Facebook, schoolFeed, and Privacy, oh my

Yearbook mock-up page

I don’t use Facebook Apps because they all require ridiculous permissions. I am not willing to allow anyone else to speak for me, so I’m certainly not likely to allow some software run by total strangers to post in my name.


Even if I was willing to give permission for myself, I am certainly not prepared to give up my family and friends’ privacy.

Because I understand that I have abdicated any privacy control over anything I post on Facebook when I post anything there. No matter what “privacy setting” I choose, everything I put there is no longer private. (The same is true for most of the Internet, actually.) The problem is most people don’t understand this.


I recently got a message saying I had been “tagged” in my “high school yearbook” by a Facebook friend. This is a Facebook app called “schoolFeed” which is a “Classmates” site that exists to suck up all of our personal information.

In fact, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t actually tagged by my friend, but by the schoolFeed app posting in her name. Once she signed up, the schoolFeed app would have sucked up all the information about all of her Facebook friends. Then it would send all of us these messages as it added our Facebook avatars to the appropriate schoolFeed yearbook page.

Some of us, in turn, would go to schoolFeed to see what was what, but in order to do so, we in turn would have to give the schoolFeed app all the ridiculous permissions which allows it to suck up all of *our* Facebook friends and dump *them* into the schoolFeed yearbook pages. And so on.

It is the price you pay to be on Facebook.

I looked online to see what other people were saying about SchoolFeed… Oh… SchoolFeed: The Facebook app everyone needs to avoid [Updated with SchoolFeed’s response]

But it gets worse.

Apparently the schoolFeed isn’t happy with what it can suck down from Facebook, and is now actively asking people to:

Mail us your Yearbook!
Have your yearbook professionally scanned into schoolFeed
Your yearbook will be non-destructively scanned and returned!

Oh no… schoolFeed Now Has 160,000 Yearbooks to Browse Online

SchoolFeed will now be able to access personal information about people who may not even be on the Internet. People who have never used a computer. People whose only mistake was to be pictured in the school yearbook.

I don’t know about you, but I know people who have made a conscious decision not to use computers. And some who use computers, but don’t use the Internet. And others who won’t use Facebook, Twitter, or Google, instead choosing Friendica, Identica, duckduckgo or ixQuick, not because they are Luddites, but because they value their privacy.

Every yearbook sent to schoolFeed will give it more personal information that it can use and/or sell to third parties… which may be spammers, scammers or identity thieves.

If we send our yearbooks to schoolFeed, we will be giving it personal information about our old friends and classmates without their permission.

Don’t do it.


Promotional Material and Copyright ~ C11

Copyright "c"

Have you every noticed how much publicity material is labeled with
© Copyright ~ All Rights Reserved

I am at the point where I will not include any images in my blogs that lack license information.

Why on earth would I reproduce any promotional material ~ why should I plug your art show, book, movie, music, film premiere, marketplace or anything else, if doing so could result in a fine or takedown?

Creative Commons logo

I have become hyper sensitive in regard to copyright issues, since real or perceived copyright violations can result in a DMCA takedown ~ or worse ~ if these laws like our own Canadian Bill C-11 passes.

If you include original art on promotional material in future without using a Creative Commons License or something similar I simply won’t use it.

Canadian DMCA logo

In the past, I might have shared promotional material even though it did not have a license explicitly allowing its use, so long as it it didn’t specify ‘copyright all rights reserved’ either. Once The American SOPA (Stop Online Piracy) and the Canadian Bill C-11 come into effect, I will no longer do that on any blog or website under my control without explicit license permission.

Because the price is simply too high.

Link Swapping Is A Scam

my reflection in my netbook with autumn foliage behind me

Along with learning about blogging and self publishing, I’ve been learning how the Internet works. In order to do the things I want to do I’ve had to learn how to employ the technology, but I am by no means a “natural.”

One of the most important lessons is to share what you learn with others. I have learned so much from what others have shared with me, that it’s only natural to return the favour. Because I have several web sites and blogs, I’ll often get the same spam for different sites. The one that’s prompted this blog post is the following verbatim reprint of a particular spam email I get periodically for my various blogs and websites. If you get one like this, my advice is:

Don’t do it.

Although I’ve redacted the names to protect the guilty, the rest of the email is reproduced word for word here:


Let’s do a 3-way link swap with your website http://russwurm.org. I’ll give you two links in exchange for one from

3-way linking is a very effective link building strategy. Since you’re getting the links from third party websites, they appear totally natural to search engines. Such inbound links help your website rank higher in Google and other
search engines.

Visit [redacted] to submit your website.


Founder & CEO, {redacted]

This is a scam.

I’ve blogged about this before, but I’m still getting this email, so I’ll try again.

The tip off is that these links “appear totally natural.” It appears to be a way to scam the search engines, but what it really wants to do is scam us out of our good reputations.

When you start creating web content like blogs or websites, you often hear about rumoured — almost magic — ways of getting your website noticed by search engines. Search terms. Meta data. Tags. SEO. Categories. Search Engine Optimization. Everyone wants our web page to be on the top of the Google search, because that will brings readers.

my cat sits on the deck behind my external workstation

Search engines have a variety of ways to decide how to rank web pages, and one of them is based on how many incoming links you have. As long as there has been an Internet there have been ways people have tried to scam the search engines. The reason for this is simple.

If someone types “costumes” in the search bar, if your costume blog is at the top of the list the search engine returns you will get a lot more visitors. If it first appears on page fifty, well, not so much.

The thing to remember is that any search engine is trying to provide every web searcher with the correct website or information they want, as quickly as possible. So search engines are not happy with fake results. I’ve heard tell that Google refuses to index bad actors who do things like salting their web pages with invisible words in hopes of gaming the search engine. If you’re a fly-by-night operator, maybe how you get page hits doesn’t matter. If you are looking for a quick buck and are willing to change domain names more often than underwear, maybe that’s okay. If Google black lists you, you just get a new five dollar domain name from godaddy.

No thanks

When I was starting out, the advice I got was to build solid content. You will get readership if the content is there. If people want to read what you write, they will find you. But it takes time, and a lot of effort.

Murray works at distracting me.

That’s what I have tried to do, because I’m here for the long haul. Web credibility is important. If anything, your online reputation might even be more important than your real life reputation on the Internet. What you put online is the basis of what you are judged for online.

If I were to trade links with this organization, I might get traffic, but is it traffic that will do me any good? Would it be people who actually want to find my blog?

I have worked hard on all of my blogs. So I don’t want people being directed here in error — long enough to discover that they have been deliberately sent to the wrong place. If you trick people to come to your site, even if they might find your content interesting, or even of use, they will be annoyed at having been misdirected, which very likely will not result in a regular readers. That’s important to me; I want people to actually read what I write.

After all, would I really want to direct my readers to web pages that aren’t good enough to attract readers legitimately?

I don’t think so.

Worse, do I want to squander my hard earned web credibility on some scammer?  No way.

Like most good con jobs, this seems to cost nothing, but in fact it comes very dear.  Like many things, quite often anything that sounds too good to be true, is.

The essential backyard writer workstation (cats are optional)
LEFT: Fair Trade Coffee CENTER: Netbook (red tape obscures camera lens). RIGHT: mouse on futuristic mousepad