Facebook’s intrusive Washington Post Social Reader

How to Remove Washington Post Social ReaderHave you noticed the Washington Post Social Reader App that publishes stories on Facebook about what your friends are reading? Or better yet, have you clicked through the App to read a story, only to find out later that the story you read was published to your Facebook page without your knowledge? Here’s a description of the application according to the Washington Post:

“Washington Post Social Reader is a free app that lets you read news on Facebook — discover what your friends are reading and let friends know what you’re reading, too!”

How do you get rid of this social reader, or similar apps like WSJ Social App, the Yahoo App, and even Spotify? What if you want to use these apps without automatically publishing stories? To remove an app entirely, you’ll need to find it by opening your list of Facebook Applications and use the “X” button to remove it. If you still want to keep an intrusive app like this, here’s some help from CIO Insight:

By default, the apps request permission to “add app activity” to your profile, which means that it can publish the stories you’ve read. To remove this permission, click the X next to “Add app activity to your timeline.”
If you also want to restrict who can see posts and activity from this app, you’ll need to change your privacy settings. To do this, choose “custom” from the drop-down menu next to “App activity privacy.”
If you don’t want your reading activity published to your network, choose “Only Me” from the drop-down menu next to “These people or lists.” Or, if you want to allow or omit certain people from viewing your activity, do so by creating custom lists. (Continue reading…)

For more help with tricky settings on Facebook, CIO Insight has compiled their “Facebook Bible” to give readers a resource in the battle against Facebook’s massive empire of custom settings: Facebook Bible: Everything You Need to Know About Facebook. Through this page you’ll find advice on how to block facial recognition features, how to hide recent activity, how to prevent annoying app invites, and more.

QR code dangers & the Norton Snap app

QR Code ScannerQR codes, or Quick Response codes: You have seen them in magazines, fast food chains, entertainment event tickets, posters, and even billboards.

The danger in these two-dimensional codes is how easily they can be exploited by someone with malicious intent (for example, by placing a sticker of a new QR code on top of an advertisement), because viewers cannot see a difference after a code has been replaced or hijacked.

Although it may be rare so far, malware has already been put into QR code links on the Android (see full story on Mashable).

Unsafe QR CodesBut the real proof of a threat here? Symantec developed a QR code scanner called Norton Snap, which, according to the Apple App Store, “protects you, your mobile device, and your important stuff from online threats by warning you of dangerous QR codes and blocking unsafe websites before they load on your device.” More info on that currently free app here. For Symantec to spend the time and money on putting out an application for smartphones means that they see a potential threat with an opportunity to capitalize on. It will be interesting to see if other standard bar code reading Apps partner up with security companies to keep users safe, and/or whether marketing companies decide against pushing the QR codes due to the threats.


7 Reasons Not to Give Your Child a Smartphone

“Should I let my child have a smartphone?” You may have some good reasons to give one to your child. Here are seven reasons not to:

  1. Porn apps on smartphonesPorn. In the app stores, on pornography websites, on malware-infected sites, on social media networks… “But I set up parental controls. I can lock down the device, right?” Sure, but a word of caution: someone who wants to find a way around controls will do just that. Think hidden folder apps, private web browser apps, harmful websites not yet blacklisted, etc. Is your child too young to think of these things? Young 6-year-olds have accidentally clicked on porn through “related videos” inside Apps for kids. While new ways of filtering out or monitoring porn may become available, these helpful services are no match in a competition with the multi-billion dollar porn industry. Recent news headlines:
    1. “Children as young as 11 are exposed to porn: Smartphones and laptops are too accessible warns addiction specialist”
    2. “Smartphones exposing kids to porn: Study”
    3. “Can Your Child Find Porn on Your Phone?”
    4. “Children admit addiction to smartphone porn”
  2. They’re expensive. Consider a phone plan with a low number of minutes, text messaging, a data plan (required for most smartphones!), and tax at $90/month that comes out to $1,080/year. Add the cost of accessories. Then add the cost of upgrading to the next phone when that model becomes obsolete and the current model has already lost its resale value. Maybe you have a Family Plan that cuts my estimate in half–it’s still a significant amount.
  3. Less exercise. One of the trade-offs to spending time in front of a screen is less time spent on activities involving physical exercise. Sure, some activities surrounding a smartphone can involve exercise (jogging to music?). But consider the amount of time spent sitting or standing. “But you don’t understand, my child would have spent their time in front of the TV.” Okay, so get rid of your TV. No one said the road to success here would be an easy one.
  4. Physical safety from pedophiles and stalkers online. Having a smartphone often involves broadcasting a physical location to friends and online followers. Ask yourself: How hard is it to directly or indirectly trick a young person into giving away their location?
  5. Poor sleeping habits. “According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 75 percent of teens use cellphones at night when they should be sleeping, and after 9pm, 34 percent of adolescents reported text messaging, 44 percent reported talking on the telephone, 55 percent reported being online, and 24 percent played computer games. Media use also often stimulates the brain, which makes it harder to sleep hours after you’ve turned your electronic devices off.” (source)
  6. Violence in the app storeExposure to other dangers: violence, drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, and erotic reading material in ebooks. All of these things can be found in those fun, free games your child’s friend showed them. “But that stuff doesn’t affect my kid!” Yes, it does, whether you realize it or not. Regardless, consider that your decision for your child may unknowingly influence other parents, whose children will be affected differently. Also consider the implications for game developers who see increased downloads and in turn, larger profits on the games containing the dangers mentioned above.
  7. Important life lessons gained while going through childhood without the smartphone: The patience to wait for something. A longer attention span. Contentment without owning the newest toy. Solid social skills after having spent more time interacting face-to-face with peers. The personal strength to fight peer pressure when “everyone else is doing it.”

Parents, now that you’re aware of some of the dangers, I hope that you’ll agree with me: You love your child too much to ignore these dangers. You would rather withhold something they want, than give them what will likely harm them. For those who have young children and are trying to make a decision, keep in mind that you don’t have to learn this lesson the hard way. If your child was about to walk off the edge of a cliff and you had the chance to prevent it, wouldn’t you put your foot down for their sake, despite their protests?

Note: I purposefully haven’t mentioned an age. Instead of asking “When should I give my child a smartphone?” weigh the risks your kid would face along with the real benefits they may receive.