December 19, 2009

The New Facebook: Why Friends-of-Friends is a Bad Idea

In Facebook's new privacy settings, regional networks were dismantled completely. However, in its place, the "friends of friends" setting has become immensely popular. This is a very dangerous proposition and I urge you to restrict your privacy to friends only. There are far too many people that can see your profile and it may even affect your ability to get a job.

How many "friends of friends" will have access?

Friends of friends is much more dangerous than the regional network. Let's take the highly conservative count of 200 friends. Let's say each of them has, on average, 200 friends. Multiply that and a potential 40,000 non-friends could have access to your profile and photos. This is highly conservative, because in my friend count list, 12 of the top 20 have more than 1,000 friends each, and many other have anywhere from 400-900 friends. Heck, one of my friends has 1,950 friends.

Places, location, and event "friends"

Before the advent of Facebook Pages, a friend profile was a common way to get the word out about your product or location. I've gotten friendship requests from the "Port of Long Beach" or "PRSSA Long Beach." This can be dangerous, because they can be the mutual friend link that would otherwise not exist. For example, CSULB ASI has 1,200 friends. If I became friends with CSULB ASI, I potentially have access to more than 1,200 people's photo albums, notes, etc. if they chose to set friends-of-friends privacy.

Pages do not have this problem. They're much better because you don't have to disclose as much private information as a friend link would (and it's a pain to set limited profile). This is probably why they've become far more popular than these friend profiles. I don't recommend severing ties with these profiles, just set everything to friends-only to avoid this problem.


If you're networking well, there's a really good chance that a potential employer can see your profile if you have friends-of-friends access. For example, I'm friends with the adviser at the Daily 49er and the CSULB photojournalism teacher. Both used to work at the Orange County Register and the photo teacher used to work at the Associated Press. When I sent the name of the Associated Press internship coordinator to the photo teacher for a recommendation letter, she came back to me and said, "Hey, i used to work with that coordinator." So if that coordinator had a Facebook and I had friends-of-friends privacy, she could potentially see my photos, notes, etc. which is a really bad thing.

And what could she see? Well, by default (and Facebook is really stupid), the profile photos album is accessible to friends of friends. As I stated in my prior post, if you have less-than-work-safe poses (such as holding beer containers uploaded before your 21st birthday), this could look bad. Photo album access can also be compromising, especially those of parties. I also believe that notes access is Everyone by default. Now that it shows up in profile search, employers could see potentially embarrassing "25 random things about me" notes or other things.

The point is that you shouldn't take the risk. Any potential employer's evaluation of you should purely be based on what you submit – the resume, cover letter, and the interview process. They should not have the access to make assumptions about your social life, relationship status, or other things not pertaining to the job description. Legally, they can't ask such questions. But I don't believe there's anything illegal if they happen to find that information on their own if your friends-of-friends privacy setting grants them that access.

December 13, 2009

New Facebook Privacy: Taking Control

Facebook has recently rolled out a new series of privacy controls. After some review, I've concluded that they're much leakier than before and the new defaults are worse than the original. Here's a summary of what's changed and how to restore the privacy that Facebook has stripped.

Broadly, I recommend all information to be restricted to Friends Only unless there is a compelling reason otherwise not to. Opening the information to My Networks is just asking for trouble. In the CSU Long Beach network there are 18,000 people alone. For instance, I want people to go to my website, so I have it visible, and my email address is also listed on my Zenfolio, so there's no reason why to have it restricted on Facebook.

More information is now easily accessible:

Before, your settings could be "Everyone" for notes, emails, and photo albums, but it took a lot of work to actually find the information. For instance, to find notes, I would grab the ID number after the notes.php?id= and this trick didn’t work for people who had picked out usernames. Now, the "Notes" tab shows up in the profile search. To fix this, go to Application Settings and set Notes privacy settings to Friends Only.

Email addresses are by default set to "Everyone." Before, the only practical purpose was if you already had someone’s email you wanted to find, like an old friend. The CSULB database attaches email addresses to names, which was useful for common name people; i.e. if there were two persons named Michael Yee in the CSU Long Beach network, but you knew my email was (CSULB search), you could figure out which one was me (if my email was open, which it isn't; I also lost the password, so contact me at my Gmail). Now it's shown in the profile search, meaning that more people can see your email address. Go to Privacy Settings and set email access to Friends Only. Only your friends or close associates should know your email address, unless it's a business email.

The profile photo album is also now visible to everyone by default. You have to dig into the photo album settings to restrict it further. Since the profile picture is one of the most prominent features of one's profile, having Everyone access by default is a problem. People often have pictures of their significant others, poses that are more personal than professional, and other things. Non-friends should not be able to see your profile pictures by default. To fix this, go to Photos Privacy, scroll to bottom and set privacy of the Profile photo album to "Friends Only".

Photo albums also show up searches now as well. You should go through your photo albums and restrict certain ones (parties, indecent albums, etc.) to Friends Only.

Friend lists are weird now. Before, you could set it so certain lists or non-friends could not see the friend list. Now, it's either ON for everyone or OFF for everyone. You have to turn the friend list on by default, which you can do by clicking the pencil icon in the friend list in the profile.

Searching gives away more information

Your ability to block non-friends from seeing your friend list, the "Add as Friend" button, and profile picture are gone. This is really bad. I can confirm that at least 3-4 people who previously had their profile pictures hidden, hidden lists, and the Add as Friend button now have all three visible. You can still restrict people from poking you or messaging you. In addition, Facebook will show the groups you've joined and the pages you're a fan of. Facebook considers all of that information to be publicly available (according to their Privacy Settings FAQ) and there is no current way to hide them, except for removing your membership in all pages.

Facebook's defaults are terrible

Facebook revokes your searchable status – it reverts to everyone – and you have to switch it back to "Friends Only" so non-friends can't find you. However, as of this writing, restricting access to "Friends Only" doesn't work; my mom has that setting enabled but I can still see her under other accounts. Good job, Facebook. Way to make being invisible harder. Also, "Add as Friend" now shows up. I know one person who has accepted the new privacy settings that somehow has disabled the Add as Friend button (incidentally, the same person has also banned me), so there might be an option to disable that, but the 2-3 others who previously had it disabled now feature the "Add as Friend" button.

Facebook privacy has become considerably harder now. Check your settings, because the New Facebook is worse than the old one. Just like how the Old Facebook layout was a lot better than the new one.

June 8, 2009

House of Blue Leaves photo book

The fourth book, The House of Blue Leaves, is out. It tells the story of the cast and crew of The House of Blue Leaves production, which was put on by the Huntington Beach High School Academy of the Performing Arts on March 13-14, 2009 at the Rose Center Theatre in Westminster, California.

I covered The House of Blue Leaves for my advanced photojournalism class (see below post for details). The 2,000+ pictures naturally lent itself to...a book. But it took a long time. I stopped on March 21 and didn't begin again until late May. It does not feature the hallmarks of my other books: the lack of biographies or pictures of the cast members. It contains my photographs and text only.

It is my first project released in the 10x8 format. Most notably, the 10x8 format allowed me to print full-bleed images that the square 7x7 format wouldn't. It is also my first book about a theater production, spanning the smallest time frame of all prior projects – two weeks, instead of a semester or a full year.

May 7, 2009

The House of Blue Leaves

My photo slideshow documents the Huntington Beach Academdy for the Performing Arts production of The House of Blue Leaves that ran from March 13-14, 2009 at the Rose Center Theatre. I shot at three practices, one performance, and a cast party. I used Photoshop CS3 to edit the photos and Apple's Final Cut Express to create the show. Music is by Alex Syiek, who plays the lead role of Artie Shaughnessy in the play.

April 8, 2009

Beach News

The videos I shot over the Alternative Spring Break trip to New Orleans using my Canon PowerShot SX110 were featured in this week's edition of Beach News. Very cool. It was pretty brief, though, and it didn't feature any of the rousing speeches that the group leaders gave.

March 20, 2009

AP Environmental Science, 2005-2006

Today I presented the AP Environmental Science, 2006-2006 book to Mr. Ostrowski, chronicling the inaugural year of the AP Environmental Science program at Huntington Beach High School. Three years later, the class has expanded to three sessions (Periods 1, 2 and 4) with the same components – Yosemite in the fall and scuba diving in the spring.

The ambition of my photo book projects seems to inversely correlate with the distance I have from the subjects – the further the distance from the subjects, the more I want to do. In the MOCA book, all I wanted was "Where they are now?" blurbs from the 15 apprentices. In this book, I wanted all 40 students to write "Why did I do this?" with a 2005-2006 picture and "What am I doing now?" with a 2008-2009 picture. The response? Two of the 38 students contacted responded.

I really didn't want to doom myself to a self-fulfilling prophecy, but let's be honest here. People hated my camera, I didn't talk to anybody, and I haven't maintained really good contact with anyone following high school. People don't trust me. People didn't care for the class. As I wrote in the afterward, it was just a class, for everyone else. But for me, it was something more than that. It was something to be remembered, because it was the inaugural class. And I wanted everyone to contribute, only to find few takers.

It's not about the money. I have money, and I'm willing to spend it. I budgeted for the extra 80 pages (see Blurb's pricing scale). When the APES book was 200 pages ($43.95), it would have cost me an extra $11 ($54.95) to add those pages to the book. When I expanded the book to 240 pages ($49.95), it would have cost me $10 ($59.95) for 80 more pages. Because my pictures are not the magic. The students are. And when the students chose not to contribute, the magic of the book vanishes.

March 16, 2009

The House of Blue Leaves

New blog! Go to to find the latest updates for the sixth photo book project, covering The House of Blue Leaves production from March 13-14. It's new. I realize that, in order to be successful, I need to be completely transparent and public about the inner workings and ambitions of the project, rather than shroud it in complete secrecy and privacy and only transmit it through email.

February 6, 2009

Blurb book projects

Since August 2008, I've been using my candid photography to produce photo books. This is a list of all the books I produced. Links are given when the books are public; otherwise, they were either deleted or they have not been published yet.

Daily Forty-Niner, Summer 2008
Published: August 11, 2008 and September 11, 2008
Size: 10x8

The prototype for all future books, this was an 10x8 book that was 24 pages. I purchased a softcover copy and showed it to everyone. It was used as a way to gain credibility and acceptance for my candid photography in the newsroom. I came out with a second version in September that was 40 pages long and published it, but promises to buy a copy were not fulfilled.

MOCA Apprenticeship Program, 2005-2006
Published: November 20, 2008 and January 15, 2009
Size: 7x7

It was this internship program where I first took the camera and engaged in candid photography. I made three poster boards to commemorate the year, but revisited in September 2008 to come out with a 232-page book that more fully revealed the inner workings, dynamics, and relationships forged during the year. I republished a second version on January 15.

Joanne's birthday party
Published: November 26, 2008 and December 26, 2008
Size: 7x7

Joanne Tucker's 20th birthday party on October 17 was the first birthday I had ever gone to. I took a lot of photographs and, with the help of her roommate Lindsay Taylor, identified everyone and compiled it to an 77-page book. Since nobody bought a copy, it remains on my computer only.

JOUR 300, fall 2008
Published: November 28, 2008; December 19, 2008
Size: 7x7

A photo book for a photojournalism class? it seemed to go hand in hand for the class led by Suzanne Mapes. I originally envisioned it as a 13x11 book, but later scaled it down to a 7x7 . It was also the first book where I tried to avidly recruit people to submit their own photographs, only to fail. I produced a 120-page book. Innovations included a flip book section, a page for every student, and a page dedicated to every assignment the class did.

AP Environmental Science, 2005-2006
Published: February 9, 2009 and March 1, 2009
Size: 7x7

Alongside MOCA, I took photographs of every outing the inaugural class at Huntington Beach High School, and later inside the classroom. This book uniquely integrates my journals, assignments, and memory alongside the photographs I took. Attempts to recruit people to submit "Why did I do this?" and "Where am I now?" entries and pictures met with near-universal failure. I managed to produce a 240-page book that documents the class like no other object does.

Fusion 2009
Publishing: June 2009?
Size: 10x8

As part of the final for JOUR 380, advanced photojournalism, I was required to do a photo essay. My topic was the Academy of Performing Arts at my alma mater, HBHS. I took 2000 pictures of the course in two days. Publication is in question now that there was a professional photographer there whose book will be better...if I am to go forward, I need outdo that person.

Daily Forty-Niner, 2008-2009
Publishing: June 2009
Size: 13x11

The ultimate effort, this book, when done, will document the entire workings of the 2008-2009 staff at the Daily-Forty Niner, including articles, candid pictures, and their own words. It currently stands at 150 pages with Summer and Fall 2008 semesters completed, and I'm projecting up to 250 pages with Spring 2009 included.