Spill the Beans, Facebook

I happily had a Facebook account for about 8 years before deleting it – not disabling it, but deleting it entirely. Nothing was wrong, as such, but after Facebook was launched onto the stock market I found it wasn’t quite the same – I just didn’t like the way it worked any more. Deleting my account SHOULD, according to Facebook, have removed all links to my now defunct account, including my email address.

But then, several months later I started getting new notification emails from a Facebook account that definitely wasn’t mine, and wasn’t in my name. When I politely and formally contacted Facebook to let them know someone seemed to be using my personal email address without my knowledge, they dismissed my claim, insisting there was no Facebook account linked to my specific email. Hmmm…

I investigated, and found that Gmail have relatively recently intoduced a new method of email addresses where emails with the letters and numbers of your account will come to you regardless of the inclusion of a dot or not. This particular email address had no dot between first and second names, but the name is the same, although mine has a dot between. So perhaps that’s why Facebook were so insistent that my email was not linked to any account?

So I thought – well, OK, so if this Facebook account I know nothing about has got MY email address attached to it, even though Facebook tells me it doesn’t, maybe I’ll try to log in with my email and see what happens… ‘forgot password’ link clicked… and hey presto, they sent me a new password link to my email (yep, that’s right, to the email that ISN’T linked to any Facebook account.)

Is it wrong to log in to an account that isn’t yours when it’s YOUR email that has been used wrongly in the set up of the account? In sheer frustration, not knowing what else to do, I logged in and simply requested for the account to be deleted – I figured if it was a real person, it served them right for using MY email address (the same one I’ve used for years) on THEIR account when the email address clearly wasn’t even in their name.

And if it turned out to be Facebook fucking around trying to get me to set up a new account, it should teach them not to mess with my email address, or me. Thankfully after that I heard no more about it – no more Facebook notifications or friends requests to my email address – hurrah!

But recently I’ve started to get an occasional Instagram notification sent to my email address. I let the first one ride, just sitting in my inbox until I could see how the land lies, but soon it started to get a cluster of friends joining it… Hmmm… on closer investigation Instagram seems to be owned by Facebook – oh what a surprise!

So I didn’t bother trying to contact Facebook again, after the last fiasco of an experience I had with them. Instead I decided to log in using MY email addresss again to what is effectively someone else’s Instagram account – it’s definitely not mine, I’ve never had one and this is a sure-fire way of making it ultra-clear to me why I never will.

So I followed the same process as I did before. I logged in to Instagram with MY email… forgot password link… and hey presto, I’m in again. I don’t use Instagram so didn’t know my way around, but in ‘Edit profile’ I found an old email address for the apparent actual user of the account and changed the email address back to the original. Then I temporarily disabled the account too, because I couldn’t find out how to delete it.

Back in my original email from Instagram, there was also a link to ‘remove your email from this account’, so I clicked on that, just to see what happened. ‘Your email has been removed, you are free to set up a new account’ it told me… really? You think I’m going to have anything to do with your dodgy social media company after TWICE finding my personal email address used in accounts not belonging to me?

So spill the beans, Facebook – what’s the deal here? Why are you allowing MY long-standing personal email address to be used randomly in other people’s social media accounts? If you’re such a shit-hot IT company, why don’t you inderstand that Google have an email system that isn’t reliant on the inclusion or exclusion of dots within the email name, and so all of it comes to me regardless?

Fix it, Facebook, frustration has certainly turned to fury in this ex-user… Grrr… 😦

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Spill

Technological Advancement: Help or Hindrance?

Fandango has asked an excellent Provocative Question this week –  Is technological advancement a net positive or a net negative?’

As with most major technological advancements throughout history leading to a paradigm shift in the way we experience the world we live in, there are always good things and bad things to be considered when deciding on whether or not the long-term good outweighs the short-term bad in our relatively nascent electronic/ digital age.

The problem with the concept of progress of any kind is that there are always winners or losers at the end of the day. Look back to the Industrial Revolution here in the UK when factory machinery on one hand ruined the livelihoods of individual cottage-industry cloth-making family enterprises but on the other hand, brought about a huge economic boom for the country as a whole. The Luddites physically attacked the new machinery, and this lead to the introduction of the Riot Act.

Then there was the introducion of the railways, of electricity, of the motor car, of airplanes, of television and the telephone, of space travel – all considered dangerous scary threatening stuff to begin with, yet all taken for granted and easily accommodated in everyday life today.

Part of the difficulty with living in the electronic age (in my opinion, anyway) is that it’s the creative young people who have seized on the possibilities of all this new technology and have run away with it, faster than any previous generation has been able to envisage, towards frontiers and futures never before considered. And there’s where we hit the biggest problem – kids can do stuff with technology parents can’t even imagine.

There is therefore a huge dissonance between this younger generation of fast-paced digital visonaries and the slower-moving mechanically-minded older generations – particularly the Government – who are generally the people responsible for ruling (or not) on suitable legislation to control the use of these new technologies they hardly begin to understand the complexities of themselves.

So inevitably we end up with the serious grown-up issues of digital security and identity fraud, with drones delivering contraband to prisons or disrupting flights at a major airport – for example today at Gatwick Airport, as we speak. Or Russian Hackers infiltrating FaceBook under the radar, and US Senators questioning Mark Zuckerberg without having one iota of an idea of how FaceBook even works…

But as ever this period of confusion and consternation will pass soon enough – the non-digital dinosaurs will become extinct and everyone will soon forget what life was like before computers… Well, that’s me added my tuppence-worth to the ongoing debate, anyway… 🙂

Frustrated and Furious with Facebook…

I used to have a Facebook account – over the ten years I stuck with Facebook I went from initially finding it a fun way to keep in touch with friends and family, through beginning to feel it was all getting a bit out of hand after it was first floated on the stock market with a pushy newsfeed prioritising annoying adverts and other marketing over personal content, to finally finding it so overly manipulative and intrusive data-wise it became impossible for me to put up with personally. So earlier this year I requested deletion of my account – not just deactivated, but deleted entirely.

Except… last week I suddenly received an email from Facebook out of the blue with ‘friend suggestions’ for an apparently new Facebook account, not actually in my own name but clearly linked to my email address, that I knew absolutely nothing about. When I tried to click on the ‘Not you? Let us know’ link on the email it eventually took me to the actual Facebook account in question, and immediately I received another email from Facebook saying ‘Welcome to Facebook, your account has been created’. WTF?

Frustrated, I tried to think creatively and used the account Facebook had linked me to in order to access their support page, where I sent them an online query explaining that I did not actually have a Facebook account at all, never mind this one, and asking why my personal email address was apparently linked to someone else’s account – or if not to someone else’s account, linked to a bogus account that I had definitely not asked to set up. And soon I received the following reply: –

‘Hi Ruth,

Thanks for writing in. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have an account associated with this email. If you’re trying to create a new Facebook account, you’ll need to sign up again.

If you’d like to add this email address to an existing account, you can learn how in the Help Center.’

Um… seriously? That’s it for helpful suggestions from Facebook support? I only found out about this bogus account in the first place because of an email sent to me from Facebook, yet they claim not to have an account linked to my email address? And to add insult to injury, the emails with ‘friend suggestions’ just kept on coming. What’s almost worse is that many of the names on these ‘friend suggestions’ emails are actually my real life friends and family who were all on my original friends list on my original Facebook account.

Hmmm… seriously not impressed, Facebook. Just how ‘permanantly deleted’ WAS my original account for all these people to turn up linked to my personal email address that had indeed previously been linked to my old account?  And for that matter how is it possible for Facebook, long after my apparent account deletion, to still have access to my email address to be emailing me in the first place, then apparently denying all knowledge of it?

Since then I’ve tried multiple convoluted ways to contact Facebook myself to (1) try to find out what the hell is going on and (2) find out how to get rid of this bogus account, but frustratingly have had no success. And even more frustratingly I found that after several of those abortive attempts to rid myself of this fledgling Facebook account I didn’t even ask for, due to ‘suspicious activity’ on the account I was suddenly no longer able to access anything to send any more messages without first logging in.

But of course as I had not personally set the account up, I had no idea what the log-in password might be. However, I remembered one of the emails I had received earlier in this Facebook fiasco had said: –

‘Hi Ruth,

We’ve noticed that you’re having trouble with logging in to your account. If you need help, click the button below and we’ll log you in.’

At the time the email turned up I was so furious at Facebook that I yelled at my computer and called the company a whole varied selection of choice expletives. But this morning I thought – fuck it, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em – literally. So I clicked on the link in the email, found myself once more on the dodgy account, went straight to ‘Manage Account’ and requested deletion. Nope, apparently not possible without entering my log-in details. FFS!

So I clicked on the ‘Forgotten your password?’ link and was immediately sent an email code to be able to re-set the password. Eureka! I reset the password for the Facebook account that is NOT mine and apparently is NOT officially linked to my email address, returned to ‘Delete account’, typed in the new log-in password and hey presto, the account is finally scheduled for deletion, whatever level of dodginess that means in Facebook-speak. Hopefully that will be an end to it.

But for me there are serious questions that remain unanswered. Why have I been receiving any emails at all from Facebook? Why do they still have my email address? Why did they not seriously try to help me out properly with my query when I first contacted them? Is this genuinely Facebook or is it Russian hackers in the background manipulating data again? Fat kid in his bedroom with a chip on his shoulder? Who knows? Who cares? Not Facebook, that’s for sure.

But there is one thing I DO know.  If this is how Facebook as a company respond to issues flagged that may relate to potential identity theft and data fraud, especially in this current social-media-data-manipulation climate and with all the bad press they’ve received over the last few months, I know I never want to be associated with them again in the future, no matter what.


Just for the record, here is my up-to-date email trail from Facebook, who apparently claim they have no account linked to my email address… OK guys, if you say so… you’re the big data company after all, and I’m just a very disgruntled little ex-customer with a genuine complaint, and my legitimate concerns clearly don’t count as important enough for you to even bother to care about…

Poor, poor show, Facebook: Fail all round… 😦

Identity Theft 101: How Not to Dispose of a Personal Computer

In the current climate where so many people are concerned with internet security and safeguarding their online privacy, we were shocked today to discover just how cavalier some people can be when discarding old hardware (and by extension, software) that holds their personal data.

We bought an untried and untested second-hand PC tower today in a charity shop at a truly minimal cost, to replace an ancient (by IT standards) piece of failing equipment as a short-term temporary measure. There were no guarantees that it would even work and there was nothing immediately obvious to suggest why the PC had been discarded in the first place, but we decided it was worth a punt. If it didn’t work, we’d take the hit. So we took it home, plugged it in and switched it on, and waited to see what happened…

It started up smoothly and loaded perfectly, and we soon saw the usual Windows log-in screen. There was the name of the original owner, along with a prompt clue for his password. Seriously? A prompt clue? It couldn’t be that easy, surely? But it was. It took us only three attempts to log in to some unknown-to-us person’s PC, because not only was his password ridiculously simple – one word, with initial capital letter and no numbers – but also he had left a ridiculously simple prompt clue to help us guess.

Please understand we have absolutely no desire to steal anyone’s identity, or even view their data voyeuristically, but shockingly there had been absolutely no attempt to clear anything at all from the hard drive before giving it away. The most cursory glance at a few of the many files still stored openly on the desktop showed photographs including what is clearly a selfie, personal information such as where he lives, and a simple spreadsheet showing his monthly income and fixed expenditure.

In five minutes flat we knew not only his full name and address and his password, but also what he looks like, what he earns, what he budgets for on a regular basis and what appear to be his favourite hobbies and interests. We plan to scrub the hard drive and put on our own operating system and programs, but I’m sure if we were so inclined and looked further, beyond the desktop screen, we could probably find a lot more personal information on this person – but we’ve already found way more than we’re comfortable with.

So be warned – if you’re planning disposing of an old PC or laptop, at the very least make sure you securely scrub the hard drive with freely available software. Or to be absolutely certain your personally stored information can never ever be made more public than you’d care for, take the hard drive out and destroy it yourself… 🙂