A Quick Lesson on Privacy

Picture of a laptop with police tape across the screen

Taking time out of my hockey, politics and personal postings for a public service announcement – emphasis on the word “public”.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about Facebook privacy settings. Yes, many of you already know about them, and this isn’t a Facebook 101 lesson. But it came to my attention recently that at least one person on my timeline has a public timeline. And for me, that was something that mattered.

See, I protect my timeline. If you are not a friend of mine on Facebook, and not on a restricted list, you will not see my posts. Why is that important? Because, from experience, knowledge and expertise, I can tell you that people will try to hurt others in ways you might not even imagine. Your photos might be lifted, altered, and distributed. Your words can be copied, altered, and you can be made to look as though you have said something you would never say. Your name can be used in ways you hadn’t imagined, and spread throughout groups of people who are not your friends. And who may, in fact, be your enemies. And who may very well contact you to harass you (even if they are not on your Friends list, they can message you). And yes, I speak from experience.

There is a reason Facebook privacy options are so well received in the community of tech-savvy users, educators, and programmers. It’s because of all the social media platforms, Facebook gives the user the most control over what s/he posts and what others can see.

This isn’t Facebook 101 – there are guides written for that purpose, and easily accessible online.

But this is about my own person philosophy as regards my privacy and how others adjust their settings.

See, what I post on my page is visible to those I have entrusted with my little corner of the Internet. And there have been times – and will be again – where some of those people prove to be unworthy of my trust, or unappreciative of my posts, and either get deleted (the unbecoming term “unfriending” in the Facebook world) or put on my “Restricted” list. That list has multiple uses. I have, at the moment, at least one person who has told me how and what to post as what I seem to say bothers this person. I chose not to be told how to post, and relegated this “friend” to my Restricted List. They cannot see my posts, but we are still connected on Facebook (and I can see the posts from that page). It’s a bit like “creeping” (looking but not interacting) but I have left the door open for this person to return should the decision be made to put up with me. (Not that I’m difficult – just…opinionated and vocal about issues).

I’m sure I am on Restricted Lists of others as well; those who choose not to share with me but peek through their window to my Facebook postings. Those who come out of the woodwork once in a while to comment (another handy-dandy use for Restricted Lists – comment whenever you wish, without having to be “refriended”). I know of at least 2 on my list who have done so. It amuses me, as I am aware of the reasons for their having done so. But that’s the beauty of Facebook – the right of any user to hide from another, for whatever reason they see fit.

But here’s the thing – and many people may be unaware of the settings that leave them vulnerable.

If you have a friend whose posts are set to be visible to “Public” – your every interaction on that person’s page is now open to the Internet at large. You can end up embroiled in an all-out fiery debate and if the person’s page settings are “Public”, well, your words and photos and ideas are now out there for anyone to see.

To me, there is no difference between what I post on my Wall and what comments I leave on the Walls of others. I recently learned of a friend’s Public setting, and have sharply curtailed my comments on that Wall. Especially as the majority of those posts are political and my views are not always in sync with everyone else’s. (What can I say, I enjoy diversity in my online interactions as I do in my offline world)

So here’s how to tell if you’re broadcasting to the world. If there is a globe in the corner of your friend’s posts? (see screenshot) It is a Public page, and even though it is a person, not a cause or event, or television show or radio station, it is as public as any of those.

If a friend only posts to his/her Friends list, the icon will look like this:

It may not matter to you. But I wouldn’t be the social media educator I am if I didn’t warn you about the possibility that you are publicly posting even on a good friend’s page.

Just be aware. Privacy is YOURS to control. But when others take your privacy and discard it, it is your right to make the decision to post – or not to post.

And that’s it for now!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *