are we kidding here), laughs and tosses her hair as needed, and pitches the idea on your behalf.

Hell, maybe we check the target's facebook pages first, and recommend an avatar for you based on their preference for eye, hair, height, interests, etc.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:33 AM on June 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


I posted this article to my Facebook wall, but when you click it from there, Facebook says it's "abusive". What's going on?
posted by monospace at 8:39 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The reverse situation is probably a lot more common, actually. Attractive women masquerading as bland men to avoid unwanted attention.
posted by ryanrs at 8:40 AM on June 9, 2011


In Wisconsin, there are reports that government employees are monitoring social networking sites for protest information.
posted by drezdn at 8:49 AM on June 9, 2011


All you need is the photo of a hot chick.

You don't even need that. I have experience with this, from working with investigators, and this is a pretty common tactic. I know one who maintains several fake Facebook accounts for the purpose of "friending" targets to get information. He explained some of his rules to me, once. For instance, if your target has upward of 700 friends, then you can "friend" him directly. He's not choosy. If he only has 200 or so friends, then look through those friends to see which ones have 1,000+ friends. Once you connect to them, your target becomes a "mutual friend" and is more likely to accept your "friending."

I commented that this all seemed like a lot of effort, and he smiled. "Most people are only interested in themselves," he said. "None of them visit my profile, so I don't need to bother keeping it updated or posting a lot of fake information. It's enough that it exists."

I asked how often it actually worked, how often he was able to get access to targets' Facebook profiles. "Usually," he said. He explained that even if he couldn't get full access, sometimes when you connect to a mutual friend, portions of the target's Facebook profile that were previously hidden will become viewable. And if you pay attention when you're creating mutual friends (e.g., same surname as your target means family; lots of mutual friends means classmate; etc.), you can gain access to things like tagged photos and status-conversations.

Which is more phony? The people who create fabricated FB profiles or the ones who post always-happy-not-really-reflective-of-my-life postings with their actual profile?

I've heard this complaint before ("People on Facebook are fake-happy"), and I don't really understand it. I post only happy things on Facebook, because they're what I want to share. It isn't because I'm always happy, nor do I expect that my intelligent, grown-up friends and family are likely to read my posts and conclude, "He must be a magical always-happy person!" I just don't broadcast things when I'm feeling down. This strikes me as appropriate etiquette. It is unseemly to wear every emotion on one's sleeve.
posted by red clover at 8:57 AM on June 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


I would guess that it is the imprudent, and in some cases the vulnerable, who risk the most.

Who are "the vulnerable"? How is it that you're not vulnerable by definition the moment you click the "agree" box on FB's TOS? Unless of course your only activity there is no activity. I tried that for awhile and it was pointless. You either share all of yourself, some of yourself, or none of yourself, and the quality of the experience that you obtain is concordant with the degree to which you "share" (assuming that anything you share is real, which is another discussion altogether). I would say that the fact that there are investigators and snoops of all kinds whose job it is to hunt for people on FB (as red clover points out above) means that if you are willing to bare it all, you'd better be ready for the consequences, and sometimes even if you think you're not baring it all.
posted by blucevalo at 9:04 AM on June 9, 2011


"In Wisconsin, there are reports that government employees are monitoring social networking sites for protest information."

This is news? A few years ago my friends were tight with our universities campus police force (on a campus where they tried very very hard to ignore the massive amount of pot and fought the city and county departments tooth and nail for the right to, but somehow still managed to be hated by all the hippies) and the chief was this lovable guy who despite his best efforts could not understand why more popular. One day, at least three years ago, he asked one of my friends who was an RA at the time and worked closely with them about "this new thing facebook". He started talking about how the buddies that he had from Seattle and in the local departments raved about how useful it was in keeping all of the unwashed masses strait, especially the hippies they had difficulty relating to, and wanted him to at least try using it to gather a list of who was friends with whom and what they looked like. My friend of course did his best to convince the guy that this was wrong, wildly unconstitutional without at least probable cause for each individual, and would provoke that much more rage if ever discovered; and probably succeeded, but this as been an effective "law enforcement tool" for a long time.

Also Facebook does not fight even the flimsiest requests for information, and why should they? It would cost money and wouldn't increase add revenue.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:30 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here are some Facebook accounts I've been monitoring because I believe they are fakes. Some giveaways: Overly recompressed artifact-rich profile photos. Generic employers like "law office." Friends with many other fake accounts.

Madison Deann

Shawna Simone

Mike Carter

Ema Alexis

Rob Castilano

Raquel Celeste

Mike Carter

Sue Ramirez

Christi Lynn

Kirsten Marie

Shannon Patrice

Heather Lynn

Aubrey Ann

Tony Jackson

Diana Elise Ramirez

Antonia Ami Aloiau
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:42 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ha. Nicole Bally and I have two friends in common, one of whom was in the screen cap of her wall.
posted by snofoam at 12:13 PM on June 9, 2011


See, that would totally work on me. Nicole Carroll is a real person, they used her real first name, and she's somewhat well-known in CrossFit circles but not so famous that you'd never expect her to mix with the common people. I'd see the request with her picture, think, "Hmm, I wonder who mentioned me. And I guess Bally is her married name?", and then probably accept.

I wonder how calculated this is. Do they intentionally choose a minor celebrity who's associated with one of the target's known interests? That's clever.

Relevant: Boys Wanna Be Her
posted by The Tensor at 1:06 PM on June 9, 2011


blucevalo wrote: I can't say it any better than one of the commenters on the blogads post: "Here is an idea: Don't let anyone be your Facebook friend unless you actually know them, and don't let anyone but your close personal friends see anything beyond a Limited Profile, and also don't use Facebook."

Haha that was my comment, which I actually made through the Facebook commenting box on that BlogAds page .... it took me a few moments to feel the right amount of stupid.
posted by kenlayne at 1:41 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


All you need is the photo of a hot chick.

I have a friend who actually is a hot chick and she had something like 3k friends, I swear. She claimed it was because she could get bonus coins in those stupid social games if she had more friends who also played.

I just checked now and she's down to 900 some. Must have done some house cleaning.
posted by delmoi at 1:45 PM on June 9, 2011


Just came in to second oozy's comment about the word "bimbot". I love it.

What a wonderful future, where marketers and spies lure us with personalized, data-mined demographically-relevant fake bimbots who surreptitiously slurp up all of our data under the covers. It's naughty in so many ways.

New startup idea: anti-spyware tailored to detect bimbots, fake shoppers, undercover actors promoting products in bars, etc.
posted by formless at 1:48 PM on June 9, 2011


Let me the first to say, duhhhhh!
posted by Joe Chip at 2:15 PM on June 9, 2011


On a related note, meet Melvin, King of Facebook.
posted by scalefree at 3:16 PM on June 9, 2011


Wow... I got on Joichi Ito's friends list, and I didn't even need blonde hair and large breasts.
posted by markkraft at 4:04 PM on June 9, 2011


Here are some Facebook accounts I've been monitoring because I believe they are fakes.

Wait, what? Is this just weird curiosity or something? How did you stumble across these and why are you monitoring them?
posted by straight at 6:40 PM on June 9, 2011


One of the things that really annoys me about some bands/businesses/non-profits I know is that they have "people" pages instead of band/business/non-profit pages. This means you have to friend them instead of "liking" them. I did this to follow a local non-profit I'm interested in yesterday and immediately got a friend request from a total stranger. It's not quite enough to make me "unfriend" but it could rapidly get that way.

This is the one exception to my rule about friending/accepting friend requests from people I know (mostly RL, but a handful of people I've e-known for years). It really annoys me that I'm trying to be secure and yet there I am breaking it to follow the planetarium.
posted by immlass at 8:29 PM on June 9, 2011


Also, for those who demand transparency from government, business and public officials I hope they demand the same of themselves in profiles.

I do not demand transparency into the private life of anyone, with the exception of major ethical or legal failings by politicians who request my vote or who seek to involve themselves in my private life.

I demand professional transparency from government/public officials because I employ them. I demand professional transparency from business leaders where that interfaces with the public sphere. (tax, competition law, environmental issues etc.)

I don't see how any of that translates into transparency requirements in my personal online profiles.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 5:41 AM on June 10, 2011


Wait, what? Is this just weird curiosity or something? How did you stumble across these and why are you monitoring them?

I noticed that they were liking things with undue frequency on one of the Facebook pages I co-manage. We look out for spammers and creeps, so that kind of vigilance is normal. They were liking stuff so often it just seemed odd -- even die-hard fans or wannabe employees don't like things that often. So I made a list of names and kept adding to it. After it got to be some length, I looked for connections.

Those accounts are are friended with each other with a frequency that would suggest that there is something unusual going on. They don't seem to work together, they don't seem to share the same schools, they don't seem to be members of the same groups (at least from what I can see). Plus, they all have that same unreal look about the profile pics.

The clincher for me is that none of these people Google worth a damn, even with their unusual names.

So, they're either incipient spammers or they're spying on someone.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:23 PM on June 10, 2011


one of the Facebook pages I co-manage

Aha. I keep forgetting that corporate and other organizational Facebook pages is such a big thing. That makes sense.

I love how much your comment reads like the dialogue for the expert the detectives are consulting in a police procedural.
posted by straight at 10:01 AM on June 16, 2011


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