Thursday, February 06, 2014

Facebook – When Your Worlds Collide

The popularity of the social networking website, Facebook has exploded in recent years and with good cause – the site allows you to catch up with old friends, find out how your cousin on the east coast is doing, plan events, post party pictures, and play games! That’s all good stuff, but the problem is when your casual friends and your professional acquaintances both have access to the same private information.  Old classmates who “knew you when,” collide with family members who know all the secrets and the ones you are trying to make a new and good impression with now.

Those funny pics of you slumped over the toilet might be a riot to your friends, but they aren’t so funny to your boss, your coach or your grandma. Backbiting your “ex” may have seemed a good idea at the time, but your “next” may think otherwise.

Luckily, Facebook thought about the different roles, friends and acquaintances we have in our lives and gave us ways to deal with each by still having only one profile. You can select what every person or groups of people can see, do and share. They do this using the new privacy settings.

Privacy Settings

If you are going to do just one thing to protect your privacy on Facebook, then you should learn how to use privacy settings, which can be accessed from the “account” tab. These settings allow you to choose what information you share and with whom. First off, it’s recommended that you make the information in your profile viewable to “Friends Only,” so that random strangers on Facebook do not have access to your personal information.  

Next, make use of your “Friend Lists.” When you click on your “Friends” tab on the Facebook homepage, there will be an option at the top of the page to “+ Create a List.” These lists allow you to sort your friends into groups, such as “School Friends” and “Family.” Once you have your friends in a list, you can customize your profile information or wall posts to be visible to one list and not to another. This can be done by clicking on the lock icon that appears on the popup of the item you would like to post. You can even go so far as to choose which photo albums can be seen by which of your friends (that way your grandma can’t see pics from that crazy party last weekend). 

And finally, be aware of the photos you are being tagged in. Privacy settings on your own photo albums won’t help you if your friend posts an embarrassing pic of you. You can change this by going to your “privacy settings” page, select “customize” and scroll down to the “Photos and videos I’m tagged in” section. From a drop down menu you may select “Only Me,” or you can choose a friend's list you’ve previously created. You can also choose to hide the photos you’ve been tagged in from certain groups. 

Beware What You Share

Like it or not, we often “are what we post,” at least to those who Facebook us, follow us and friend us. Privacy settings are a great tool for Facebook users, but an even better tool is the “filter between your ears.” Use some common sense before you post to a website with millions of users.  Do you really want your friends and family to see that “I love beer” bumper sticker? Or the photo album full of you posing with drinks?

Employers often check out potential employees’ Facebook profiles if they are not set to private or by sending out friend request using a fake name. The same can be said about college recruiters. It could cost you your place in university without you even knowing it. Coaches? Not known to accept lame excuses, coaches cut students all the time when they find out curfews were violated or late night drinking bouts cost them a win.

WiredSafety is one of the five members of Facebook’s International Safety Advisory Board. To join the ranks of WiredSafety’s volunteers or support our cause, sign up at