Facebook privacy settings – what to do

A few thoughts on Facebook’s new terms of service changes, which have hit the net this week.

What this change boils down to, if you’ve been living on a small island for a while or using BT internet, is that your Facebook stuff potentially defaults to public if you don’t pay attention when going through the pop-ups.

You may have noticed these “Oh hai, we’ve made some changes”-style pop-ups recently. If you weren’t paying attention and simply clicked through you may have opened up your Facebook profiles – Nazi fancy dress party photos, drunken status updates and NSFW links – to Google and co.

This, basically, means it’s all indexable by the search engines. Potentially, anyone can see what previously only your friends could see.

This is a pretty big deal, because potential employers will merrily check whatever public real estate you have on the web even though, for my money, this is highly unethical.

All of your public data can be harvested too: your geographical location, birthday (a particularly bad one to share), relationship status, work and education information…

This is all pretty reductive, and an absolute moral minefield. However, when hard clicks and hard cash come into play – the reason behind the Facebook shift – ethics tend to go out of the window.

So, is there an upside to this? Potentially, because any indexable real estate can be leveraged by the enterprising journo, PR or generic rampant self-publicist.

However, when I joined Facebook I acted in such a way that most people would when alone with their friends. I never thought it would all be publicly available, so I didn’t modify my behaviour. On other public profiles I’m aware of this and filter my public actions accordingly.

I don’t suppose there’s anything on my Facebook profile that would get me binned by an employer or associate, but why would I take the risk? And, frankly, I’m uncomfortable with anyone being able to access data I previously considered private.

Another issue, only just coming to light, is the murky issues regarding who owns all the stuff you’ve put on your Facebook page.

Facebook will say it does, or at least has some claim over it, but there’s not much set in stone to say that anyone can’t nab your Facebook pictures and blogs and use them to their own ends.

How do you fancy finding some of your photos in the Daily Mail aka the world’s worst newspaper?

So, there are two sensible alternatives. Delete your profile and start again, with a profile that is fit for public viewing. Or tell the search engine spiders to sod off.

For the sake of ease I’ve outlined how you go about doing this below.

Update your Facebook privacy settings:

1. Find ‘Settings’ at the top of your Facebook page

2. Find Privacy Settings

3. Untick ‘Allow indexing’

Done. Better safe than sorry.

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  • Great blog post. I actually did get the memo that FB was changing their privacy settings but like you said, I just ignored it. It is important that people become more careful/aware of what they are posting on facebook and/or other social networking sites. Also, I think its great that you did the outline.. my grandma- who is now on facebook- could really benefit from your outline 🙂 Keep up the good work!