Facebook Privacy: the Myth, the Changes, the Confusing Privacy Settings

I’ll admit I am powerless over Facebook. I don’t think my life has yet become unmanageable because of it, but they seem to change their privacy settings enough to freak people out, a lot.

More than half of social networking site users (58%) say their main profile is set to private so that only friends can see it.*

Pew - Social Media Privacy Survey - 2012

So what’s is all about? Can you really separate church and state from Google?

I’d say the answer is mixed.

I am definitely one of those people who have their Facebook privacy settings at Friends Only. And I have continued to shave down my “friends” to people I actually have conversations with. And I HOPE the privacy settings on Facebook are reliable. Let me explain.

  • I like to curse. Many clients, or potential clients, for my social media consulting practice would not appreciate that stylistic irreverence.
  • I’m aggressively progressive when it comes to politics. But don’t look for those opinions on my blog. You could determine that if you examined my tweets, but it’s primarily retweeting funny stuff Andy Borowitz posts.
  • I share some stuff about my family on facebook that I would not (at least no longer) blog about.

So with those three things in mind, it’s a good idea, in my opinion, to have my Facebook privacy settings under scrutiny. Why alienate 50% of my potential client base with a single “over-the-top” moment of sharing.

That’s all fine and good. And *for now* Facebook is still a walled garden and does not allow Google Search to penetrate it’s flimsy security walls. But are there other ways for people to get inside your private social sharings on Facebook? (I’d really like someone to help me understand this question. If you have ideas and answers, I’d like to hear from you.)

And it all cracks wide open when a major client asks to *friend* you during negotiations. Of course, it’s their right, and of course I’m going to say YES. Social media is my business, if I can’t show you what I’m doing on Facebook, even my personal rants, I’m probably not doing something right. And so I said yes. And we share some things between us, we ReTweet and LIKE stuff. And thus far we’re “in business.”

But I did scour my pre-timeline Facebook account to make sure I did rant “over the line.” I had a moment of hesitation. A moment of *what if* they see this and don’t give me the business.

And the real answer is, the business can be withdrawn at any time. So…  In fact, these days, I’m more likely to accept your LinkedIN request than a Facebook request. And occasionally I go through my friends and jettison those people I’ve never heard from, or don’t really “know.” And then I make some silly comment about how I’m so glad that I still have them as friends: the ones who are still friended on Facebook.

What’s your experience with privacy settings? Do you lurk rather than participate because you are worried about where your LIKE or comment might end up?

So I wonder, as about 70% of Facebook users merely LURK and do not comment or like or participate, is privacy the issue? What keeps you quiet on social networks? Are you shy or afraid of where your information might end up?

UPDATE 3-4-12: The UK’s Telegraph has an interesting piece about Facebook’s anemic moderating process.

The dark side of Facebook
But maybe disgruntled commuters, old schoolfriends and new mothers will think twice before sharing intimate information with their “friends” – only to find that two minutes later it’s being viewed by an under-vetted, unfulfilled person on a dollar an hour in an internet café in Marrakech.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

Source: Pew Social Media Privacy Survey, 2012

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