There’s been quite a lot in the news lately about a backlash against Facebook’s privacy settings with many people believing their attitude to personal information security is too lax. This isn’t a new issue – nearly three years ago I blogged about it – but now that Facebook is so huge across the board and not just amongst university and college students the debate has started to reach further.
Facebook have responded by trying to be more open about what configuration options are available and explaining how to control what you share. They provide shortcuts to restrict the level of information shared to “everyone”, “friends of friends” or just “friends” along with a comforting-sounding “recommended” settings. I imagine most people will choose this which is pretty scary. Take a look at what that means you will be publishing:
Choosing the recommended settings means everyone – not just Facebook members but the general public – will be able to see status updates like the ones you post when you’re mad with your boss or photos you took at the end of a night out or biographical details like where you work. Information available to “friends of friends” opens the door to the 1200 “friends” your 17 year old cousin has and do you really want them all seeing photos of you?
We shouldn’t be too critical of Facebook – they have a business to run and shareholders who expect them to maximise profit from advertising which means persuading you to be as open as possible with the information you share. The onus is on individuals to carefully consider the information they share and the implications it might have on their life. More importantly this isn’t a one off job – you should be reviewing privacy settings on a regular basis.
What do I do? I have a set of custom settings which generally means only friends can see what I publish except the groups “Limited Profile” and “Colleagues”:
On the other hand I use Twitter, Flickr, foursquare, delicious and many other services where information I publish is completely public but I understand the risks involved and am constantly aware that everything I write online could come back to bite me.