What Facebook’s after-death settings mean for you and your family

This post is by Ronnie Charrier, Northcutt from VentureBeat

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Facebook is for the first time allowing users to designate someone to manage their account after they die.

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What happens to a person’s Facebook profile when they die has been an ongoing and sometimes controversial issue.

Until now, when family or friends notified Facebook that a loved one had died, Facebook verified their death and “memorialized” the account, meaning the account could be viewed but not be managed or edited. The issue has been gaining traction as of late. Last month, a Zogby poll of more than a thousand adults found that 71 percent want their online communications to remain private unless they give prior consent. At the same time, 43 percent want their private accounts on online services deleted unless they have given prior consent for someone else to access them.

Facebook has also received “hundreds of thousands” of requests for access to these memorialized accounts, according to spokesperson Jodi Seth.

Legacy Contact_Choose

Today, Facebook seems to have put the issue to rest. This morning, it announced that it will allow its members to designate a “legacy contact.” This person will have the right, and the access, to manage a person’s profile after they die.

“One of the most important things we can do when it comes to memorializing someone is to tell stories about who they were, what they meant to you, and therefore what you have lost,” says Jed Brubaker, an “academic collaborator” on Facebook’s legacy contacts project, which is directly related to his doctoral research on digital afterlives at UC Irvine.

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Don’t fall for this Facebook hoax (and 6 things you can do to ensure Facebook privacy)

This post is by Ronnie Charrier, Northcutt from VentureBeat

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Facebook hate

A hoax circulated through the Facebook user community a couple of years ago, telling users they could protect their privacy just by adding a simple statement to their Facebook status. Well, that same hoax is back again. You’ve probably seen the magic wording already: “In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc (as a result of the Berner Convention).”

Many of my friends have made this declaration in their status, to which my immediate reaction is: How do they not understand that this won’t keep their information private?” It got me thinking about how much people care about their online privacy yet take no real action to protect it.

In a TEDTalk last year on The End of Privacy, Hasan Elahi said, “You show me your Google history and I will find something embarrassing or incriminating from there in five minutes.” This is why people get scared into adding this bogus copyright statement. They’re worried about what they’ve posted in the past, yet they haven’t been educated on what they can do about it.

In the last several months alone, Facebook has announced changes to how its search works and how its News Feed algorithms will work. It has added new terms and conditions, privacy settings, and ad policies. And it’s a safe bet that there will be more changes coming throughout 2015. That’s a lot to keep up with. Even though people are worried about how the changes might affect them, many don’t know what to do. They just copy and paste these statuses that have no actual effect on their online privacy.

First, let me say that I am not a lawyer. If you’re looking for legal advice on this matter, check out the great write-up in Vice.

Continue reading “Don’t fall for this Facebook hoax (and 6 things you can do to ensure Facebook privacy)”

Why social media needs to be taught in high school

This post is by Ronnie Charrier, Northcutt from VentureBeat

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There’s been a lot of discussion recently on what schools should be teaching kids. Just this month, the United Kingdom announced the addition of cybersecurity to its curriculum in response to a lack of education in the field and the rising industry skills gap.

I believe U.S. schools have been hesitant and even neglectful when it comes to how they discuss social media with students, and it’s time for this to change. Social media is a very real and ongoing aspect of our everyday lives: It no longer makes sense that, in 2014, several states still teach cursive writing when many students can text much faster on their smart devices. We need to be educating students on applicable skills for the world that they will interact with, and that means providing them with an understanding of how social media can affect their future. The gaping generational chasm between teachers who grew up before smartphones existed and students who were raised on them has resulted in a trial-and-error model of internet education and exploration, which could potentially wreak havoc on a student’s future. The internet is written in pen, not pencil.

The latest statistics show that 83 percent of teens in the U.S. aged 14-18 are on a social network. More 90 percent of them share their real names and use real photos of themselves, and around 20 percent share their cell phone numbers, according to Pew Research Center figures from 2013. What the statistics mean is that what children (and adults, for that matter) d on the Internet is available to pretty much anyone. But that’s just the reality we live in. There is a one-in-seven chance that anyone with intent and an Internet connection can find your child’s cell phone number right now.

Social media profiles

Dennis Kelly, president of the United Educators of San Francisco, says that teachers are already overworked, and although social media is important, so are other things. “All students should learn to swim, but should it be the school’s responsibility to teach them swimming?” Kelly asks. Well, I say yes. If you’re a school in an area where your students are regularly going to be swimming, then you should feel it’s important that they know how. Australia, a country more over 75 percent of the population lives near the ocean, has swimming as part of its curriculum. Likewise, as the numbers indicate, social media is already a large part of students’ lives and teachers should see this as an opportunity, not as a burden.

Some organizations have taken it upon themselves to introduce students to safe online habits. A group of volunteers from Fordham Law School recently began teaching seventh graders in New York about online privacy. When asked why it is important to educate students on best practices for online behavior, one of the classroom teachers, Nichole Gagnon, said, “Many teens believe that, because they are communicating through their own personal accounts, phones, and computers, it is private. While interacting with the law students, they soon realized that nothing that is public can be private at the same time.”

While similar programs are developing in other areas of the country (University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Irvine, Georgetown University, Harvard University, University of Idaho, Northern Kentucky University, Princeton University, Roger Williams University, Seattle University, Suffolk University, Tulane University, Washington University in St. Louis and Yale University), this trend needs to progress from out-of-school programs to in-school curriculum.

Along with personal privacy and safe Internet usage, recent hiring trends suggest teens should learn how to use social media for their jobs. A recent Indeed.com study of the site’s job listings shows a huge spike in companies looking for employees with specific social media skill sets. By analyzing the data from the title and description of job postings, Indeed.com found that jobs requesting Instagram skills were up 644 percent from 2012, and those searching for Twitter experience was up 44 percent. The term “social media” rose 28 percent.

Indeed figures

So how do we begin the process of teaching social media to students? Colleges, companies, and individuals will look at how these students act on social networks. There are several things schools can and should begin teaching students.

Online reputation

As students increasingly live out their lives online, we’re seeing major downsides to all that social media over-sharing, and they might have little control over how they appear on the Internet. If someone says something negative about another person, it can really damage that person’s future. At the same time, the person’s digital reputation also creates significant opportunities for students to put their best foot forward. Students should understand that what they put on the Internet, good and bad, is out there for the public.


A lot of students have either completely crossed over or begun the process from parental influence to peer influence. Because this group uses experimentation to establish their adulthood, their social media interaction can exhibit inappropriate behavior that seems uncharacteristic. It will be more common for them to have established several social-media communities, some with different usernames. They are more aware of how to keep these personas private, but their behavior on social media may get riskier, due to this false sense of security.

It’s important to teach students how to use privacy settings, the importance of location and tagging information, and how to maintain a professional public appearance online. They also need to be made aware of appropriate behavior in private places such as locker rooms, bathrooms, hallways, and bedrooms. Remind them that behavior in private places may not stay private and that anything they do could become a video or picture on someone else’s social media. Make the connection between their privacy habits and their ability to get into a good college, get an athletic scholarship, or even get the jobs they want after they graduate.


While students might not understand it now, their classmates and teammates can become valuable connections down the road. Encourage students to connect with one another on social media and to stay connected even after they stop going to school with one another. If students know what they want to do after school, they can establish themselves in their respective fields through blogging and get involved in the right online communities. There are many other advantages to being Internet-savvy, like finding the cheapest used textbooks online for college.

Social media isn’t going anywhere, and every year we put this off is another year we are behind. It’s our job to teach students, so they don’t have to learn the hard way from their own mistakes. In an academic study done at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, researchers found young people who believe the Internet and digital technology benefit society are more likely to be resilient self-regulators online.

Erick Qualman, author of “Socialnomics” and “What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube,” said, Wwe don’t have a choice on whether we do social media. The question is how well we do it.”

I know it’s not traditional, but some things really are more useful than calculus.

Ronnie Charrier is a social media manager at Northcutt.

I spent 48 hours on Ello. This is what I saw

This post is by Ronnie Charrier, Northcutt from VentureBeat

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I spent 48 hours on Ello. This is what I saw
Image Credit: Jordan Novet/VentureBeat

If you’ve been on Facebook or Twitter in the last week, you’ve probably heard a lot of people talking about this thing called Ello. If you tried to sign up to see what it is, you would’ve gotten a message back saying, “We will invite you as soon as we can. Ello is currently in beta, and we are inviting new users in small groups as we roll out new features.”

One of Ello’s founders, Paul Budnitz, told Betabeat that the site has been receiving more than 30,000 of these sign-up requests per hour this week. The only way to get an account is to receive one of five unique invite codes that every user gets. This has caused quite a stir, and it’s gotten to the point that people are actually purchasing invites from other users on eBay, with prices ranging from $5 to $500.

So, what is Ello?

Ello is a free, invite-only, independent social network, with no export tools or an application programming interface (API). It is bright and clean and promises, in its manifesto, to stay ad-free, to never sell your data, and to not force you to use your real name. I was able to get an invite from a friend and have been playing around with it for a few days.

Here’s what a profile looks like:

Wait, it has a manifesto?

Yes. And it’s genius. I could, and might, write an entire piece on the brilliant marketing strategy they’ve used, but for now, let’s just say they make it quite clear who their target is.

Why is this getting so much buzz?

Ello actually launched in April and was mostly used by only about a hundred of Budnitz’s friends. You could point to a number of different reasons that Ello has gained so much popularity in the last week — their marketing being one — but the main reason, it seems, is a new Facebook policy cracking down on users who don’t go by their real names. This caused an outcry from members of the LGBTQ community, and when you see Ello’s zero-tolerance hate policy, something neither Twitter or Facebook has, you see why there is so much debate going on.
Added to that is many people’s growing frustration with Facebook, which is evident in one Ello user’s post:

@lmorchard: FWIW, I’ve thought of every social network since LiveJournal as some huge party thrown by people I usually don’t know yet random assortments of old & new friends tend to show up. The Facebook party is weird because my Mom & Grandma showed up. I’m amazed at how long some of these parties have gone on, and it seems like there are some weird people wandering around trying to sell shots of peculiarly branded booze. That usually means it’s time to go home and/or go onto the next party.

What’s so different about Ello?

Timing, mostly. It’s really not all that different from Facebook or Twitter: You have a profile, you can change your image and banner, you update your status, you share pictures, you add friends. But, and this is the but, there are no ads. And it’s this promise – that you’ll be able to spend more time interacting with your friends instead of being inundated with sponsored ads, game requests, and Facebook’s never-ending app integration — that’s causing so many people to take the time to see what all the fuss is about.

What do I think so far?

It’s certainly a different experience. It’s obvious from the outset that they are trying to be anti-Facebook, but the problem with that is that Facebook has spent a lot of time and money making itself user-friendly. Being new and different can be cool, but that only lasts so long if the experience isn’t intuitive and user-friendly. There are certain times that you can definitely tell that Ello is still in beta and has a lot of bugs to work out. There’s also a glaring lack of features, most notably user blocking and a mobile app. It does have a list of upcoming features that it says will be available soon, which you can see here:
It’s not all bad, though. The simplicity of the interface is very straightforward, and the feed is extremely fluid. There’s not a character limit like there is with Twitter, and you can posts GIFs and do some other fun stuff that you can’t on Facebook. There’s a couple of interesting things like the Ello Facemaker tool, which lets you paste the Ello logo on your face, hiding your identity or just showing your support for the new site.

If I were to give it a grade, I would give it an incomplete. There are some nice ideas here, but it still has a long way to go. And where it goes is the most interesting part of all this.

Can it really stay ad-free and survive?

Probably not. As reported by Gawker, Ello received venture capital funding back in March for $435,000. Venture capitalists are not like Kickstarter or crowdfunding projects and don’t just give money away for goodwill. There will certainly be outside pressure on them to make money, both for themselves and their investors, and that is bound to shape the direction the company goes in.

One way the startup will try to do this, they say, is by introducing new “special features,” which people will be able to have permanently by paying a small, one-time fee. While this certainly shows the startup’s desire to think differently to keep the site ad-free, it’s hard to imagine this both generating enough revenue to keep the site afloat and not causing people to flee back to their already free social media sites. Don’t forget, Facebook was also once a free, “product-first” company when it started.

Should I join?

It’s up to you. You’ll have to get an invitation first, but I doubt that will be too hard in the coming weeks. It depends on what you want to get out of your social-media experience. And you might go through all this trouble for nothing. It is going to be a long, uphill battle for Ello to succeed, and it seems unlikely that it can stay both ad-free and hate-free the entire time.

But for now it is, and that’s something.

Ronnie Charrier is a social media manager at Northcutt.


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