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Digg Scrapes FaceBook for Diggers’ Real Identities & Photos, Changes Profiles

Sep 28, 20116 mins
Data and Information SecurityFacebookMicrosoft

As Facebook often causes privacy concerns by automatic opt-in and lack of privacy-by-design, so too has Digg changed some Diggers' account profiles to reflect real identity instead of Digg alias. Digg responded to privacy concerns about modifying Digg account profiles with full names and photos pulled from Facebook, as well as how to opt-out.

For the last couple weeks, there have been numerous ongoing and proudly proclaimed changes on Digg like Digg Newsrooms. There were other changes to Digg accounts that were not loudly announced. While people on Facebook continue to be outraged over the long history of privacy invasions, which then require a user to opt-out instead of users automatically opted-in to privacy-by-design, Digg does not have a history of invading Diggers’ privacy. So when Diggers concerned with privacy started contacting me, we tried a process of elimination to track down how Diggers’ account profile names were being changed. Eventually I contacted Digg to get their response.

The social news site Digg has been around since November 2004, so most Diggers joined the social networking site under an alias. Thefacebook was launched in February 2004, but Facebook was intended for a user to setup an account based on a real name. In May 2009, Digg integrated Facebook Connect and Diggers needed only to login with their Facebook account and confirm their Digg profile. Both Twitter and Facebook sharing via Digg took on more importance to help Diggers share their submissions after the August 2010 Digg v4 launch from hell. That little history lesson was to show that while people on Facebook were allegedly using their real name, most Diggers were content to use their Digg alias.

To be involved in Digg Newsroom beta testing, invited Diggers were asked to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). But NDAs have been a standard part of private meetings with Digg officials for a long time. So Digg is not grabbing real names off NDAs.

The screengrab above is what a “blank” Digg account profile looks like. It is not uncommon to see Digger’s “full name” changed by the Digg user such as “Don’t drop – on vacation!” Those name changes as a “status” are still possible. We did more hunting online before I wrote to Digg:

Several Digg users have contacted me about the use of their real name, or real first name, or a combo of both Digg alias and real name on their profiles as opposed to the Digg alias which they signed up with to Digg. Where are you gathering these real names, off Facebook as some have suggested? Off NDAs to beta-test Digg features? Or is it simply off of Digg account settings “Full Name”? I’ve been told that their “real name” is showing up instead of their Digg name for user submissions. Several diggers told me that they didn’t make the change and had no idea how the information about them was changed, that they were not asked before the change occurred.

A Digg Spokesperson replied via email:

We are not modifying full names for existing Digg accounts.

Only when users create a new account using their Facebook ID is a username is generated from that information.

However, if a user is a previous account holder and they sign in via Facebook ID their photo is added to their Digg profile.

Users may opt-out of both actions by replacing the name discovered by Facebook and deleting the image.

There you go, Diggers, a short but sweet response, including a way to opt-out if you have an issue with Digg’s new approach to modifying Digg account names. Online privacy is regarded much differently now that Facebook is gobbling up information that is mostly voluntarily supplied by users. If you are on Facebook with your real name, you might like the Digg account name changes, but it saddens me to see Digg following Facebook’s lead of needing to opt-out instead of Diggers being asked if they wished to opt-in.

The last Digg user revolt at the disastrous launch of Digg v4 resulted in a flood of Diggers moving to Reddit, a social news site which launched in 2005. If those same Reddit users get annoyed, such as at the recent Facebook privacy debacle of tracking users across the web even if they were logged out, Redditors can post some insightful and hilarious content such as how to annoy Facebook employees. The summary minus the ha-ha graphic:

How to annoy the employees of Facebook. A step by step tutorial.

  1. Open this site:
  2. Enter your personal information.
  3. Make a reference to the following law: “Section 4 DPA + Art. 12 Directive 95/46/EG”
  4. Click on “Send.”

Although a Facebook user can supposedly download the same personal information that Facebook has stored about you, there are people curious to see if the CD that Facebook burns and mails contains the exact same collected data which can be accessed via a Facebook profile.

In fact Facebook was flooded with requests and obviously very annoyed, based on the Reddit post: “I got a reply from Facebook after doing the ‘How to annoy Facebook’.” Basically it comes down to the volume of personal data requests has caused the Facebook Data Access Team “significant” delays to process, meaning more than 40 days. Facebook also noted that “we are not required to comply with any future similar requests, unless, in our opinion, a reasonable period of time has elapsed.”

The infamous and long-standing Digg vs. Reddit war continues to rage, but it’s unclear after Digg v4 if we should hold out hope and still await the possibilities of nComment’s epic war comic part 3 (1/3, 2/3). Reddit traffic has “exploded in the last 12 months.” It remains to be seen if the many newsrooms of Digg can offer what Reddit has had for a long time via sub-reddits. What is clear is that both Facebook and StumbleUpon are kicking Digg and Reddit in terms of referral traffic. StumbleUpon is about to kill off blogs and may be about to commit a Digg v4 type social network suicide. But hey, Facebook makes a privacy blunder change almost once a month and that hasn’t stopped users from voluntarily feeding the FB machine with personal info. It’s doubtful the Digg account profile name changes will hurt it.

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.