Facebook! Today’s most popular, handy-dandy collection of activities of our friends, family, interest groups and organizations. Over one billion active users. I use it for the company and personally. My wife is a mega-user of the chat feature, and I’ve used it to help promote non-profit fundraising events.
With all the connections I have, it is not uncommon for me to see what I’ll call ‘unverified sharing’ behaviour from friends and family. A lot of these posts are political and religious opinion, I while I may not agree, I always respect. Sometimes? I challenge the poster to provide some evidence or proof. Usually? I just scroll past.
But in the last few weeks, I’m seeing the appearance of a copy-and-pasted post about Facebook security and the new Graph Search (also incorrectly called the Graph App). The message starts, “Due to the new ‘graph app’ anyone on Facebook (including other countries) can see your pictures, likes & comments.”
For me, a computer person and self-professed expert in social media, this post is like a mosquito bite that starts to itch. After about five or six bites, the need to scratch goes beyond any normal human’s ability to ignore any longer.
So here we are: I’m scratching.
The executive summary: Yes, you can tell your friends to turn off the feed. Then, after a discrete period of days, delete all those friends who didn’t. Will that make your Facebook-posted information safe from strangers? Nope.
Don’t believe me? Check for yourself at Snopes, UrbanLegends and even WCSH6 television (info and news story).
The Graph Search is best described as a ‘search engine for your Facebook’. All it does is search the data you already had access to. The new app just makes it easier to find information instead of the task of clicking through friends of friends profiles.
It is important to know that, just by signing up with Facebook, you agreed to the Data Use Policy. Yes, one of those huge documents with tiny print and even longer words that explain the legal agreement you’re making with Facebook. Did you read it? Oh, I see. Me too, me too.
There are things that you cannot make ‘non public’. Your name, cover photos, networks, gender, username and user id. If you put a picture of your baby as your cover photo, everyone in the world can see it. Don’t like it? Delete your Facebook account. Other information, such as your age range, language and country, can also be seen by default.
If you ‘liked’ a page – that’s public too. Don’t want folks to know you love robot-driven insects with spy cameras? Don’t like that page. If you go into your profile and say you like Doctor Who and other fan site/pages? Public information. Like a post from someone not your friend? Public information, you have made. Joined a public group? Everyone knows that you did.
For sake of argument, let’s say that you do have your friends modify the feed, and you delete everyone else. Next day, you post a silly picture that makes one of your friends laugh. If they share it, and they don’t pay attention to the security setting and surprise: tada! Public information. How about someone tagging you in a photo you were in but they posted? Yes, folks you don’t know can see what you look like (hopefully it was a nice picture). Oh, and if someone new friends you, your information is now available to friends-of-your-new-friend again until they disable the feed.
I’ll get to the point. If you have information that you don’t want others you are not directly friended with to see? Don’t post it on Facebook. For that matter, take care not to post it to just about every other social media site, either – especially if you don’t understand the site’s data policy or how to enable the security properly. Login screens and passwords create an illusion of security… but it is just an illusion.
The best thing any of us can do to maintain our privacy is not to post it on the internet.