Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Web Secret #305: Facebook - take three

I first introduced Facebook to my blog readers in 2009. It was sort of a "Hey, you need to pay attention to this social media channel!"

In 2013, I wrote a post about Facebook privacy issues - particularly the pitfalls of Facebook as they pertained to the mental health industry.

Now it's 2014, and I am writing about Facebook privacy AGAIN. This is because Facebook periodically changes their user interface and we have to learn how to protect our privacy all over AGAIN.

Fortunately, the New York Times published a very useful article about Facebook privacy settings a few months ago. In theory, you have a great deal of control over everything you post on the service, in practice, adjusting Facebook’s dozens of privacy controls is very annoying and confusing.

Here are the essential points:

1. YOU CHOOSE THE AUDIENCE FOR EVERY POST: Facebook has a setting on the status update box that lets you set the audience for each item posted. On the desktop version, it’s right next to the "post" button. The "Friends" setting is what you will probably use most of the time. Unfortunately, Facebook makes it easy to accidentally overshare. That’s because whatever audience you choose for a post automatically becomes the audience for all future posts until you change the setting again. So if you chose Public to share a cute photo of your new puppy, everything you post from that moment on is public. Oops.

2. BAD NEWS - PRIVACY IS CONTROLLED BY THE PERSON WHO POSTS THE ITEM: Let me repeat, the person who posts an item controls the privacy settings around it. A lot of (try most) people don’t understand the implication of this. If you post a comment or a like on a public post, it can be viewed by ANYONE, with your name attached to it. How can you tell whether someone else’s post is public? Look for the little icon next to the time the post was made. A tiny globe symbol means the post is public; the silhouettes of two people mean it’s for friends only. The bottom line: When you share content, you’re the one that determines who sees that content. When you interact with someone else’s content, they’re the ones who determines who can see that content.

3. MORE BAD NEWS - EVERYTHING YOU DO ON FACEBOOK CAN BE USED BY MARKETERS: Facebook makes money through advertising. Increasingly, that advertising is targeted based on what you say and do on Facebook. Facebook scrutinizes every like, share and data point — even things you hide on your public profile. Your birthday may be hidden, but Facebook's algorithm knows it. Sometimes your actions on Facebook, such as liking or commenting on a brand’s page or post, can even become part of an ad that is sent to your friends. "Danger, Will Robinson!"

4. WORSE NEWS - FACEBOOK CAN CHANGE ITS RULES: Facebook can and does change its privacy rules anytime they feel like it - what used to be private can suddenly becomes public. Example: the company recently made it impossible to hide your profile from searches on the service.

5. SOME GOOD NEWS - DO THIS RIGHT AWAY: If you want to undo all of your previous less than private posts, you can do so with ONE CLICK. That handy url will take you to a page that says: "Limit The Audience for Old Posts on Your Timeline." If you use this tool, (ALL) the content on your timeline you previously (unwisely) shared with friends of friends or "Public" will change to "Friends." Once your there, click on "Limit Old Posts." In addition, though you can’t opt out of Facebook using your information to target ads, you can prevent your actions from being used as an endorsement in ads by going HERE, changing the box in the middle to "No one" and then hitting "Save Changes."

You've been warned.

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