Social networking giant Facebook said on Thursday that it is testing a feature that will allow users to designate certain friends as ‘guardian angels’ entrusted with helping the user to recover a locked or hijacked account.
The company, which has already experimented with forms of “social authentication,” such as using photos of Facebook friends to help users prove they are the rightful owners of locked accounts, said in a blog post that it is testing a feature allowing users to designate “three to five” of their Facebook friends to receive a recovery code in the event that they are locked out of their account. Friends who receive the code can pass it along to the account holder, providing a way for them to get back into their account.
The company has preiodically struggled with account lock-outs. In November, 2010, a software error resulted in a small percentage of Facebook’s userbase to be locked out of their account.
Account takeovers are a small problem for the company as measured against legitimate traffic. Facebook estimates that just .06% of account logins each day represents compromised accounts. But, with 750 million users and one billion logins each day, that small percentage still represents a large number – 600,000 – to contend with.
The new feature comes as part of a host of security upgrades scheduled to coincide with national Cybersecurity Awareness Month. The company also announced a new “App Passwords” feature that will enable users to set application specific passwords for their Facebook applications.
Company data, released on Thursday, suggest that Facebook is doing well in its quest to limit spam, malware and account hijacking – at least compared to the larger Internet. Spam is just 4% of the content shared on the social network, compared with anywhere from 85% to 95% of e-mail traffic. (Estimates vary depending on the source.)
However, Facebook’s success in quelling malicious traffic hasn’t kept privacy advocates from raising red flags about the implications of one company owning so much personal data on its users. At the Black Hat Briefings in Las Vegas in August, researcher Alessandro Acquisti showed how how cloud computing, facial recognition technology and freely available data hosted on Facebook and other Web sites could be used to match faces in a crowd to detailed online profiles.The company released an infographic that depicts the evolution of its security features and to provide other useful, security-related insights.