July 9, 2012 at 4:11 PM ET
The sad reality is, there are dangerous adults on the Internet who monitor the Internet behavior of children, even if their own parents are unwilling to do the same. To mitigate this, a team of Israeli researchers has developed a Facebook application intended to detect pedophiles and other potential online predators.
“While Facebook encourages connecting with as many people as possible, we advocate limiting users, and have, for the first time, provided an algorithm to scientifically determine who to remove from friend lists," explained Michael Fire, a Ph.D. candidate at Ben-Gurion University's Department of Information Systems Engineering.
"Predators rely on people friending anyone, and with teens now allowed to have Facebook accounts, we believe that our solution can provide necessary protection for all users."
The technology, developed by Fire along with Prof. Yuval Elovici and two BGU undergraduate students, is available as the Friend Protector app on Facebook. You can also install it in Firefox as the Social Privacy Protector add-on.
According to BGU’s Department of Information Systems Engineering, this is how the special algorithm gives Facebook users tighter control on their privacy:
The SPP “app” has multiple levels of protection, but the most important component reviews a user’s friends list in seconds to identify which have few or no mutual links and might be “fake” profiles. The app analyzes each friend and scores the “connectedness” to every friend. It flags the lowest scores as suspicious and asks whether the friend should be restricted from personal user information, but doesn’t defriend them.
“An important feature of our app is the ability for parents to better protect their kids’ privacy with just one click instead of having to navigate the more complicated Facebook privacy settings,” Fire said in a statement.
Despite Facebook's 13-and-older age restriction, there are more than a few kids 12 and younger on the world's largest social network. And, as studies from Microsoft, Consumer Reports and other research outfits continue to reveal, many of them are there, lying about their age, with the permission of their parents, and more than a few of those parents don't actively monitor what their kids are doing. Maybe this app will help.
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