28 July 2010

Verify your identity by recognizing your Facebook friends

Yesterday morning I relocated for a relatively long period of time from my usual residence in Romania to Munich for professional reasons. I was somewhat surprised to see the hotel imposing limits on Internet access; to keep it short, the free option is horribly slow and must be restarted every 30 minutes. While that is probably completely irrelevant for my blog readers, there are still interesting stuff to discover once you start logging in to your daily Internet routine. For instance, only days ago Facebook introduced a new security measure to verify that you are the actual owner of the account and I got a chance to experience it firsthand.

Facebook verification by recognizing friends

It goes like this: if you try to login from a new computer and another location - both of which were true in my case - Facebook starts a confirmation procedure to insure that you're not a hacker from a distant country. It begins with the usual Captcha, then moves on to a innovation: the social site asks you to identify seven of your Facebook friends in a small selection of their photos. Theoretically this sounds like one of the best ways to confirm your identity; I mean, how could a hacker know 7 random friends of a person he never met? The problem is the user himself could find it difficult to get all the answers right. I don't usually add people I haven't met in real life and so I have around 200 Facebook connections now; still I had trouble choosing the right answer and skipped one or two questions. If you are into networking and closing on the 5000 friends limit fast, you would probably get all the answers wrong or take forever to complete the test.

Another problem with this method is that it's only geared towards visual recognition, leaving visually impaired members with no options to validate a suspicious login, like a commenter on Inside Facebook observed. It's good that Facebook is taking security seriously, especially now when they have the identities of more than 500 Million people to protect, but I don't think this initiative is the best - or the most efficient way - to do it.


  1. i agree with u coz even since past 2 weeks am struck in identifying people whom even i dont recognize but might be for a chat added them .but now i don't remember them and facebook is asking for the confirmation pls help me....i want me account back

  2. Hi,
    This security procedure looks really interesting, the thing is that I've never gone through it. I was just wondering would facebook send me an email when this process is taking place? Like just after I enter my username and password from a distant/anonymous computer and just before I verify my account. If yes, then that would be great to know that my account might be getting hacked and I can immediately change the password :)

  3. I don't think Facebook sends e-mail notifications with this visual recognition procedure, but there is another option you can turn on: to be notified when you (or somebody else...) log in from another computer. You can find it under Account > Settings > Account Security > Login Notifications [Get notified by SMS or email if a new computer or mobile device logs into your account.].
    I personally don't use it anymore, because it relies on cookies and every time you erase them it forces you to go through this procedure when logging in to Facebook.

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