Sunday, January 13, 2013

Your Facebook Privacy is YOUR Responsibility, Not Your Friends'...

Social networking is a great way to share our lives and keep in touch with friends, but it's important that we all keep ourselves educated on how our settings work and only share information about privacy that is accurate.

For example, I've lost count of how many of my friends have posted the status below in recent weeks:

Hello, FB friends: I want to stay PRIVATELY connected with you. I post shots of my family that I don't want strangers to have access to! However, with the recent changes in FB, the "public" can now see activities in ANY wall. This happens when our friend hits "like" or "comment" ~ automatically, their friends would see our posts too. Unfortunately, we can not change this setting by ourselves because Facebook has configured it this way. PLEASE place your mouse over my name above (DO NOT CLICK), a window will appear, now move the mouse on “FRIENDS" (also without clicking), then down to "Settings", click here and a list will appear. REMOVE the CHECK on "COMMENTS & LIKE" and also "PHOTOS". By doing this, my activity among my friends and family will no longer become public. Now, copy and paste this on your wall. Once I see this posted on your page I will do the same. Thanks!

The information Above is Grossly Misleading and Inaccurate

  • It's NOT true that the public can see activities on any wall. Unless the wall owner wants them to. You are still in control of the audience for your posts. (Scroll below for some links that will tell you more about your Facebook privacy.)
  • If you read carefully and think about what the instructions say, you'll see that if they are followed, all your friends will succeed in doing is hiding your comments, likes, and photos from themselves. Don't you want  your Facebook friends to see these things?
  • IF the instructions were accurate (they aren't; see previous bullet point), in order to work, they would depend on ALL of your Facebook friends reading them (how many of your friends log in only occasionally or not at all?) and ALL of your Facebook friends following them (just like you do everything your friends tell you to do in their posts, right?)

If the Information is Wrong, Why Is It Spreading?

This post is going viral on Facebook because it appeals to our trust in our friends and our desire for privacy, even in the online world. But how much do we REALLY care about our online "privacy"? Enough to copy and re-post an inaccurate set of instructions, but perhaps not enough to go to the little gear at the top right of our Facebook pages and click on our Privacy Settings to check them out or click on Help to search and try to confirm if the instructions we are posting really work. (I won't even delve into the irony of wanting "privacy" when we willingly post our personal thoughts and artifacts all over our profiles.) 

What If I Really Care About My Facebook Privacy?

If you really are concerned about how far the information you post on Facebook spreading, you might want to check out the links below. I found these by searching Facebook Help, which although still a complicated land, has been improved in its organization.

Why Are You Writing About This on an EdTech Blog?

I'm writing about this because digital citizenship and digital literacy are topics I am passionate about. So much so that it's hard for me to sit quietly when wrong information is circulating. Ask my friends who have gotten personal replies on their walls after posting the notice that started this blog post! After seeing this too many times to count, I figured it was time to try and reach out and enlighten an audience larger than just my own friends. Also, it will be faster for me to share one link to this blog post when needed, rather than the multiple links I've been sharing (the bulleted list above).

No matter what our age, all of us need to be continuous learners when it comes to the online world. Because technology always changes. Because as young people we are growing up in a technology saturated world where there is no longer a distinct separation between the online and offline spheres in our lives. Because as adults we are responsible for helping young people (and our peers) navigate ever-evolving digital waters.

Don't Feel Bad If A Friend Sent You Here Because You Posted the Aforementioned Status!

First of all, your friend cares about you if they cared enough to help you accurately learn about your privacy settings. Second of all, Facebook privacy (and online privacy in general) are constantly moving targets. If you're confused, you're in good company.  If the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg can get tripped up by her privacy settings, it's a good bet it can happen to any one of us at any time.

Now Go Forth and Educate Yourself and Your Friends!

Hopefully, you've learned a few new privacy tips from this blog post. Now, continue the learning and spread it to others. The two most effective things you can do are regularly check your own privacy settings to make sure you are sharing what you want with whom you want, and gently let your friends know if they are spreading inaccurate information or you suspect they might be sharing info with a larger audience than intended.

If each of us takes responsibility for our own privacy, we'll be protecting ourselves as well as our friends.