Facebook on Wednesday tackled the upcoming Data Privacy Day, due this Friday, with a pair of new features designed to make your experience more secure. Writing on the company blog, Facebook’s security engineer Alex Rice announced users can now take advantage of HTTPS access, in addition to something called social authentication.

Just like Gmail, you can now enjoy Facebook via a secure HTTPS connection to encrypt data traveling between your computer and the Facebook cloud in order to prevent eavesdropping.

This much-needed security layer comes into play when accessing the site on shared computers or via unsecured public networks. Up until now, Facebook only used HTTPS connection when asking for your password. This feature will roll out in the coming weeks and you can expect it to appear in the Account Security section of the Account Settings page.

Social authentication is the other new feature. Basically a souped up CAPTCHA for your profile, it pops up when Facebook detects suspicious activity on your account, "like if you logged in from California in the morning and then from Australia a few hours later." Rather than ask you to type in a series of randomly generated characters to ensure you’re a human being, the site will show you a couple of photos and ask you to name the person on them.


ABOVE: Plain old captcha we all love to hate.
BELOW: A souped of Facebook captcha dubbed social authentication.

"Hackers halfway across the world might know your password, but they don’t know who your friends are," Rice wrote in a blog post. So far so good, but Facebook potentially has a serious problem on its hand because those who know you well may be able to game the system and gain access to your account should they happen to name your friend.

Of course, new Facebook features always stir controversy and I have no doubt that social authentication will have privacy advocates all over the world cry foul. What do you think, should Facebook use good ol’ CAPTCHA instead of social authentication? Chime in with your comments below.

Source: Facebook blog