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Facebook Improves Security Ahead of UK Government Initiative

There is little doubt that prime minister Cameron admires both the business success (despite its shrunken monetary value) and huge public reach of Zuckerberg’s Facebook. It goes back to a published video interview between them two years ago. Now, within the last few weeks, comes a number of announcements unlikely to be simple coincidence.

On Tuesday of this week, Facebook opened its first engineering center outside of the US in London, “boosting,” reported Reuters, “the British government's ambition to make the digital economy a central plank of its growth strategy.” George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Second Lord of the Treasury, who attended the opening, commented, “I hope it also reflects something of the work we have done as a government over the last couple of years to make this a go-to place for technology businesses.”

From the UK government side comes the recent announcement that users’ social media credentials will, in the future, be used to provide access to government websites. The argument in favor of such a move is basically two-fold: it avoids the expense and unpopularity of a government central database of identities, and, in the government’s words, “Users will be in control of their own information.” Since Facebook is by far the most-used social media in the UK, Facebook will ‘benefit’ from this arrangement more than any other.

But security experts have their concerns: Facebook does not have a good reputation for security and privacy. This, however, may well explain the latest announcements from Kaspersky Lab and Panda Security. Yesterday Kaspersky announced a new “partnership with Facebook, with the goal of enhancing the security of social networking both online and offline.” Its priority will be defending Facebook users against clicking malicious links. When Facebook users share or click a link shared by their friends, the link will instantly be compared against Kaspersky Lab’s database of malicious web pages, and a pop-up warning will appear if the link is dangerous. Noticeably, avoiding malicious websites will be essential in protecting the social credentials that might be used to log onto government websites.

This morning, Panda Security announced a similar relationship, “a collaboration agreement with Facebook to protect users of the popular social networking site.” It too will share its malicious URL database with Facebook, and both companies will offer Facebook users a free six month subscription to their security products. In Panda Security’s case, the product is described as “specifically designed to protect users’ identity while using social networking sites and other internet services. Its Panda Safe Browser module is particularly useful for users who want to preserve their privacy and security.”

These announcements go beyond mere co-incidence, and indicate that the UK government’s ID Assurance program is well on track with Facebook honoring its side by improving its security stance. There can be little doubt that a more secure Facebook will enhance continuing mutual cooperation between Cameron’s government and Zuckerberg’s Facebook.

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