Facebook Privacy Settings: gazing through the mud…

As more and more of our lives find their way online, privacy is becoming an increasingly important issue, nowhere more so than Facebook.

Most of us don’t think twice before we post what we’re thinking or doing, until we become aware, often through a comment from someone we don’t know, that we are more exposed than we first thought.

And then we see the solution, thoughtfully posted by a well-meaning friend…

“To all my FB friends, may I request you to please do something for me: I want to stay PRIVATELY connected with you. However, with the recent changes in FB, the public can now see activities in any wall…” 

or something to similar effect.

You will most likely be asked to hover over your friend’s name and usually to un-tick a box for comments and likes or a variation of that theme.

This is a hoax, which takes advantage of our heightened privacy awareness and a natural fear of complex account settings to spread its mischief as widely as possible. It will simply result in you no longer seeing your friend’s likes and comments on the ticker (moving news updates on the right hand side), which would make it much harder to be nosey.

The truth is that Facebook’s privacy settings are a little tricky master, but it’s worth getting a handle on them. Truly, it is.

Who can see your stuff?

Make sure your profile is not posting publically by default.

Find the little cog on the top right hand side of your profile and choose account settings > privacy > who can see my stuff?

Mine says “Friends”. That will then be the default option for everything I post.

I don’t want my mother to see…

There is much I post which I deem to be unsuitable material for my mother’s sensitive nature, so I work a system of lists. My more sensitive relatives and friends live on a list called “Parents”. Make a list by using the option on the right hand menu of your feed called “Friends”. You can add any of your friends to a list.

When you are posting something you don’t want a certain list to see, use the button next to the “Post” button and hit “Custom”. You can add a list, or an individual to the “Don’t share this with” box.

The snag is to remember to change it back again next time you post a picture of the kitten doing something cute.

So what about the ticker?

Love it or hate it the news ticker is here to stay.

If a friend of a friend posts something publically, and your friend comments on it, then your ticker will tell you that your friend commented. With me so far? It gets worse.

If a friend of a friend posts something to only their friends (see above, “I don’t want my mother to see”) and your friend comments on it, then you will not see that your friend commented. Feel free to read that again. I tried to make it simple, I really did.

So if you post something publically and a friend comments, then their friends will see that they commented, and will be able to see what you posted.

But friends of friends are commenting on stuff!

If you find that friends of friends are commenting on things, it is most likely because you tagged your friend.

Facebook has a sneaky little trick which cannot be switched off – (if it can, I haven’t found it yet!) The trick is that if you tag a friend in a post, it becomes visible to their friends too, and it permits those friends to like and comment. The same goes for photos.

So, the only way to effectively manage your privacy is to do three things. Firstly, take the time to explore the privacy options Facebook offers, which have become a good bit simpler in the last year. My preference is to set things to friends by default, and I have set my account to ask me for approval before publishing posts and photos I am tagged in – just in case! Secondly, do the mother test, or the boss test, or the “people I know who are easily offended” test, and change the post setting appropriately. And thirdly, accept that when you tag someone, it becomes part of their wall, and therefore their friends get to weigh in too.

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