Tuesday, August 26

Three Degrees of Viral Infection

Awhile ago I wrote on the privacy threat when online social apps attack.

That threat has just tripped one step closer with the latest virus attack, spread via Facebook/MySpace friends (from the Washington Post):
The malicious software attempts to lure users in with messages ranging from "You've been catched on hidden cam" to the one about Hilton tossing a dwarf on the street. The messages contain a link that takes unsuspecting users to a Web page that looks like YouTube. There the page tells visitors that to view the video, they need to click on another link to download and install updated software. Those who fall for the scam are actually installing malicious software.

Now bundle in Facebook's latest rich media advertising announcement, which prompts users to engage in social activity via the ad unit:
The first three types of Engagement Ads now in trial let users post comments, become a "fan" of a brand's Facebook Page and send virtual gifts. Within the units, people can also read friends' comments, and see who else is a brand fan or who shared virtual items. All three flavors of Engagement Ads will appear in the new home page placement alongside the News Feed on the right. They will also show up in members' News Feeds as people interact with the ads.

The more sites are encouraged to blend advertising with social network activities, the greater the risk of something going wrong. And social network users will continue to be desensitized about their privacy risks, willing to engage in all types of "social engagement" via widgets and rich media ads.

Pity the first brand whose widget banner inadvertently publicizes its consumers' friend list, photo albums, or other "private" information. Or helps spread the next Virus 2.0.

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