Just this past Wednesday, four people were murdered in Gilbert, Arizona. The local television news staff spent a good chunk of time airing biographies of the victims based solely on their Facebook profiles. The anchors expressed great satisfaction with the ease by which they were able to gather background information via social media.
However, the things that please news reporters do not necessarily please social media consultants. I found it disturbing that one of the victims with a completely public Facebook profile was a single mother. Photos of her and her daughter, as well as some very personal wall posts and conversations with friends, were — and still are, as I write this — completely open for the public to read. (I’ve blurred out their faces here, as well as faces and names in the screenshot below.)
While completely public profiles are a bonus for busy news reporters, they’re a liability for most of us. From identitiy thieves to property thieves to rapists to prospective employers — not to mention nosy neighbors — there are people who really should not have access to your most private thoughts, your vacation plans and photos of your children.
Please take a moment to check your Facebook privacy settings. Look at your Timeline (or wall, if you don’t have Timeline yet.) Any post next to which you see a globe is PUBLIC. Do you see lots of globes? Then you should go to your privacy settings and change them! You may also have to go back through all of your previous wall posts and manually change some of them.
And remember: If you change the privacy settings for a single wall post — you can do that — Facebook will use THAT setting for all future posts regardless of your general privacy settings.
YES, that’s stupid. But that’s what happens, so if you make one particular post public, be sure to put the setting back to normal for your next post. Here are some illustrations. Click to see larger versions.
Step One: My original privacy setting. Post are seen by “friends only.”
Step Two: I deliberately set the privacy for THIS POST ONLY to “everyone.” I did not change my overall privacy settings.
Step Three: When I go to post again, my setting is still “public.” It does not revert back to “friends only.”
Step Four: I have to change my privacy back to “friends only” right at the posting box.
According to a recent study by Consumer Reports, 13 million US Facebook users have no idea how much information they’re sharing with the public. Here are few examples of things that people are sharing with the public, perhaps without realizing it:
7.7 million “liked” a Facebook page regarding religious affiliation
2.3 million “liked” a page regarding sexual orientation
For more information about the Consumer Reports study, I highly recommend this article that Nancy Messieh wrote for The Next Web. It’s easy to read, even for social media newbies, and it goes into more of the study’s details. I’ll leave you with a few safety recommendations based on the info from Consumer Reports.
Think before sharing with “friends of friends.” This could expose your posts to tens of thousands of strangers.
Remember that your user name and profile photo are always public, no matter what. If you really want to be on Facebook but you don’t want strangers to see your photo, choose an avatar (an image that represents you) for your profile photo.
Don’t let Facebook suggest that your friends tag you in photos. Go to “Privacy Settings,” click on “Timeline and Tagging” and look for this: “Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded?” Set this to “no one.”
Have questions? Please ask! The comment section is below.