Mark Zuckerberg knows a lot about getting to know people through their computers. So a tiny piece of tape attached to his laptop might also be a terrifying warning.
The Facebook founder and CEO has been spotted with a piece of tape covering up his webcam and microphone in what appears to be a way of stopping his computer from spying on him.
Mr Zuckerberg’s DIY privacy protection was spotted in a picture – first pointed out in a tweet by Chris Olson – that was intended to celebrate Instagram reaching 500 million monthly users. But it has become far more scrutinised because of something else.
10 facts you didn’t know about Facebook
10 facts you didn’t know about Facebook
Around 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day, with the site estimating in September last year that users had so far put up more than 250 billion images. That’s 4,000 photos uploaded every second and around 4 per cent of all photos ever taken, according to a study by Nokia.
Facebook’s logo is blue because Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colour blind. “Blue is the richest color for me. I can see all of blue," said Zuckerberg in an interview with the New Yorker. The colour is so popular that Facebook’s campus store even sells nail polish in the exact shade named ‘social butterfly blue’.
Zuckerberg's famously low-key wardrobe (either a grey t-shirt or a hoodie) is so that the CEO saves time deciding what to wear each day. However, Zuckerberg is known to dress up when the occasion demands it. For a 2011 event with Barack Obama he showed up in a suit, with the president introducing himself by saying: “I’m Barack Obama and I’m the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie.”
In July 2006 Zuckerberg turned down a $1 billion offer for the site from Yahoo. He was 22 years old at the time and owned 25 per cent of the company. Zuckerberg reportedly turned it down by saying “I don't know what I could do with the money. I'd just start another social networking site. I kind of like the one I already have.” He definitely made the right choice: Facebook is now valued at $135 billion.
A YouGov poll claimed that three-quarter of UK Facebook users' photos showed someone drinking or inebriated. However, the poll did ask users to estimate the number of boozy snaps themselves, and like all things on Facebook, there might have been an element of exaggeration involved.
Facebook operates a bounty hunter program – for bugs. Like many other big technology companies Facebook offers cash rewards to security researchers who point out flaws in the site’s code. The minimum payout is $500 and the largest prize to date has been $33,500.
More than a third of divorce filings in 2011 referenced Facebook, said a survey from UK-based legal firm Divorce Online. The exact figures may be an estimate, but with just under 8 trillion Facebook messages sent in 2013 it’s certain that a substantial body of evidence is to be found on the social network.
Zuckerberg isn’t much of a Twitter fan. Despite having nearly three hundred thousand followers on the service he’s only tweeted 19 times - once in 2012 and the rest in 2009. Although Facebook dwarfs twitter in terms of active users (1 billion compared with 200 million by some accounts) the micro-blogging site handles breaking news better. Facebook has introduced trending topics and hashtags to counter this.
Following the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 Iceland decided to rewrite their constitution using Facebook to solicit suggestions from citizens. Unfortunately, despite this forward thinking approach, the document was killed by politicians in mid-2013 for various (mostly technical) reasons.
You can browse Facebook upside down. Facebook currently supports more than 70 different languages – including English (Pirate) and English (Upside Down). Check the bottom of the column on the right of your newsfeed and click your current language to change!
In that same picture, what appears to be Mr Zuckerberg’s computer can be seen. And on the top is a small piece of tape, as well as something else covering up the microphone jack in the side.
Both are presumably ways of keeping prying eyes out, covering up the two ways that a computer can get a sense of what is happening around it. Mr Zuckerberg is one of the highest-profile security targets in the world – in real life as well as on the internet – and so what may appear to be paranoia is probably a sensible way of preserving privacy.
Mr Zuckerberg is far from the first person to worry about the power of the cameras that are watching us at all times. Edward Snowden has warned of its power as a way of surveilling people, and FBI director James Comey has said that he has taken advice to cover up the camera to keep people from seeing him.
"I saw something in the news, so I copied it,” Mr Comey told an audience earlier this year. “I put a piece of tape — I have obviously a laptop, personal laptop — I put a piece of tape over the camera. Because I saw somebody smarter than I am had a piece of tape over their camera."
The FBI itself is reported to have used technology that can hack into webcams and allow it to spy on targets. And away from law enforcement, hackers have repeatedly broken into webcams and used them as ways of spying on and then extracting money from people.
MacBooks, which is what Mr Zuckerberg works on, have their cameras hard-wired so that whenever the camera is activated a little green light shows up next to them. But that safety measure has been circumvented in the past, and can only be seen when sat in front of the computer – meaning that covering it up with tape is the only way to be entirely sure that it isn't being used to see through.
Some had initially suggested that the desk might not be Mr Zuckerberg’s. But gadget blog Gizmodo pointed out that he has done numerous announcements and videos from the same seat.
It isn’t clear why Mr Zuckerberg wrapped up his microphone jack with what appears to be either tape or a special plug.
The power that the devices on our desks and in our pockets have to monitor us was demonstrated earlier this month by the suggestion that Facebook was able to listen in on microphones. Facebook fiercely denied the rumour.