I’m re-posting this as I’ve gotten some traffic to it lately.
Updated October 19, 2007
The Facebook experience has quickly become a social phenomenon. Some complain it is so “impersonal”. Others love being able to keep up/hook up with old friends. Which begs the question, what exactly is a friend? Are people collecting friends as tokens or is everyone on their list someone they would let drink beer in their living-room.
It’s a psychology and sociology lab for sure. The technology becomes your ally when someone asks to be your friend and an ex-patriot when your extension of friendship isn’t returned as quickly as you would expect. I’m also left feeling like my life needs more excitement. Look at all these people. Look at what they are doing. How can I get a piece of the action? Actually, my life is full, I’m not complaining.
The privacy issue is paramount. As an on-line marketer, I am forced to run all forms and surveys through a rigorous set of privacy rules designed to protect the visitor’s information. And, let’s not get started on the issues around persistent cookies. But Facebook flies directly in the face of the privacy issue. Here you have individuals posting their own information and thereby giving permission for others to see it. The trouble is they may not be completely aware of how these seemingly innocent tidbits of information can be used maliciously. Call me paranoid, but I don’t think I want any information on there that isn’t obvious by looking at me.
The interface does allow you to control what you are sharing and it’s good to be aware and implement some privacy restrictions.
- Make your profile only available to your friends, unless you are using your profile to attract business. In that case, limit your personal information—it is extremely easy for predators to “profile” you or god forbid, your children. Facebook recommends leaving the profile open and it definitely keeps people on the site longer—a fun way to kill about 12 hours a week. However, I often feel like I’m eavesdropping, or worse, like I’m on a dating website or stalking a crush I’m too shy to ask to be my friend. I’d love to see the stats on how many profiles are open versus closed, the trends and the demographics. Actually, I’d just love to see the stats.
- If you do have your profile open, at least turn off your wall. It really is a “predator’s playground”. I have nightmares of people being stalked in reality because someone was able to find out “everything” about them. And their wall says where they can be found on Friday night. I bet there is already more than one movie script in the works.
- Remember that all those photos you load up are available to potential employers, your mother and your children.
- I’m also mindful that pictures of me can be added without my permission and tagged. That’s definitely creating anxiety over my wine-induced antics. In all seriousness though, I can see this becoming a major privacy issue. I’ll be watching this one.
- Turn off the news feeds for unimportant changes. The default is for every little change you make to your profile or wall to be fed to every friend. Often this information is provided out of context, not important (like fixing a typo) or something you don’t want to scream to the world (like you went from “in a relationship” to “it’s complicated” to “single” in less than 3 days).
- With the addition of all these applications that everyone, including me, so casually load up: FunWall, Pirates, SuperPoke…I’ll stop there…you are, in effect, placing your profile information in the hands of third-party developers. If that makes you uncomfortable, you can change your privacy settings for the apps or remove them completely. In fact, your profile page will love the fall fix-up. I do get lots of traffic to my blog from my profile page because my posts are fed to my WordPress application. I’ll be keeping this one. I already have a relationship with WordPress.
- Under search settings be sure to turn off the Public Search Engine listing if you don’t want your profile to be found by popular search engines, like Google.
- I personally have my privacy turned way down and don’t shoot news feeds to my friends. However, it’s creepy that if I write on a friend’s wall and they do shoot news feeds, my comments are sent to all their friends.
- If you’re ever uncomfortable, remove your profile, join a local FA group and start your recovery.
I was actually trying to create a clandestine Facebook experience with someone who isn’t listed as a friend. I have no particular need to do this, it’s just bugging me that I can’t find a way. It’s my response to the privacy issue — trying to find a comfort level and a little more control. One thing I have done is messaged or poked someone who isn’t a friend and voila, we have access to each others profiles for 30 days. That’s kind of clandestine I guess.