Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Web Secret #250: Facebook Privacy

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I think it's fun for personal use, fantastic for certain kins of retail establishments, and almost always, a terrible idea for therapists, hospitals, and treatment facilities.

Here's why. Some years ago, I was hired by a psychiatric hospital to develop their social media strategy. Like many clients, they asked "Should we have a Facebook?". As always, I said, That's a terrible idea.

They ignored me.

Within days of starting their Facebook, former psychiatric patients started posting comments on their wall. You can just imagine.

They hastily shut it down.

Too late - they had opened up Pandora's Box. The patients had the idea to start a new Facebook page, aptly called "Former patients of the xxxx Hospital" (name omitted to protect the innocents.) You can just imagine.

So if you can't control your desire to be on Facebook, at least learn how to stay private. A recent New York Times article did just that.

Here is a summary of author Somini Sengupta's concerns and suggestions:
  • Your Facebook can be examined by police officers, patients and clients.
  • Facebook’s new search tool can allow strangers, along with your "friends" on Facebook, to discover who you are, what you like and where you go.
  • Facebook insists it is up to you to decide how much you want others to see. And that is true, to some extent. But you cannot entirely opt out of Facebook searches.
Answer these questions to protect yourself:

QUESTION 1 How would you like to be found?

Go to "who can see my stuff" on the upper right side of your Facebook page. Click on “see more settings.” By default, search engines can link to your timeline. You can turn that off if you wish.

Go to "activity log." Here you can review all your posts, pictures, “likes” and status updates. If you are concerned about who can see what, look at the original privacy setting of the original post - decide whether you would like to be associated with them.

QUESTION 2 What do you want the world to know about you?

Go to your profile page and click "About me." Decide if you would like your gender, or the name of your spouse, to be visible on your timeline. Think about whether you want your birthday to be seen on your timeline.

QUESTION 3 Do you mind being tracked by advertisers?

Facebook has eyes across the Web; one study found that its so-called widget — the innocuous blue letter “f” — is integrated into 20 percent of the 10,000 most popular Web sites. If that is annoying, several tools can help you block trackers. Think about using a service like Abine. Once installed, their DoNotTrackMe utility can block thousands of companies and social networks from tracking your interests online.

QUESTION 4 Whom do you want to befriend?

Now is the time to review whom you count among your Facebook friends. Your boss? Do you really want her to see pictures of you in Las Vegas? And the woman you met in Lamaze class: do you want the apps she has installed to know who you are? Think about using a company like, which instantly checks your privacy settings across Facebook, Google and the other websites and companies collecting your data.

Not everyone is your friend.

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