A Facebook cautionary tale

facebook-no-apto-para-padresI think that most everybody has a love-hate relationship with Facebook, undoubtedly the world’s most popular social network. Gosh, a major movie has been made about it! But in amid the positive utility value of keeping in touch with friends and family near and far, it just seems like day after day, Facebook just gets more skeevy.

Some time ago, I worked on a list of what I called the “Axioms of the Internet.” Since I’m reorganizing my file library, I’m sure it’s somewhere. The first of my Axioms was this: There is no such thing as Internet privacy. Yep, Internet privacy joins the list of oxymoronsjumbo shrimpmilitary intelligence, a just war, or a genuine imitation.

A link was shared by a connection of mine on the site (who’s also a friend and colleague of mine) about the latest Facebook scam: those pages that share current Internet memes, random questions, or a post that tugs at one’s hartstrings. It all seems benign and harmless, right? Don’t bet on it. (George Takei’s page, however, is an exception.)
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Facebook oversharing

Chalk this one up in the list of things that Facebook is encouraging: oversharing information for all to see.

Chalk this one up in the list of things that Facebook is encouraging: oversharing information for all to see.

Facebook’s revamped profiles to be timelines. The idea is that the Facebook timeline is an annotated biography of your life complete with links to people, pictures, and more information than should be shared.

There’s one big issue with Facebook’s new timeline feature that I see that I don’t think has been explored too much: no matter what your existing privacy settings are for other content, your privacy settings for adding in your life events (e.g. jobs, relationships, where you live, etc.) is set to “public.”

Here’s a screen capture of the prompt to add a life event:

If you can’t read the annotation on the screen capture, this is what I said: “Here’s where you change things. Bear in mind that there is no Facebook global setting to limit the privacy/visibility of your life events. If you want to restrict who can see what, you’ll have to change it ON EACH ITEM.”

This is my big beef with Facebook. The default privacy setting for new content, it seems, is “public.” People don’t necessarily check permissions settings (in a rush to share things) and so stuff that might be intended to be seen only by a handful of individuals ends up  being shared with the whole world. I don’t know if this is an oversight or something that Facebook’s doing by design. Whatever it is, it’s annoying.

That leads me to my First Axiom of The Internet: Anything you post online (be it on a social media site, a forum posting, or a site that requires a login) will end up being shared with more people than you originally intended.

Just keep that in mind the next time you’re going to post something.