Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saturday B.S. Roundup

Every time Facebook makes a major (or sometimes minor) change, the crowd goes wild...but not in a good way. Rumors abound and the newsfeed is filled with erroneous information. Here's an example of the latest:
Hello to all of you who are on my list of contacts of Facebook. I would like to ask a favor of you…. You may not know that Facebook has changed its privacy configuration once again. Thanks to the new "Graphic app", any person in Facebook anywhere in the world can see our photos, our "like" and our “comments”. During the next two weeks, I am going to keep this message posted and I ask you to do the following and comment "DONE". Those of my friends who do not maintain my information in private will be eliminated from my list of friends, because I want the information I share with you, my friends, to remain among my friends and not be available to the whole world. I want to be able to publish photos of my friends and family without strangers being able to see them which is what happens now when you choose "like" or "comment". 
Unfortunately we cannot change this configuration because Facebook has made it like this. So, please, place your cursor over my photo that appears in this box (without clicking) and a window will open. Now move the cursor to the word "Friends", again without clicking and then on "Settings". Uncheck "Life Events" and "Comments and Like". This way my activity with my family and friends will no longer be made public. Now, copy and paste this text on your own wall (do not "share" it!). Once I see it published on your page, I will un-check the same for you.
First of all, there's no such thing as a Facebook "Graphic app". Facebook has recently implemented "Graph Search" but it's not an app. It makes it easier to search for certain things but it does not change who can see that content. The user still maintains control via their own privacy controls.

Second, the supposed remedy for fixing this non-problem is the same as was circulated when the ticker was first introduced. This time-consuming "fix" didn't actually address the issue then and it still doesn't address the issue of who can see your content.  If you follow these instructions all you will accomplish is that you will no longer see your friends' comments and likes in your own newsfeed. It in no way prevents your content from being findable in Graph Search or visible to other Facebook users.

The fact remains that YOU control the visibility of your own content. If you post an update with a "public" setting, it will be visible to (wait for it...) the public. There's nothing wrong with posting publicly as long as you are aware that's what you are doing. For instance, when I post links to my own blog posts on my profile page, I always use the public setting. Anyone with a Facebook account, friend or not, can see these posts. That's intentional. My blogs are public so I don't have an issue with people reading them. Which would seem obvious but isn't to everyone.

However, there are other options for the content you share on Facebook. For the most part, I select the "friends" setting for my regular Facebook updates. There's also a "friends except acquaintances" option which I don't use but theoretically one could utilize this option to limit some posts to closer friends.

There is also the "custom" setting which I do use on occasion. When you select this option you can choose to hide a post from specific people or from lists of people you have created yourself. I maintain a list of Facebook friends who are under age 18. On occasion I'll share a link which might contain somewhat adult content or language. In those cases I'll hide the post from the younger folks on my friends list as a courtesy. I've never hidden a post from just a single individual but I've seen some of my friends do this when discussing an upcoming birthday surprise or something along those lines. For instance, someone might ask for gift suggestions and hide the post from the person with the upcoming birthday.

Finally, there is the option to post something which is only visible to you. Since Facebook is supposed to be social I'm not entirely certain why one would post something no one else can see although there may be a legitimate reason which I haven't considered.

Now, having said all that, there is one issue with the new Graph Search feature which may be of concern. It is now easier for others to find photos of you that friends have shared and tagged you in. Those pictures are controlled by the privacy settings of the person who posted them, not you. If you have friends who have shared embarrassing photos of you this could be a problem if you'd rather they hadn't. The (relatively) quick fix for this is to untag yourself from those photos. Go to your activity log, click on "photos" and then "photos of you". This will bring up every photo you've been tagged in and you can then remove the tag. If it's truly awful and you don't want it even on your friend's page despite being untagged, you can ask your friend to remove it, or as a last resort, report the photo. I'd have to question why you are friends with someone who would refuse to remove something you feel that strongly about but that's between you and your "friends".

If you've been on Facebook a long time and have been tagged in many photos this process could take you awhile and I do think this could be seen as a flaw in Facebook's privacy policy. You can select a setting which requires you to review posts your friends have tagged you in before they show up on your timeline (which I do) but that doesn't prevent them from tagging you and having it show up on theirs. Hopefully Facebook will address this but in the meantime if you think there might be embarrassing photos of you out there, you'll have to untag them yourself. And then once you've done so, perhaps you might consider avoiding the situations which lead to those embarrassing photos in the first place...at least until Facebook tightens up this aspect of privacy. ;)

And that brings up one final point about all this. While I highly recommend becoming well-versed in how to use the rather extensive privacy controls on Facebook, or any other social media site you use, it's wise to keep in mind that nothing online is 100% private. You can, to a certain extent, control your audience but there are often ways around those controls, or sometimes you may just make a mistake in choosing your setting for a particular bit of content. For those reasons I believe that it's best to not post anything that you'd be absolutely horrified to have everyone read or see, or anything depicting illegal activities. I make it a point to periodically read back through recent posts on every social media site I use to be sure I'm adhering to my own rule. If I would not be willing to stand by my posts, no matter who sees them, then I shouldn't post them online in the first place. If you frequently find yourself wishing you hadn't posted something, may I suggest a paper journal? I'm not being flippant; I really do think that some folks would be better served by venting/ranting on paper rather than online. Just take care to hide your journal!

Snopes: Facebook Graph App Privacy
Hoax-Slayer: Facebook "Graphic App" Privacy Warning Hoax

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