18-year-old Barron Nicholas

Paris Hilton party pictures leaked on facebook due a security breach on Facebook allowed a Vancouver computer technician to find photos of Paris Hilton partying and ones of her younger brother in private online albums accessible only by their friends. This is a major embarrassment for Facebook after it launched new group security features last week.

The security update did not cover a flaw that had apparently existed for months. Facebook fixed the breach after being alerted to the problem this week. After the security update last week, computer technician Byron Ng proved that the technique still worked by accessing Paris Hilton’s private photos, including snaps of the socialite at the Emmy awards. Byron Ng, who last July cracked the security behind the then-unreleased novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, discovered the security hole when he was checking out an earlier breach that had been fixed by Facebook.

Pairs drunk in one of the bars

MySpace has made similar gaffes a story that was reported in January about putting User IDs into the URLs of private photos on MySpace in order to view them. That breach was said to have been discussed around the web for months before MySpace did anything about it.

Dean Turner, director Symantec global intelligence network, said the breach points to a potential lack of privacy once information or photos are posted online.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company’s key contribution to the important movement for Data Portability would be to nail down the privacy angle. He pointed out, and rightly so, that users will feel far more secure sharing their data online and across different sites, if they can do so with the assurance that they have control over who can see that data. According to the privacy policy outlined on Facebook, there is no guarantee content won’t be seen by unauthorized viewers.


Can You Spare $10 000?

March 24, 2008

Peer-to-peer loans have been making bankers into average people according to Jeninne Lee-St. John of Times Magazine. Because of the “slumping economy”, the banking system has gone into panic mode forcing people looking for loans to turn to the internet in order to ask for help from friends and in most cases, a stranger. Even people with the best credit ratings are unable to get a good interest rate… Not only is P2P for sites such as Limewire and Facebook, you can also add online loans to that list. 

This new peer-to-peer (P2P) loan industry helps any regular Joe exchange cash with the help of an “online facilitator”. In 2007, it had a $650 million dollar debt. Prosper was the first “matchmaker” which began in 2006. To date it has 600,000 users. The way this site works is “borrowers post a request, and lenders bid on how much and at what interest rate they want to give. Several – or several dozen- people fund the loan at a rate agreeable to all. The intermediary runs a credit check, calculates return and takes a fee.” So far, the company’s default rate is less than .5%!! According to Times Magazine, members are motivated to pay back or lend to an actual person rather than a big bank. A great example is Marilyn Honolulu. Mrs. Honolulu has lent a total of $30,000 to more than 100 members, most members she has never met. “I measure my returns in not just the dollar amount, but the fulfillment I get from helping people.” She makes 6% to 7% on each loan. 

How It Works From Times

1 Seeking a Cheaper Loan – The Borrowers

Borrowers need credit scores of at least 640 of 850 maximum and a debt-to-income ratio of 30% or less. For example: Even with credit scores in the 700, people aren’t able to get an interest rate below 15%.

2 Making the Connection – The Online Middleman

The average loan is $9500, funded by 22 to 25 people. For example: Lending Club, which launched May of 2007, relies on fairly strict rules and works with people in affiliated groups, matching up, say, travel agents or MIT alums with peers.

3Looking for a Higher Yield – The Lender

Lenders list the total amount they’d like to loan and the risk level they can stand. They can select individual borrowers who meet their criteria, or the site’s Lending Match program will generate a portfolio. The mean 12.32% interest rate beats the current 3% average return on a CD. For example: Bernadette Lui has $3125 spread among 13 three-year loans. She earns 14.6% and is considering reinvesting her returns with new borrowers. 

I guess this is something that’s worth a try if the bank just doesn’t like you. It sounds fairly promising and a great way for people to get some short term financial help.

Social Network Facebook is now even more serious on user’s privacy matter. Most importantly is their latest privacy control where Facebook users now able to control their profile whatever they want to visible to their friend list.

Last Wednesday, Facebook has released different types of privacy controls for their users and received significant amount of positive responds. Now users can create their profile in such a way where friends can view specific details in their own profile by using new privacy settings. On the other hand, users can keep their specific information by locking profile to their friends, friends of friends, or even particular individuals.

Matt Cohler, vice president for product management at Facebook, said it was seeking to evolve beyond the simple privacy controls originally aimed at relatively homogenous groups of college-age users. He also said,

“We have a lot more users, a lot more types of users, a lot more relationships; we have a lot more types of relationships”

However, the use of Facebook is growing very rapidly over the past year and a half. Two-thirds of its users are outside the United States, compared with about 10 percent 18 months ago, when most members were student age and in the United States. Facebook users now can select other types of strangers to view their profile. Facebook has designed privacy controls for college/university students where a university graduate student can create their profile just for other graduate students which just allow graduate students to view or access their profiles, along with staff and professors are not able to view their profiles.

But given the previous example, I was just wondering will it be work perfectly if a professor log in Facebook , and change his or her own status to an undergrad student. Suppose if someone change his/her status at university from professor/alumni to a graduate student. I think Facebook system will not restrict it to do this because Facebook does not have any verifying tools for that.

Finally, there is no doubt that it is a security flaw in Facebook’s according to the new privacy control policies. So I think it is not enough yet and too much to fix up in privacy matter. Especially, Facebook must focus on status control system. They should work on it to verified user’s status otherwise a graduate student will easily become a professor or a professor easily can change their status to a grad student.


Sorry Mitch, I guess I’m going to be talking about the same thing as you. I had it half written when I noticed yours went up and I really don’t feel like choosing another topic and researching that one too. I guess if we have to write on the biggest news of the week there will be some overlapping anyway.

So the big news I’ve been hearing about is AOL’s purchase of the social networking website, Bebo. The price? $850,000,000. That’s a lot of zeros. Especially when AOL is slowly dying a painful and horrible *potential* death. I’ll go into a little more depth on both companies.

AOL (formerly America Online) was once mainly in the Internet Service Provider industry, with 30 million subscribers (down to 10.1 million as of Nov. 2007). Due to the dramatic decrease in dial-up (resulting in a decrease in their subscribers) the company has been trying to change their image to an Internet Content Provider rather than a service provider. As of February 2008, there was an announcement that AOL would split into two different sections: internet access and advertising. This is where the acquisition of Bebo comes in.

Bebo (Blog early, blog often) is a social media network (much like MySpace, Hi5, and Facebook) that has a substantial claim on the market. Although they aren’t quite as big as Facebook or MySpace in North America, it is extremely competitive in other countries, such as Britain and Ireland. It is actually the 66th most popular English-language website (MySpace = 5th, Facebook = 6th, Hi5 = 8th) according to Alexa Internet. *Sidenote: There are a few porn sites in the top 100, as well as Google having a bunch there too).

What makes this such a dangerous merger for other social networks is that AOL has the software that Bebo needs to grab top market share. AOL has the 10 million subscribers that could extremely benefit Bebo’s population, as well as the advertising software that Facebook has been struggling so much to make effective. With AOL’s AIM and ICQ potentially growing Bebo, and with Bebo a great site for mass advertising, this could be a great way for AOL to rebound and become one of the star online advertising companies.

A problem with this merger is that Yahoo runs the display advertising for Bebo in the UK and Ireland. If Microsoft is successful in the bid for Yahoo, what will be the outcome? Microsoft has put heavy support behind Facebook with their 1.6% purchase, so how can they justify a part of their company (if Yahoo is purchased) supporting the rival of their Facebook? Can Microsoft support two social networks?

Also, with Yahoo running the advertising display for Bebo, Google running the advertising of MySpace, and Microsoft running the advertising for Facebook, it makes the market pretty competitive. If Microsoft purchases Yahoo, then it gives Microsoft a great deal more advertising power, controlling both Facebook’s and Bebo’s advertising. Will this finally make Microsoft competitive with Google’s advertising power? I guess we will see in the coming months.

*UPDATE* Facebook has just announced that it will be having an instant message service built right into Facebook.  This is announced right after AOL has been talking about combining their AIM service to Bebo. *


David McKenna

A Ryerson University student is in danger of being expelled for his role in a study group organized in Facebook. Chris Avenir 18 years old studying computer engineering at Ryerson University.

Chris Avenir


Academic misconduct for helping run an online chemistry study group via Facebook last term, where 146 classmates shared tips on homework questions that counted for 10% of their mark. He administrated of the Facebook group “Dungeons/Mastering Chemistry Solutions” 146 students from Ryerson’s first year chemistry class. Avenir joined the online chemistry study group “Dungeons/Mastering Chemistry Solutions” last fall, then took charge of it as an administrator. The group was named after a study room known by students as the Dungeon. The group page was taken down last week!

The professor who taught the chemistry course gave Avenir a “F” after he found out about the facebook group. Before that, he had given Avenir a “B.” One of the comments posted by a reader to the article on cbc.ca stated that Avenir requested that solutions be posted on the “Dungeons/Mastering Chemistry Solutions” facebook group. His intention was to have solutions available to everyone in the group. When solutions are posted it is simple on others to copy\paste the solution then hand-in the assignment. For presenting someone else’s work as your own is plagiarism Avenir should face facing expulsion. He says he never posted any answers on the discussion pages.
I find it useful when I meet with my classmates at the library or Tim Hortons to look over a problem or assignment. In addition, we use instant messaging (MSN) and Facebook a huge benefit for us but now a Ryerson student is being threatened with expulsion for using Facebook in just such a way. This seems like a mistake to me, and not something I would expect from an institution as supposedly progressive as Ryerson. I created a group for my “Organizational Behavior” class and added my group members to communicate and solve case-group projects assigned by our professor NOT to post answers and share them with 100 students. I find facebook helpful when it comes to virtual study-groups especially when one of your group members cannot attend a group meeting because of work or other reasons.


March 11th, 2008 Avenir appealed the count of academic misconduct for helping run the group and 146 counts, one for each classmate who used the site. Chris Avenir won’t hear for up to 5 days whether he will be expelled for allegedly cheating on a Facebook study group.

Ryerson University is looking into updating the student code, recognizing that there are things like Facebook, YouTube on the web,” said President Sheldon Levy. The proposed changes would also give the school the power to punish students for infractions that happen off campus, if they’re using the Ryerson name at the time. The policy has been presented to Senate, there’s a month until it gets voted on. Some are fighting the policy by getting gangs of students to come to Senate and sign a petition.

The Chemistry professor assigned each student in the course slightly different questions to prevent cheating, she said, and she did not see evidence of students doing complete solutions for each other. Instead, she said, they would brainstorm about techniques.

Sarah Boesveld Published Facebook decision pending March 13th, 2008

Chris Avenir won’t hear for up to 5 days whether he will be expelled for allegedly cheating on a Facebook study group. Avenir is the only member of the Facebook group charged with academic misconduct on the Internet and supporters have started a petition and website www.chrisdidntcheat.com to raise awareness about Avenir’s case and are selling “Chris Didn’t Cheat” T-shirts and hats. He is still attending classes pending his hearing!

Student Support:

Avenir’s friend Leo Chan created a Facebook group called Support Chris Avenir . By press time, the page so far has 1,985 members and 260 wall posts. The group page gained nearly 300 supporters within the first 24 hours of its existence. And Avenir’s lawyer, John Adair, offered to represent him after joining the group himself.

Support for Avenir has gone so far as to include the creation of the website www.chrisdidntcheat.com by Davin Carey, a student at San Diego State University in California. Carey set up his website by linking visitors to a few of the many articles on Avenir’s case, and urges people to buy a T-shirt or button from his online store.

For more updates on the story:


Support Chris Avenir

“Is Avenir guilt? will find-out tomorrow!!”

I was just reading Mano-a-mano with Steve Ballmer by Guy Kawasaki that had a video from the MIX08 conference held in Las Vegas from March 5th -7th. It is a conference for developers, designers and business professionals, or so the website says. The video was of the Keynote speaking with Guy Kawasaki as host, interviewing Steve Ballmer. Incredible. It was over an hour long, and I watched all of it. I think anyone who has the slightest interest in Microsoft vs. the world, then you should watch this.

One of the things that made this keynote so good, and why I watched most of it, is because of the bantering going back and forth from Kawasaki and Ballmer. Steve Ballmer is now the CEO of Microsoft and was one of the original Microsoft guys (starting in 1980), whereas Guy Kawasaki was one of the original Apple guys which leads to much playful banter. In some cases, it is absolutely hilarious, one of which Ballmer threw Kawasaki`s Mac AIR on the ground (timing in video is given later). I laughed nearly the whole time.

Here are some of the topics (and the times they played) that was discussed:

Yahoo potential merger @ 2:30

Google competitor @ 4:30

Microsoft is an underdog @ 7:18

Anti-trust @ 7:35

Apple (Ballmer gives Cudos) @ 7:48

Facebook @ 9:28

Microsofts millions @ 10:40

Receiving mass email (or not) @ about 15:00

Bill Gates leaving microsoft @ 16:45

Hiring at microsoft @ 18:40

Silverlight @ 24:35

Vista (dodges topic by throwing Kawasaki`s Mac AIR on the ground) @ 26:45

Microsoft losing focus @ 28.30

Firefox vs IE @ 32:40

I think anyone who is interested even slightly in Microsoft, or even if you hate Microsoft and want to see their views on Google and Apple, you should watch this video. It is long, but well worth it.

After watching over an hour worth of video, I could write for forever on this topic, but I guess I can only put so much. Maybe I`ll make another 10 posts all dealing with this video. Thats all for now.


David McKenna

As we all are aware, WordPress is a blog publishing website which we(Bus 442) are currently using to post our blogs. According to Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch, Co-founder Matt Mullenweg of WordPress hinted that WordPress may be headed in a new social direction. Mullenweg stated that;

The world doesn’t need another social network, it needs a thousand networks that let you own your data and interconnect using open standards. We invest countless hour giving our data to networks like MySpace, essentially sharecropping on their land for the privilege of being able to connect to our friends. It’s our friends, our time, our connections, our data — it should be our software.

This is similar to the open platforms that have become very popular like Linux that is a free open source operating system that has become very popular and allows people to use, change, and improve the software. Social networks are an important cog in Web 2.0.Latest figures released by Compete show;


As shown in the above, some of the figures are astounding. Fubar one of the newest social networks has grown by 3 million % in one year. Can WordPress compete with heavyweight giants like Facebook and MySpace?  Facebook jumped from 60th to 7th in one year. In this new Web 2.0 age anything is possible. But would  an open source  social network really work. According to Erick Schonfeld of TechCrunch says;

It is easy to dismiss this as completely unnecessary given the abundance of social networks already out there, as well as application development platforms like OpenSocial. But an open-source social network does present some intriguing possibilities. New apps and features could be added simply by creating new plugins. And there would be no lock-in to any proprietary code or development environment.

With the success of Linux, I would only think that an open source social network would be just as successful.