Protects You in the Wild West of Facebook

By David Knight |

Facebook sometimes feels like the big, bad Wild West – a never-ending landscape where the law struggles to keep up with the gangs of roaming bandits. At the very least, you can never hope to keep track everything that goes on. So how can you know who is saying what about you? Or which pictures of you are being posted?

German social network security firm provides a solution by scanning Facebook to see what personal data is out there. This includes enabling parents to keep better track of potential online risks to their children – and with an estimated 1.8 billion people set to be using Facebook by 2015, the startup has big plans to become the global market leader.

Using on your own Facebook profile for the first time is an interesting experience; there is a strong sense of curiosity at what it will find. Fortunately, it seems I’ve been sensible when it comes to sharing information. The three possible privacy threats weren’t unduly worrying – revealing the city where I live, where I went to school and what I do for a living – and neither were recent posts.

But it was fascinating to see what pictures of me exist on Facebook, and for people who are heavier users of the network, could well prove to be a vital tool.

Protection and Control

Mario Grobholz is founder and CEO of the Munich-based company. He told Silicon Allee how social networks – and in particular Facebook – have become the number one identity platform: “We have created a security solution for consumers to know what kind of personal data is out there – how it is used, where it is used and how they can get protection and control over this.” was founded four years ago with the final product being in development for around two years, and has grown steadily ever since. It now has almost 200,000 monthly active users and recently overtaking Bitdefender to become the number one Facebook security app.

The drive behind is the ongoing shift in what needs to be protected online. Over the last couple of decades, during the desktop and PC era, big companies like Symantec, McAfee, Kaspersky and AVG have become very adept at protecting hardware and the data contained therein. But, says Mario, protecting data stored in the cloud – especially on Facebook – presents a whole new challenge. This is particularly true as Facebook use grows together with different kinds of data such as check ins, likes and comments, “more personal, smaller content.”

And apps like PATH, Mario adds, are using your address book or geolocation function even if they don’t strictly need to. “A lot of consumers are becoming increasingly aware that there could be some risk in terms of security, in terms of reputation, in terms of privacy, when using social apps. So we track this data, we make it transparent to the user, we give them advice on how to be more protected when using their smartphone.” CEO Mario Grobholz works by pulling Facebook data into the system – users have to allow access to their accounts – and running it through a set of algorithms to find which content could be harmful or is being used in the wrong way. The platform includes language detection and biometric face recognition software.

The results are presented in the dashboard in several different categories, including activities, privacy, profile and a summary.

One significant usecase for is the opportunity for parents to monitor their kids on Facebook, even if they are not using the social network themselves. Mario said: “By analyzing (the children’s profiles) we make it very comfortable and easy for parents to get to know what their kids are talking about, what content is online, what pictures are online, and in future releases we are going to drill down more into the network security.”

The cross-platform service was developed in HTML5 and is available through the Web and as an app on Facebook. The next step, Mario said, is to launch a mobile solution as well.  In the future, the platform will work on a freemium model, with paying users gaining extra functionality which is yet to be decided – although automatic 24/7 monitoring, which is manual in the free version, looks set to be included.

Building Market Share

For the next 12 months, however, the team are concentrating on building market share. When the initial German-language version of was launched in November 2009, there were no plans to go international. But the positive reaction to the product and the lack of competition abroad saw them launch internationally in November 2011.

The US is a key market because the discussion around privacy and app security is more developed in the US than in Europe, according to Mario – a surprise when you consider the stricter privacy laws in place across most of Europe. Most of the 20 employees are based in Munich, but a few moved to San Francisco to set up an office late last year, and the company’s funding comes from both sides of the Atlantic.

Ultimately, the startup is aiming to become the global market leader for social network and social app security. There are some lofty aims – the number of Facebook users is expected to rise from the current one billion to about 1.8 billion by 2015, and Mario hopes to have a 5 or 6 percent market share of those wanting protection. That’s around 50 to 70 million.

Even by the end of this year, expects to have a million users thanks to a monthly growth rate of 50 percent. That’s seriously impressive – and the online protection space is undoubtedly a major untapped market.