I have just been browsing a blog on InformationWeek in which Thomas Claburn sets out some very sensible and constructive suggestions for enhancing your personal privacy as a Facebook user. The blog is helpful, and I commend it. My takeaway, however, is that it only scratches the surface of the Facebook personal privacy nightmare. There's no end to the number of things that can go wrong.
Here are Claburn's "five most ignored mistakes." You can check his blog for suggested fixes:
- Neglecting privacy settings
- Inadvertently sharing location data
- Reckless "Liking"
- Betraying family privacy
- Oversharing with apps
Some of these are indeed elementary errors. If you don't set, and check, your privacy settings -- and access by third-party apps -- regularly, you are asking for trouble. Others are less obvious. As Claburn points out, "liking" a health condition could create problems in obtaining insurance. Also, how many of us obtain appropriate permission before sharing information relating to others, including our nearest and dearest?
Let's take a closer look at those vaunted "privacy settings." Sure, every time you post on Facebook, you can go to a dropdown list, which allows you to choose whether to share what you're posting with everyone, with friends, or just selected friends, or with no one but yourself. What we need to be reminded of constantly, is that if you share anything -- text or image -- with anyone, you create the potential for it to be shared with the whole wide world. The Internet is the best-designed tool in human history for copying and distributing content.
This lesson has been learned the hard way by many -- from the teen girls whose "racy pictures" got into the hands of parents and school authorities, to the man found in breach of a protection order after making remarks about his wife on a Facebook page she'd been blocked from reading. Sharing with anyone is, potentially, sharing with the world, including family members, legal authorities, and employers.
Anyone who makes disparaging remarks about his or her work, school, partners -- anything, really -- on Facebook is storing up trouble for the future. You can't delete from the public record something that unknown other people have already copied. This goes for images, too.
That's not Facebook's fault. The creeping app phenomenon arguably is. I just checked the "apps you use" setting on my account. As always, there's a pair of apps I didn't knowingly permit to access my information. Usually there are more. Now I know why I recently starting receiving campaigning emails from Change.org.
As you go about your business online, be aware that many Websites will garner your permission to access your Facebook settings without making a big noise about it. Nothing is easier than to "give consent" on the Web without realizing it.
As for images, while you can impose restrictions on tagging -- other users attaching your name to your image (or an image they guess is you) -- there's no way to stop someone identifying you in a comment attached to a photo. In fact, Facebook introduced a feature (using "@" before a name) to link any mention of you in a comment to your profile.
Yes, you should receive a notification, and you can remove the tag. Kind of...
Untagging removes the link to your name from the post and also takes the post off your profile. The post will still be visible in other places unless the person who posted it takes it down. If a friend has tagged you in an app, the tag and post may still exist in the app your friend is using, even if you remove the tag on Facebook.
Facebook cares about users' privacy only to the extent that it's made to care -- by regulators or by public outrage. You're on your own. Share nothing on Facebook you wouldn't be equally happy to have broadcast on the national news, and look out for what others may post about you. That's all you can do -- and good luck.
— Kim Davis , Community Editor, Internet Evolution