My March, 2010 Montana InBusinessMonthly column: Check your Facebook Privacy Settings
Facebook’s changes took many people by surprise, if they read the changes. Facebook’s privacy changes were significant: They opened up to the public categories of information that were previously only set to share with a smaller set of users and “friends.”
But because most users probably just “clicked through” last December and accepted the new privacy settings, I’m covering Facebook’s privacy issues in more depth and showing what to change, if you’re concerned.
The history of privacy issues at Facebook is telling: Two years ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that privacy controls were “the vector around which Facebook operates.” But in explaining the changes last December, he said that Facebook changed the default privacy settings because, “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”
Whether his ideas are true or conjecture remains to be seen, but with 350 million users and growing, Facebook is literally changing the world with social networking, even in Missoula. Search for “Missoula” in Facebook, and you’ll get thousands of hits.
So if you use Facebook as an individual, you should be aware of your privacy settings so your family and friends and potential employers won’t find things you’re don’t want them to. And if you use Facebook for a business or for a nonprofit, you should be aware of the new settings for your business’s sake and for any clients that use and post to your business page.
If you accepted Facebook’s new default settings, then just about everything you post is and has been available to almost everyone on Facebook and through general web search. If that surprises you, then it’s time to check your privacy settings.
The most important items to check are under “Privacy Settings,” which is under the “Account” tab at the upper righthand corner of your Facebook home. You’ll find four other menus you need to check under: Profile Information, Contact Information, Applications and Websites, and Search.
Go to the “Profile Information” area, and you’ll see a long list of categories of information. Chances are, all of them are set to “Everyone,” such as “About Me,” “Religious and Political Views,” “Photos,” “Posts,” etc. Change them to whatever you are more comfortable with.
Then go back and check your “Contact Information.” Same deal; be sure the settings are more to your privacy liking.
Then go back again, and check “Applications and Websites.” Here you’ll find out what you share when using Facebook applications and linked Web sites, namely all the information that you have elected to make public. The controls for what your friends can share about you are here, too, so check those.
Then go back to “Privacy Settings” again and check what the search engines can find out about you from Facebook, both Facebook search and general Web search, like Google and Bing. Once again, these settings default to “Everyone” for Facebook search and “Allow” for general Web search.
After last December, 2009’s changes at Facebook, privacy advocates have said that it’s not a good idea to think that Facebook is looking out for anyone other than their own business interests, so you should be proactive and look out for yourself.