Facebook announced Wednesday that it is adding tools to make it easier for users to control their profile pictures, which could ultimately have an effect on protecting the identity of key leaders in the military.
Online scam artists have tried impersonating Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford in years past, according to the Military Times. Using platforms like Twitter, Facebook and even dating sites, the swindlers will create an account using the exact same pictures of the generals found on official government pages and legitimate social media profiles. The scammers then usually ask unsuspecting people for money.
“Profile pictures are an important part of building community on Facebook because they help people find friends and create meaningful connections,” Aarati Soman, product manager at Facebook, wrote on an official blog post. “But not everyone feels safe adding a profile picture. In our research with people and safety organizations in India, we’ve heard that some women choose not to share profile pictures that include their faces anywhere on the internet because they’re concerned about what may happen to their photos.”
Soman says the primary new tool it’s creating is an optional profile picture guard that will technologically block people from downloading, sharing or sending the image. The feature, which will display a blue border and shield around the profile picture as a “visual cue,” will also disallow Facebook friends from tagging anyone in the photo. For Android users, people will no longer be able to take a screenshot of the profile picture.
“Based on preliminary tests, we’ve learned that when someone adds an extra design layer to their profile picture, other people are at least 75% less likely to copy that picture,” Soman continued.
“Catfishing,” the practice of pretending to be someone else on the internet to lure a person into doing something, is so pervasive that officials with the Marine Corps’ Cybersecurity Division explored purchasing technology that can locate and shut down the nefarious twin accounts. There is even a whole show based on the scheme, though it deals specifically with the duping that often occurs through online dating. (RELATED: Social Network Crime Scheme Turns Dates Into Armed Robbery)
Facebook apparently wants to help stop not only the victimization of top military officers, but also the broader online community in general. It is currently piloting the new tools in India and will expand to other countries soon.
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