Tuesday 10 July 2012

Multiple Account Warning [Non Game]

Hey folks, although not game based we know there's some worry flying around about this message that has appeared in some people's profiles:

So, we've decided to collate everything we know, if we find out more, we'll post it here. Please note this post will neither condone nor condemn, it's purely here to state facts, not opinions.

What it is

OK, the simple answer to this is Facebook appear to be trialling methods to crack down on breaches of their ToS. An email sent to popular website Facecrooks from Facebook said:
“We are currently testing a system that warns users who have opened multiple accounts, we are not taking any action on these users for the time being so there’s no need for anyone to worry. We are iterating on this system to be more accurate and are only notifying possible violators.”
“Facebook has always been based on a real name culture. This leads to greater accountability and a safer and more trusted environment for our users. It's a violation of our policies to use a fake name or operate multiple accounts. We have a dedicated User Operations team that reviews these reports and takes action as necessary.
We also have technical systems in place to flag and block potential fake accounts based on name and anomalous site activity. We are constantly iterating on these systems and developing new ones, to provide an even better experience for the people who use our service.”
So, what does this mean? Well, basically security systems in Facebook are running to find out if people use more than one account.

What's being broken.

Let's be honest, website Terms of Service are a little like instructions for a DVD Player. We know they exist, if anyone asks we'll swear blind we read them, but frankly it wouldn't surprise any of us to find out the only copy we have was translated from Bulgarian to Mandarin by a Spaniard with dyslexia and Google Translate.

So what are people breaking when they have more than one account or use fake names etc?

Well, these are the main parts, Facebook's ToS, sections 4.1 and 4.2...
  1. You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
  2. You will not create more than one personal account.
Interestingly, if you use the name of a game, so if you're Bob Frontierville or FTV Jack, you also might fall under part 4.10, although that would only really happen if Zynga complained, which from what we've heard, they're not.
If you select a username or similar identifier for your account or Page, we reserve the right to remove or reclaim it if we believe it is appropriate (such as when a trademark owner complains about a username that does not closely relate to a user's actual name).
What will they be looking out for?

The criteria being looked at by Facebook for this is, as usual, unknown to anyone but those dealing with it directly inside the Town of Zuckerburg (a sleepy hamlet, peaceful due to the fact most of the time no-one can get their doors to work to let them out to play).

However, we know Facebook CAN get the following info, and may well use it.

IP Address - This is the most obvious but the least helpful. It's hardly outside the realms of possibility that multiple family members use the PC. If I'd been asked to design the system this would merely be a flag, NOT a reason in itself to do anything. A reliance on this might be the reason for so many false positives.

Your name - Obvious fake names will raise flags, especially if combined with a profile picture if you're using someone famous. It's unlikely you'll get past any checkpoints with Bugs Bunny or James T Kirk. (although as THIS website proves, you never can tell...)

Socialising - If your account has few friends but only plays a game, no actual friendly socialising, it might raise a flag. Traditionally gamers have long lists of friends, non-gamers have a small enclave of friends and family.

Game activity - This is a tricky one, honestly, we don't KNOW if they can check this, but it's a safe bet if all your account does is gift items and click requests for one or two close accounts, especially if they're on the same IP address, it's going to be considered as a possible violator.

What do we do?

The first thing right now is the part that says right now, they're NOT doing anything about the warnings, probably in part because of the false accounts they're getting. So if your concern is that you got that warning, don't panic.

If you just have many family members using the PC and each uses their own account for themselves, Facebook happily ever after. Any showing of the message will be a false positive and can be ignored.

If you do have multiple accounts or you use a blood-account (for example, you have a family member who doesn't use Facebook, so you do it instead) then right now don't worry, however, note they do admit that people are working all the time to root them out.

Account holders will argue it's best to keep game accounts and personal accounts separate, Facebook will argue that for security it's best everyone is who they say they are, that Twitter is the home of online anonymity.

They'll also argue it's their house, their rules of course.

Who will eventually win that debate is up for debate in itself.