Tag Archives: Facebook

How to Unblock Facebook in China

Yes, Facebook is blocked in China, along with the other major English-language social media sites like Twitter and Instagram.

And yes, it’s a frustrating inconvenience for visitors from overseas. After all, you’re likely accustomed to an open internet. This is especially true for the multitude that use Facebook as a glorified address book and don’t have all their contacts elsewhere. If you rely on it and other online services for business, it’s a real problem.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of maneuvering around the great firewall of China, let’s examine the facts behind this limitation.

No Facebook: The Why, When and Where

Censorship of Facebook started in July 2009 after the Ürümqi riots occurred in China. Xinjiang independence activists used Facebook as a part of their communications network. Thus, officials concluded that the social media site was a threat and have been blocking it ever since.

Before proceeding it should be noted that Facebook can be accessed in Hong Kong and Macau. Additionally, there’s been reports that after 2013 the social media site is available to some in China.

1. Accessing the Web in China: How-to

Luckily there’s a number of strategies you can use to get your Facebook fix in China.

But first, you’ll need to consider how to obtain access to the internet in general. Here’s a list of possible solutions:

Wi-Fi: Major urban centers in China have Wi-Fi access everywhere. The Wi-Fi gets incrementally scarcer as you go further inland. As you need to be able to receive a text with a PIN to gain a connection, this option will be out for some.

Rented Phone: If taken care of before departing for China, service providers will ship a ready-to-use phone to you which is a convenient option. Also, you can opt to pick it up upon arrival. Unlike roaming, rates are fixed, reasonable and the service is guaranteed to have extensive coverage.

China SIM Card: If you’ve got the time and would rather approach this as a local would, get a SIM card. You’ll need an unlocked phone and a passport to make it happen. Either locate a kiosk that offers China SIM cards (often found at major airports in Beijing, Shanghai, etc.). Or, visit to a telecom company such as China Unicom or China Mobile store to buy one.

International Roaming: Your local carrier probably offers international roaming that includes a set number of minutes and data. This route can be costly. So, as a rule of thumb it should be the last resort.

2. Get on Facebook in China: How-to

It’s best to plan ahead and get your VPN account set up before traveling to China. If you don’t, it will be either be a real pain or an impossible task.

Decision-makers in Chinese government are well aware that people use VPNs to get around their restrictions. Thus, websites belonging to major VPN services are typically blocked in China.

Now, you may be wondering: what’s a VPN?

A virtual private network provides a buffer in-between your internet connection and the web.

So, your real IP address is replaced with another IP associated with a different location of your choosing. This means the ISP and websites you visit can’t tell you’re in China. All you need to do is select a city in the US with VPN software.

1. Sign up with a VPN service provider.
2. Download VPN software supplied by the service on each device you plan to use in China.
3. Launch the app, configure the settings, and test it by choosing a server location.
4. Once you’re in China you should be good to go. Click on “connect” and browse the free internet!

Best VPNs for China

LetMeBy’s recommended VPNs are a little different for China. VyprVPN has been vigilant about working around China’s roadblocks and deserves a spot here. Now, the top three:

PureVPN
NordVPN
VyprVPN

To read full reviews of the VPNs that are recommended here you can also visit this page.

Here’s the Catch

It’s necessary to consider that a VPN might fail you. China is continually trying to block these services. And the VPNs keep finding new tactics to get around it. Thus, there’s a clash going on here to be aware of.

If reliable Facebook access is absolutely necessary, you may want to beef up your offense. Some seasoned travelers recommend obtaining memberships with two VPNs. That way, if one doesn’t work you’ve got a backup.

To Conclude…

Internet access limitations can be a drag for foreigners visiting China.

Apps like Facebook Messenger provide channels of communication millions use every day. Being blocked from accessing Facebook can be also mean being unable to see important messages from friends, family, or colleagues.

The best way to approach this situation is to make the necessary arrangements before traveling to China. Start by ensuring your important contacts have an alternative way to reach you in case you can’t access Facebook. Secondly, sign up with VPN services that are known to work in China before the trip, and not after.

Should Facebook Integration Be a Deal-Breaker for Potential Oculus Users?

The Oculus Quest 2 is a groundbreaking device in terms on its price point and its impressive capabilities. However, for some the fact Oculus is owned by Meta aka Facebook makes it an unnerving proposition in terms of privacy.

Is Facebook integration a valid deal-breaker for users that value privacy, or is its significance being overestimated online? Let’s take a look at the facts and then approach the conclusion that works for you. Privacy is rarely a one-size-fits-all matter, and Oculus headsets are no different.

Beef with the Facebook Login Requirement

Not long ago, pretty much everyone and their mother had a Facebook account. These days, generation Z doesn’t see it as a must-have app. Others have opted to delete their Facebook account to pull the plug on their social media presence or focus on other platforms.

In 2020 Meta decided to make a Facebook account a requirement to use Oculus headsets, and the internet went a bit mad. There were reports of people that got locked out of using their Quest VR hardware, and others simply got vocal about not wanting to use Facebook.

To Meta’s credit they recognized the backlash and started working on adding a native Oculus login option so Facebook would no longer be a necessity.

During his Connect keynote in October 2021, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg made it clear that the restriction would soon be ending:

“As we’ve focused more on work, and frankly as we’ve heard your feedback more broadly, we’re working on making it so you can log into Quest with an account other than your personal Facebook account. We’re starting to test support for Work Accounts soon, and we’re working on making a broader shift here within the next year. I know this is a big deal for a lot of people. Not everyone wants their social media profile linked to all these other experiences, and I get that, especially as the metaverse expands. And I’ll share more about that later.”

And they’ve made good on that promise. When you go to the Oculus website you can choose to login with your Facebook account or Oculus account.

Does Facebook Share Personal Data with Oculus?

If you do choose to login to Oculus with Facebook, you’re likely wondering what the privacy implications are.

Indeed, some information gets shared across services. There is evidence of this when you see Facebook social options in VR. Depending on your perspective it can be seen as a way to provide useful features pulled from Facebook or an annoyance if you want to move away from the social media app.

Oculus also gives you the option to add multiple users to a headset. Thus, you can create a new user and maintain a different friend list for your VR experiences.

In December 2019, Facebook said that Oculus VR data would be used to show users the most relevant content (including ads) on Facebook if the two accounts are linked.

So, if you’re uncomfortable about giving Facebook another means to track your activity and aren’t interested in the social integrations on the Oculus platform, you’ll likely want to use a separate login for Meta whether you use Facebook or not.

This means there’s no longer a concrete reason to pass on an Oculus headset due to Facebook integration alone. If you don’t use your Facebook login with Oculus there’s no link between the apps, and your data won’t be used outside the Oculus ecosystem.

Meta’s Quest to Regain Trust

Facebook has certainly received its fair share of scrutiny over the years for its approach to privacy.

A recent poll by the Washington Post found that 72 percent of Internet users trust Facebook “not much” or “not at all” to responsibly handle their personal information and their Internet activity data.

It’s reached a point where anything that has Facebook associated with it gets a knee-jerk reaction when it comes to privacy matters.

Rebranding Facebook as Meta was an attempt to create a new start. Their founder Mark Zuckerberg has said Meta is now a metaverse company.

This puts them in a tricky position because its social media and advertising revenue that has created their success. Thus, Oculus can’t divorce itself from the Facebook name quite yet.

Is the Metaverse the Privacy Hole?

Are Oculus users that don’t trust the Facebook app ignoring the elephant in the room?

A VR headset tracks a person’s body movements, eye movements, and can even detect emotions though facial tracking. Thus, one can argue the tech from social media apps is the least of one’s worries when experiencing the metaverse.

Marcus Carter, a senior lecturer in digital cultures at the University of Sydney think it’s VR tech that people should be wary about. In fact, he went so far to say “Facebook’s VR push is about data, not gaming.”

“Metaverse technologies like VR and AR are perhaps the most data-extractive digital sensors we’re likely to invite into our homes in the next decade,” Carter said.

Meta has stated that they’ve dramatically improved their approach to user data privacy with their move into VR. They plan to put their users in the driver’s seat by giving them the necessary tools to manage their data.

Still, it leads back to the trust issue. With such extensive capabilities at tracking our every movement, there’s great temptation for Meta or third-party developers to find ways to benefit from the data it generates.

The Verdict

Right now, it’s fashionable to bash Facebook. Despite their less than perfect track record with how they’ve handled user data, the company continues to evolve. There’s no doubt that what they’re building with Oculus and the metaverse has gone well beyond showing promise.

Many decision makers at Meta want to move on from Facebook just as much the growing number of Internet users that have had their fill of the platform. But the reality is true independence from Facebook will only be possible when Oculus and the metaverse truly becomes their bread and butter.

Metaverse Brings Privacy Risks with Its Startling Possibilities

The great power of the approaching metaverse comes with great responsibility. Facebook has released its plans to responsibly build the metaverse with its partners.

They’re considering ways they can minimize the amount of user data that is needed to accomplish founder Mark Zuckerberg’s vision. Their aim is to build tech to “enable privacy-protective data uses.” In theory, users will be able to see how their data is used, and they’ll be able to control it.

However, what sounds good on paper and the real-world implementation are two very different things.

Facts are facts: Facebook is the least trusted social media app in terms of privacy. Nearly one-third of US Facebook users have some reservations about how the platform protects their privacy and data.

Trust is very hard to gain, and it can be lost in an instant. Facebook’s journey to reassure users that their metaverse is safe will be met with healthy skepticism.

The inherent risks of the metaverse could prove to be just as vast as it’s infinite possibilities. Before we tackle that issue, let’s look at what the metaverse is.

Wait, What’s the Metaverse?

The metaverse is the vision of virtual reality you’ve seen in movies for decades.

Imagine walking down a bustling street in Tokyo from the comfort of your condo in Miami. You look up and see a soaring building covered with brightly lit signs.

As you lower your gaze you notice a small souvenir shop with a large toy robot displayed by the window. You walk right in, and purchase the toy.

Now, this isn’t a video game. You used real digital currency to get it. Soon after you see a confirmation message that tells you they’ve received your order. The shop is now preparing it for shipment to your physical address in Miami.

This is just one example of how the metaverse will allow virtual worlds and reality to collide.

Biometric Data and Brainwaves

Tech companies can tell us what they will and won’t do, but to really understand the privacy implications of the metaverse it’s best to know what the hardware is capable of.

Virtual reality headsets are able to make use of biometric data. The user’s environment, physical movement, and dimensions can all be tracked.

Naturally, headsets and eyeglasses are ideal for tracking eye movements. Moreover, it’s possible to track the physiological reaction to experiences found within the metaverse, such as heart rate.

This is where it gets just as astonishing and it is alarming. Soon, brain-computer interfaces (BCI) will allows us to access the metaverse through smart wearables such as headphones, watches, and glasses.

BCIs collect brain signals, analyses them, and then translates them into commands smart devices can understand and execute on.

These BCIs will have access to one’s very thoughts, so malicious users in the metaverse may be able to crack the code and gain access to our brain activity if robust security measures aren’t in place.

Additionally, users will have to trust that all parties that have access to BCI data will use it solely to control the functions of their software, and not to harvest our thoughts.

Metaverse Privacy by Design

Software developers responsible for building the metaverse are aware of the threats, and they’ll act accordingly. Privacy by design is to be standard practice.

In other words, software will be built with user privacy in mind from the start, rather than adding it later to appease users and lawmakers.

Existing laws such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have driven app makers to be transparent about when private data is being accessed. For example, Google Glass displays icons and outputs audio to let users know when they’re being recorded.

Advertisers Want Your Data

Sometimes we forget that much of the technology we use every day is ad supported. It makes social media, freemium mobile games, and access to professional journalism all possible.

Consequently, user data is needed to show us ads with products we’re actually interested in.

The desires of users and advertisers clash when it comes to privacy and data. Of course, users want strong privacy. And advertisers need access to information about consumers to run their ad campaigns efficiently.

Realistically, the needs of advertisers often edge out the wants of users. Whoever pays the bills for the metaverse to run holds the real power.

Consumers have their wins too, such as Google’s decision to phase out third party cookies that track user activity.

However, historically advertisers have always been granted tools to benefit from user data. The methods of collecting and sharing that data simply change. Thus, it’s difficult to believe that a company like Facebook will take user privacy to such an extreme that it turns off advertisers.

Implications of Surveillance and AI

“The company that builds the metaverse will actually listen in on every conversation and watch every person,” said former Google and Apple exec Kai-Fu Lee.

“That on the one hand can make the experience very exciting because it can see what makes you happy and give you more of that,” he adds. “But then what is the notion of privacy in a metaverse?”

Whether a company like Facebook collects user data or not, the fact they must literally capture your every movement for the VR experience to work, is alarming.

AI will also play a huge role in making immersive worlds possible.

You’ve seen this concept in video games, when you interact with NPCs (non-player characters) that have a mind of their own. Since reality and virtual reality come together in the metaverse, the stakes are much higher.

U.N. leaders have warned that AI could pose a threat to human rights.

“AI technologies can have negative, even catastrophic effects,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

Conclusion

The metaverse is a brave new world, full of amazing possibilities and dangers.

It could be Facebook, but there’s no telling which corporation will succeed at bringing the metaverse to our homes.

Every time we’re in the metaverse we’ll partially check-out of reality. Yet everything we do and say will be monitored, and some of our actions will affect our life in the physical world.

Ultimately creators of the metaverse need to design a world that serves people, rather than making us serve the metaverse.

Instagram and Facebook Can Use Your Photos, and You Agreed to It

They say always read the fine print. And when it comes to apps, not many actually do.

When you signed up with Instagram or Facebook you had to agree to the terms of service. You probably didn’t read it. You likely don’t remember tapping ‘agree’, but there’s no going back on that now.

That hasn’t stopped people from trying to block either app’s access to their photos after the fact… with a chain-letter.

Chain-letter Hoax Still Going

Since 2012 users have been posting a chain-letter hoax with a fake deadline. The letter warns their followers that there’s a new rule that allows either Instagram or Facebook to use their photos. And to opt out of the rule, they’re encouraged to repost the letter of course.

From there it contains a legal passage that attempts to thwart the supposedly new policy from affecting the poster.

“I do not give Instagram or any entities associated with Instagram permission to use my pictures, information, messages or posts, both past and future,” it reads. “With this statement, I give notice to Instagram it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take action against me based on this profile and/or its contents.”

Nice try, but anyone posting this has given the app access to their GPS, location, camera and photos. Posting a chain-letter won’t revoke privileges that have already been granted.

In fact, the apps often need access to these features on your phone to function. So restricting access isn’t always worth it, even when you can.

Facebook has stated that they also collect info about your network, the device your using, and many other data points.

And to be clear, Instagram and Facebook can access much more than the photos you post to their platform. The company has access to your entire photo library!

How Facebook Uses Your Photos

Would Mark Zuckerberg and friends ever actually harvest your photos and use it on their app without your permission?

Actually, their ad platform does this frequently. However, before you get alarmed, it’s not nearly as bad as you might assume. Some functions show your photos to you exclusively, rather than your friends or the public.

They will use a photo you uploaded earlier to grab your attention and encourage you to run an ad.

Another way Facebook uses your photos is by showing you a memory you posted several years ago and encouraging you to repost it with an updated caption.

Blocking Instagram’s Access to Photos on Your Phone

So, is it possible to simply block apps like Instagram from getting to your photos via the settings in Android or iOS? Yes, you can block them from scraping data associated with your images.

On an Apple device launch ‘Settings,’ then tap on ‘Instagram.’ From there you tap ‘Photos,’ then select ‘Never.’

Consider Using a VPN with Instagram and Facebook

Those that still have privacy concerns may want to review their privacy settings within the app, and then considering using a VPN.

A VPN (virtual private server) acts like an encrypted tunnel between your device and the internet for improved privacy and security.

Using a VPN hides your location and other private data so apps and websites can’t collect as much information about you.

To learn more, read LetMeBy’s reviews of the top VPN providers.

Conclusion

Instagram and Facebook collect data about your photos and have access to everything you upload to the apps as well as your photo gallery by default.

Luckily there are measures you can take to limit their access to your data. You can do this with privacy settings in the app, system settings, or with a VPN. Be aware, simply posting a chain-letter regarding revoking access to your photos won’t do any good.

Is Facebook Listening to Your Conversations? Not Exactly

Have you ever gotten that eerie feeling that someone is watching you? Of course, right? It’s a common phenomenon. Michael Jackson even wrote a song about it:

I always feel like somebody’s watching me
And I have no privacy

Facebook can give you that same impression when the app displays an ad that relates to something you just discussed privately on your smartphone.

Imagine you just got off the phone with your local florist. You launch Facebook out of habit, and the first ad you see is 1800Flowers.

The most obvious explanation is that Facebook must have spied on your conversation.

So, is Facebook listening? Likely not how you think they are (via recording audio), and it’s complicated. First, let’s look at why conspiracy theories about this abound, then examine the evidence.

Many Don’t Trust Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg

Research company Toluna found that Facebook is the least trusted tech company by a considerable amount. Forty percent of said they didn’t trust Facebook with their personal information.

Mark Zuckerberg has been grilled by congress on numerous occasions. They’ve blasted him for failing to curb the proliferation of fake news, not fact-checking political ads, Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency, etc. Each time he appears in congress people the public is reminded that Zuckerberg is generally viewed with suspicion by government leaders.

Audio Transcription Tech Raises Concerns

In August 2019 Bloomberg wrote a piece about Facebook contacting an external company to create software that transcribes audio conversations in their Messenger app. The transcription tech was tested on users that opted in, and the possibility of human review of conversations was part of the terms associated with using it.

To the average reader this was confirmation that Facebook is indeed spying on its users’ private conversations. Years of conspiratorial speculations rose to the surface, as this news was exactly what Facebook’s critics needed to add legitimacy to their theories.

It was Senator Gary Peters that asked Zuckerberg whether Facebook listens to conversations and then generates targeted ads with that data. Zuckerberg replied, “You’re talking about this conspiracy theory that gets passed around that we listen to what’s going on on your microphone and use that for ads. We don’t do that.”

Facebook has attempted to set the matter straight via their Newsroom. They’ve stated that ads are generated based on people’s profile information: their interests, job title, brands they follow, etc., and not what you’re talking out loud about.

Is Spying on Users Practical or Even Possible?

Despite anecdotal claims that Facebook must be listening, the data doesn’t add up.

Wandera, a mobile cyber-security company, conducted a test to determine if audio picked up with the phone’s mic influences which ads are displayed.

They put a Samsung and Apple iPhone in a room, then played an audio loop of pet food ads for 30 minutes per day, for three days. They placed another set of phones in a silent room so they could compare the results.

No pet food ads appeared on any of the phones. And more tellingly, there were no differences in data consumption, battery use, and background activity.

Experts have pointed out that it would take an incredible amount of server resources for Facebook to listen to over 150 million daily active users in the U.S. alone.

Alternatively, if Facebook were to scan audio for keywords coming into the microphone it would take a considerable amount of your phone’s CPU processing power which would be impossible to hide.

Another reason Facebook would almost certainly never even consider doing this is it’s illegal to collect audio recordings of people.

Do You VPN?

People that simply don’t trust Zuck or Facebook can use a VPN to mask their location, IP address, etc. Read about LetMeBy’s top VPN picks to learn more.

A Reality Check

The truth is there are much more efficient and effective ways to gather data about users than harvesting audio.

Facebook has a complex algorithm that considers the information you post or input when determining which ads to show you.

It can be so stunningly accurate in determining what products or services you’re interested in you’d swear they must be listening to you. However, what really happened is the algorithm made an educated guess and managed to hit the bullseye.

There are valid reasons not to trust Facebook due to lack of privacy but spying on your conversations is not one based on the evidence.