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Enhancing Privacy on Facebook


With each passing day, Facebook is becoming more cluttered, complex and ornery. Yet, at the same time, it's become a tool few of us can live without. Facebook provides you many privacy settings which give you certain control over what others can see about you on their account but you can’t do much to limit the sensitive information shown over your own screens. If Facebook has you on your last nerve, here's how to fix some of its biggest annoyances in a matter of minutes - and with only one new addition to your browser.
Motivation We did a casual survey with our friends and acquaintances to know if they faced any kind of privacy and security problem on facebook. Most of them replied that they are satisfied with the privacy settings provided by facebook. Next we asked if they can use their facebook account freely in public or if their usage pattern changes when they [have company. A significant number of people replied that their usage pattern changed according to the surroundings and people they were with. We would like to share few replies given by the people which drew our attention and we thought that these really need to be addressed:

  1. I am unable to use facebook at home because I don’t want my parents to see my friends’ activities at college. They probably won’t like it and start lecturing me.
  2. I do not want my friends to know about my girlfriend. Using facebook to chat with her while i am with friends can be risky so i have to be extra cautious. I wish there was a hide chat button on facebook.
  3. I always get fed up with the similar posts from my friends/pages about cricket content. It happens more often with some #cwc when some world cup is going on. These posts appear in my news feed even though i hate cricket. So i am forced to hide posts from certain facebook friends/pages during the time when world cup or ipl is going on. But I truly missed seeing non cricket posts and photos from those Facebook friends. I wish, there must be a way to filter out content from your Facebook feed using key words.
  4. Whenever i use facebook search in front of my family and friends, they get to know my previous searches i made. I consider this a breach in my privacy. I know that facebook gives option to delete search history, but it is not very practical to delete the search history after every search.

We decided to address all these issues by creating a chrome plugin. Here's how to make Facebook infinitely better with just one browser extension…
First you will need to add it to your browser by installing it. Now we will go through all the features of our plugin that fixes above Facebook annoyances which affects your usage pattern.
  1. Custom Profiles: We have given the option for the user to create the custom profiles of Facebook based on surroundings they are in. Basically it’s like having multiple Facebook accounts for each place you use Facebook in. In each custom profile you can add your privacy preferences which would be saved in plugin itself. You just need to enable the profile based on your surroundings and your facebook page will update immediately only showing you the content which you wanted in that selected profile. The features that we will introduce next can be added according to your choice in any of your custom profiles and it will filter out and improve your facebook experience.

  2. Hide Search History: Now you longer need to be afraid of using Facebook search  in front of your friends/family just because you might have forgotten to clear your search history and it would breach your privacy.  We have provided you with the option of hiding your search history.
  3. Filtering Posts By Topic/Category: This is where things get really interesting. One of Facebook's biggest annoyances isn't, sadly, Facebook itself— it's all the annoying things people say and pages write. Even your closest friends occasionally stand on a soapbox that can get on your nerves. Whether your friends are too annoyingly political, overly emo, or much excited about the topic which you really don’t like, FBsecure (our plugin) filters can help you filter those posts out. Of course you could always hide those people from your news feed (or unfriend them, if you're really fed up), but sometimes you still want to hear from your friends — you just don't want to hear them rant about some particular topic of your disinterest. We are providing you the option where you can enter all the keywords/ topics/ hashtags  from which you are fed up. The plugin will filter out the posts if they contain the tags from any of your given lists of topics/ keywords/ hashtags. So now if you have no interest in cricket posts or if you are fed up with your facebook news feed railing with similar posts with some trending hashtags, you just need to set up a separate filter to pull all of that content out of your news feed by just entering the keyword cricket and by telling the hashtag.
  4. Filtering Posts By Pages/Friends: Sometimes you also want that when you are at some particular location or with some particular people, few of your pages’/friends’ posts to not appear in your newsfeed because you are unsure about the content they will post. This can be the case when you are at home or with some colleagues who might judge you based on the content you get on your news feed. You can always unfollow such pages and friends, and follow them back when you might want to hear from your friends in private. But you would need to remember to follow and unfollow multiple friends/pages every time which is not feasible. Now you no longer need to be afraid of such friends’ posts been shown in public — you just need to create a custom profile for such surroundings and select the friends/pages whose posts you don’t want to appear on your news feed if that profile is enabled.
  5. Hiding Conversations: Now you no longer need to be afraid of your private conversation appearing in your messages section if your friends/ family members are around you. You just need to enter the name of your friends whose messages you want to hide from the messages section or switch to the custom profile which you have created for such places/situations in which you had already saved your preference of that private conversation (may be with your girlfriend, co-worker or even your boss) to not appear in the messages section.
  6. Hiding threatening posts: This is the only feature of our plugin which is not in user’s hand to control. We are hiding the life threatening posts from the facebook news feed without letting users even know. These categories would be told by the government to us to add in our database in the backend and filter out all those posts from the user's news feed. Example: Recently in the past blue whale posts have become life threatening. Children were attracted by the game if they saw such posts on their Facebook news feed. So to stop children from indulging in such games, the news feed could be filtered out with such threatening games/posts without letting them know.
We develop a chrome plugin to tackle the problems of shoulder surfing. It filters out the sensitive Facebook content on your computer’s screen by changing in the HTML DOM (Document Object Model) at so that the data is filtered out in realtime without any dependency on Facebook’s API which can significantly limit our functionality.
Our plugin offers 4 features:
  • Hide search history: Remove the div of from the HTML that contains  search drop down
  • Filter posts by tags: This feature searches for the text content in all posts (including ads?) and then removes the ones which contain tags entered by user.
  • Filter posts by friend name / page name: Plugin goes through all the posts and removes any which was posted by someone whose name was given by user.
  • Hide friend's name from conversation (message) list: This feature remove the friend name from the conversation list on facebook messages and also on the
All these features are available for each of the three profiles: home, school and office. User can set each of these profiles according to their surroundings. We also have a feature in which we are removing all life threatening post and any post that government don’t want general public to see.

How does it work?

Javascript is the soul of our plugin. We went through the Facebook page beforehand and found appropriate div-class names which contain any relevant information. Once a page is fully loaded, the javascript code scans the HTML thoroughly and according to the active profile & settings, filters the stuff out. The settings which user has done in plugin stay persistent and are safely stored on users’ computer with chrome’s storage API.
In addition to scanning the page whenever it initially loads, it’s necessary to keep listening for any changes and take appropriate action whenever required. That’s why whenever there’s a change on webpage (mutation) or in chrome storage (user taking an action), we immediately look what has changed and fix the things up.


We distributed our plugin to 42 people, out of which 27 used our plugin. Every action that a user perform inside the plugin is captured at online database, anonymously with the help of Firebase.
We analyze all the data of 27 people that we collected for 10 days and drew out following inferences from that.

Home profile was used considerably more than the other two profiles which was mainly because most of the people who used the plugin were our friends (hostelers).
Hiding post by tag was mostly used out of the four features that we have provided in our plugin. People wanted to get rid of irritating like, share, comment posts and hide posts containing sexual, religious, political content. Average number of actions performed by users on our plugin is about 34, to set different friend/Page/tag name.
Isn’t That Great? Yes, it is! :) FBsecure gives you a lot of tools and options to improve your Facebook experience according to the surroundings and people you are with. It has removed a lot of your worries which were earlier affecting your usage pattern based on the people you were with. By giving you more control, we hope you’ll ignore the junk you don’t want to see, focus on the things you want and enjoy your social experience even more.
Through our plugin, we believe user's facebook experience will improve and there would be no more shoulder surfing. Now they will be able to use the facebook at their home and workplaces freely. We also think that we will be able to help our government in some way by protecting people from seeing life threatening content.

Presentation and Team

References and Image sources


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