Thursday, October 17, 2013

Protecting Yourself from Facebook

What can you do about Facebook privacy?
Facebook privacy concerns us all...
It seems like everyone is worried about Facebook privacy these days.  At least everyone seems to be sharing, and by sharing, I mean copy and pasting statuses regarding some sort of privacy issue, from instructions to friends to uncheck notification settings to protect your privacy (doesn't work - see my other post about Facebook privacy settings here) to posting that their content cannot be used for <insert legal mumble jumble here>...

What really works?

First off, you might have seen something like this...
Channel 13 News was just talking about this change in Facebook's privacy policy. Better safe than sorry. As of October 13, 2013 at 4:41am Eastern standard time, I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future. By this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103 and the Rome Statute). NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you prefer, you can copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates. DO NOT SHARE. You MUST copy and Paste
This same or slightly modified message, with different dates, has been circulating a while.  It's not new.  It gives the impression that, if posted to your wall, you can't be held responsible for what you post, or it can't be used against you.  One of the first questions I ask myself when I read this is "Who or what is Channel 13 News?"  It's a nice authoritative sounding pile of garbage, that's what.  It's vague enough to be read by anyone and sound official, but totally unverifiable.  Clue #1 it's a hoax.

Guess what?  When you signed up for Facebook, you also agreed to use it and be regulated by their terms and conditions, even when they change, and that you agreed with it's privacy policies.  You're stuck.

What options do you have?

Now before you go deleting your Facebook account, here's the other thing - every time I see a "Facebook did this.." post, when I check it, it's a hoax. Unfortunately, people don't tend to check the things their friends post, they just take it as given - hence the new method to get people to post is "don't share, but copy and paste this status to your own status and post."  Sharing allows people to see where the post originated.  It becomes less personal, and easier to ignore when it's your friend's sister's son's roommate.  But your friend wouldn't lie, would they?  Not knowingly, anyway.  But then, would your friend check the validity of their friend's status update?  In many cases, no.  So be a good friend and check before you post.

How do I do that?Google is your friend (or other preferred search engine.)  Find a piece of information in the post that you can use to search.  Let's use the one above as an example.  Let's try the term "Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this." in Google.  The first thing we'll notice is a lot of sites like Snopes, Facecrooks, Hoax-Slayer, etc...  I like Snopes, and hit that link.  Immediately I find similar messages like the one above, and the explanation that it is indeed a hoax.  Let your friend that posted it know so they can delete the post, and don't pass it on.  Be a good friend.

So, what can you do about what you post?

Here's some quick and dirty tricks to keep you safer on Facebook:

  1. Don't be foolish - don't post what you wouldn't want people to see.
  2. If you have something private to share with a friend, private message them.
  3. If you want your group of friends to see something, but not the public, make sure you post only to your friends.  This can be a smaller subset of your friends by making a "close friends' list and posting only to them.
  4. Don't post stuff you don't want people to see.
  5. Don't post cellphone numbers, or other personal information that you might not want getting around to a large group of people.
  6. Use discretion when posting photos.

    Hopefully this will help you understand how to protect your privacy better.  Setting your  user account settings to limit who can view and interact with your profile is a good start, especially if you have privacy concerns.  Limiting what you post is always the best way to protect yourself and your privacy.  Let's face it, Facebook is a social platform made to let you tell your friends, or the world, what you are doing.  If you don't like that thought, then maybe Facebook isn't for you and you're best not to join.

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