Leaked Facebook Data Posted Online – Spotlight #377

1. Good Monday Morning

Easter and Passover ended yesterday. Ramadan begins next Monday. Happy celebrations to everyone who observes them.
Today’s Spotlight is 1,329 words — about a 5 minute read.

2. News To Know Now

a) “You make the tax laws @SenWarren; we just follow them. If you don’t like the laws you’ve created, by all means, change them. Here are the facts …” read the tweet from an Amazon official Twitter account last week after she criticized the company online. We later learned that Amazon’s own security team filed a report suggesting the account had been hacked after criticizing three members of Congress by name, but it turned out that the social media staff were following Jeff Bezos’ direction to more vigorously defend the company. (Recode)

b) Apple has added two new voices to Siri and removed the default option of a female voice. A UN report released in 2019 criticized Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft for using female default voices in virtual assistants. (TechCrunch)

c) Wyatt Travnichek, a 22-year-old former employee of the Ellsworth County Rural Water District in Kansas, was indicted last week on charges of entering a remote system and changing the disinfectant mix to toxic levels. Officials have not disclosed how Travnichek gained access to the system, though the Florida system that was compromised earlier this year used a shared password among multiple employees. (Ars Technica)

3. COVID-19 Tech News

Data — Daily Average (7 day trailing)

US Deaths – 825
US Hospitalizations – 40,665
US partial or full vaccination – 32%

Great Trackers

Overview — Johns Hopkins
Vaccine Distribution — Washington Post
Vaccine Finder — CDC Project
Risk Calculator — Brown

New York Times tracker that allows you to customize a daily email with multiple cities and towns that you’re monitoring: Click here to configure.

Coronavirus & Tech News

Apple Maps To Display Travel Guidance – The Verge

Everything You Need to Know About Vaccine Passports – Recode

Microsoft Delays Full Office Reopening to At Least September – Engadget

4. Search Engine News

Google has always had a problem coordinating its policies across huge divisions of its empire. I encountered this repeatedly when I would visit Google with evidence of conflicting advice. The Googlers I met would shrug and apologize that they didn’t know how the advertising people wanted to do things. Then the advertising people would smile, shrug, and say that they did not follow the rules from other Google divisions.

So when we tell you that Gary Illyes of Google said last week during a podcast that a page’s title can be any length in a search engine snippet, we realize it is accurate. What wasn’t discussed is that the title will truncate after a certain amount of pixels or that the words that appear in search engine results have a huge impact on whether potential visitors click on them.

Ilyes correctly states that the search marketing world has adopted its own industry standards. That’s true too, and I remember when those standards did not include Google because it wasn’t built yet. The point is that there is a lot of bad advice out there even when it’s technically accurate. 

His podcast statement quoted by Search Engine Journal: Try to keep it precise to the page, but I would not think too much about how long it is and whether it’s long enough or way too long. If it fills up your screen, then probably it’s too long, but if it’s just one sentence that fits on one line or two lines, you’re not going to get a [penalty] …”

We understand that the words and the truncated text can affect user behavior, so we adhere to best practices. You do the same thing in your job. That’s why we cannot give you a book or a class and realistically expect you to your job and keep pace with search engine optimizations. Search best practices can be technically correct and effective. It’s great when they’re both. 

5. In The Spotlight — Facebook Data Posted Online

A trove of personal information about Facebook users has been making its way around the internet ever since it was leaked in 2019. The last major sighting of the information was in January when Vice reported that “a user of a low-level cybercriminal forum is selling access to a database of phone numbers belonging to Facebook users.”

According to Business Insider, that information was released for free on Saturday. The Facebook data includes phone numbers, Facebook IDs, full names, locations, birth dates, bios, and email addresses from 533 million people in more than 100 countries. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is often talked about, but it had a relatively small database of 80 million users.

Did your data get scraped? Troy Hunt’s Have I Been Pwnd website has been a great resource for years. The data from the 2019 Facebook data breach is also in this database. It is easy to search with an email address.

Caveat: In Hunt’s data, the three email addresses that I used most in the past ten years appear between 10 to 26 times each including the 2019 Facebook data breach. You should be doing three things to help secure your data online.

1. Subscribe to a great password manager. I use 1Password. I also read good things about Bit Warden for free basic password tools.

2. Turn on two-factor authentication everywhere you can. You have to use a code or press a button sometimes. But bad actors who have your Facebook data won’t know your credentials because they can’t access those codes or buttons. Learn about 2FA.

3. Keep your phone and computer software current. Do not press the “remind me later” link because big companies constantly provide updated software to fix security issues.

6. Debunked — 12 People Create 65% of Anti-Vax Propaganda

A stunning report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that 65% of the anti-vaccine content on Facebook and Twitter can be traced back to just 12 people.

Coverage in The Guardian.

7. Following Up — Ransomware, NFTs, Solar Winds

We learned last week that the University of California and Brown University are recent ransomware victims. We also learned that Stanford and Maryland data was released online following ransomware attacks at those two schools.

The owner of Atari’s intellectual property cashed in on the non-fungible token (NFT) craze by earning $110,000 in one day from selling an image of an Atari 2600 Centipede game cartridge. There were 10 images in the sale.

We also learned last week that hackers breached the email account of former acting Homeland Security head Chad Wolf and members of the agency’s cybersecurity staff. You’ve seen us warn for months that these interconnected hacking incidents remain one of the biggest threats the U.S. faces. Officials still can’t describe the full extent of classified information obtained throughout the months of attacks.

8. Protip — Disable Facebook Friend Suggestions

Maybe you have enough friends. Maybe you don’t really know any of the people Facebook suggests that you add as friends.

Here’s a guide on disabling those suggestions

9. Screening Room –  Google “Get Back to What You Love”

Google dipped into its own history for a commercial and hit a home run with its spot imagining post-pandemic search.

10. Science Fiction World — Tourist on Mars Takes Selfie

The Curiosity rover on Mars seems a little jealous of the attention that new arrival Perseverance is getting.

See the selfie. I’ll change the heading to Science Fact Universe.

 11. Coffee Break — The Simpson Intro Using Only Stock Video Footage.

Creator Matt Highton posted, “It took a day, but here it is.”

701 original episodes of The Simpsons have aired since it debuted more than 32 years ago.
And speaking of 30 years ago…


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