CNN recently published an article stating that Facebook has yet another issue with privacy. The article referenced a Wall Street Journal report, stating that multiple applications shared private user information with advertising companies (Gross, 2010). While Facebook emphasized that the amount of accessible data is limited to what the user has made public, it still sends a shiver down everyone’s spine. It is no wonder that individuals like this Associated Content contributor have decided to leave Facebook completely.
This CNN article brings sensibility in information sharing to the forefront. We all must be sensible about how much information we share online and with whom we share it. Not everyone needs to know (or cares) about what you are having for lunch or other such mundane information. Yet, there is a segment of the populace that appears to believe that sharing everything is not only acceptable, but also imperative. The truth is that sharing everything is dangerous. With every post you make, you are “building your brand,” which is business-speak for building a reputation. If you are constantly sharing pictures of drunken nights with friends, you will build that reputation with everyone who views your profile. This includes your friends, current and future employers, and others.
My goal here is not to give pointers on how to use the proper privacy settings in Facebook. Many articles in Associated Content provide this information. Proper privacy settings should always be used, but there is much more to protecting your privacy than tweaking settings. The following tips explain how to keep your online (and offline) reputation intact while keeping your personal information away from outsiders:
1) The internet is permanent: This is something to remember always. Once something is posted, you will never be able to retract it. If you do not want it found, do not post it.
2) Segment your audience: Separate your friends into groups. With every post, decide which of those groups truly need to know the information you are posting. If the information could be offensive to some in various groups, exclude those groups from the post. If you auto-post your tweets or use some other auto-posting feature, remember that those posts go to everyone and cannot be filtered.
If you want to build a professional brand using Facebook, create a second account. Ensure that nothing on the professional account ever references anything on the personal account and never become confused on which one is which. Sending questionable photos to your professional Facebook page could be devastating for your reputation. Also, be sure to lock down your personal Facebook page. If you have a professional Facebook page, you can be sure that employers are hunting for your personal one as well.
3) You cannot always hide: If you make your personal Facebook friend’s list public, you should hope that your friends do not post drunken pictures of you. Keep in mind that employers (and others) will view and use any public information they can find on your Facebook profile to dig for other information on Facebook, Flickr, or other areas of the web. This means that any one of your friends who has a camera can become your downfall. Hide your friends lists and disable posts of when you are tagged in photos.
4) Security by obscurity: Do not put your actual face as your profile picture. It makes it much more difficult to pin your face to your personal Facebook profile. Remove yourself from the Facebook search feature. If you must place an email address or phone number on Facebook as a contact point, use a Gmail or Hotmail account for email and a Google Voice or Skype number as a phone number. This hides your personal information while still providing a method of communication.
5) Use as few Facebook applications as possible: Sure, the games are fun and the surveys are cute, but we all now know how they can be used against us. Kill off what applications you do not use anymore so that they no longer have access to your information. Try to keep games to a minimum. If you want to play games, there are plenty of places you can play that do not link to your social media sites.
It is your responsibility to protect your privacy. By keeping a “need to know” policy with your personal information, you will save yourself a handful of trouble. Trust me. Not everyone needs to know everything.
Gross, D. (2010, October 18). Facebook warns developers after privacy leak. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from CNN