Facebook privacy is serious business

January 4th, 2012

Another misguided “repost this as your status” public-service message is making the rounds on Facebook again. Several of my computer-illiterate friends are cluttering news feeds with:

Hello FRIENDS! As you all know I like to keep my FB private except to those I am friends with. So if you all would do the following, I’d appreciate it. With the new FB timeline on its way this week for EVERYONE. . . please do both of us a favor: Hover over my name above. In a few seconds you’ll see a box that says “Subscribed”. Hover over that, then go to “Comments and Likes” and unclick it. That will stop my posts and yours to me from showing up on the side bar for everyone to see, but most importantly it limits hackers from invading our profiles. If you repost this I will do the same for you. You’ll know I’ve acknowledged you, because if you tell me that you’ve done it, I’ll “like” it

The posts are often accompanied by comments expressing outrage at Facebook’s wanton disregard for personal privacy, naturally. The issue, of course, is that the message is full of inaccuracies, and following it won’t accomplish much of anything.

First, I’ll clarify the issue: several months ago, Facebook rolled out a new “activity ticker” feature. It appears in the upper-right section of your Facebook pages, and displays real-time information on what your friends are commenting on (or liking). Many have noticed that the ticker can display information about people you’ve never heard of — for example, if a friend of a friend posts something, and then your friend comments on it, you’ll potentially see the original material that your friend’s friend posted displayed in the ticker (even if the two of you aren’t Facebook friends). If you don’t want strangers to see your Facebook posts, this might upset you. Public-service Facebook chain post to the rescue, right? No.

Privacy Settings

Hi. Remember me?

The problem with the instructions contained in the public-service announcement that I quoted above is that it will not stop your posts being broadcast to strangers. The only thing that it will accomplish is cause the unsubscribed friend to disappear permanently from your ticker. If you have a lot of time on your hands, you could repeat the steps outlined in the instructions for every single one of your friends, which would cause your activity ticker to always appear empty. However, unless all of your friends (and all of your friends’ friends) do the same thing, everything you post is still being broadcast into all of their tickers. And I’m pretty sure that everyone on Facebook isn’t going to sit down for a couple hours and follow these instructions for each of their friends, even if you ask them to.

So, instead of blindly following chain posts of questionable origin and intent, maybe we should just use the tools Facebook gave us instead? You know, our privacy settings? Simply changing your default privacy control from “Public” to “Friends” will hide all of your activity from anyone that you haven’t explicitly set as a friend on Facebook.

Facebook Privacy Controls

The arcane Facebook "Privacy Controls", with its myriad of confusing options.

… And that’s it. One click and strangers will no longer be able to see any of the material you post to Facebook in the future through the activity ticker, or anywhere else on the site.

Not that anyone cares if you “like” your sister’s comment about buying a new pair of shoes, though.

Categories: General Idiocy Tags: ,
  1. Nancy Kennedy
    January 5th, 2012 at 17:59 | #1


  2. January 6th, 2012 at 06:20 | #2

    Thnks for the CORRECT info..it did seem a bit suspicious.

  3. January 7th, 2012 at 15:28 | #3

    who knows what is real?

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