Facebook to warn users about dubious URLs

TIETOVIIKKO (Finland) -- Facebook and Internet security company Web of Trust (WOT) will provide Facebook users with a feature that protects them against dubious Web links, the companies said today.

When a Facebook user clicks on a link that leads to a page with a poor reputation rating given by the WOT community, the user will receive a warning message. Typically, the sites with a poor reputation are known for phishing, untrustworthy content, fraudulent services or other scams.

"Facebook checks external links against our reputation database," said Vesa Perälä, CEO of Finnish WOT Services Ltd. "If the targeted site has a poor reputation, the user will be warned about it and can find out more."

The service is not meant to block sites, Perälä said, but is aimed at warning users about potential risks. It is up to the user to decide whether to proceed to the site or not, he said.

The feature has been tested by 1% of Facebook's users in the U.S. It will be available Thursday for all users in the U.S. and next week for all of Facebook's more than 500 million users.

Web of Trust is a crowd-sourced website reputation rating service. It allows users to rate websites and share information about malicious websites. The service is used via a browser add-on.

In addition to Facebook, WOT users see the ratings on Google's search results, e-mail links and on Twitter.

WOT's global community has reported 5 million sites for phishing, untrustworthy content, fraudulent services and other scams. The service guarantees the reliability of user ratings by weighting them according to each user's previous rating behavior. The ratings are recalculated every 30 minutes.

WOT's crowd-sourced model is designed to uncover dangers and threats that automated, algorithm-based systems miss. Typical examples include e-commerce sites with questionable business practices and sites that fail to notify users in advance about content not suited for children.

The service has 20 million users worldwide and is estimated to increase the number up to 50 million at the end of 2011.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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