Who Can Read What on Facebook?


Question:

“Patricia, I’m still unclear how Facebook works. For example, I’m a ‘friend’ with a former high school classmate. But, not a friend with other classmates who are his friends on FB. Now, can they, if I write on his wall or the general wall, be able to read my notes to him and the rest. Just exactly, who can read whose notes. Can everyone here that are my friends read all the notes of [my peers]?”

Answer:

I’ve been working on this one for a couple weeks now. I have read a LOT about Facebook privacy issues & management (as in obscene quantities of reading about it). I have looked at how other people explain this, but didn’t see anything really simple enough to do what I wanted and make it crystal clear. I pondered diagrams and graphics and sketches etc. While I was pondering, someone else did what I was thinking of, probably better than I would have. So now I have three things to say.

1. Take a look at the website Your Open Book, and check out how public your words are on Facebook. Test it by searching for a few relatively quirky, interesting or unique words in something you’ve said on Facebook in the previous few minutes.

Your Open Book: http://youropenbook.org/

2. Take a look at this by Paul Adams from Google.

3. Learned the lesson? #3a is don’t post anything on Facebook you wouldn’t want repeated to your mother AND your boss AND your best friend AND your worst enemy. Hopefully, private messages and chat was safer, but I’m not 100% sure. #3b is that this is true for basically everything online. If you don’t want it repeated, say it face-to-face away from microphones. #3c is to assume that people of all sorts can see what you say, what you do, and remember the reverse – Facebook might imply things that aren’t true about other people you know also. I talked with one woman about her privacy settings because Facebook said she was playing games at work. It turned out she NEVER plays games, loathes them, but her friends played games. Because the friend’s activity showed up in her stream, Facebook had her show up in my stream as someone playing games. Oh. Not so. A grain of salt can go a long way.

If you say something that could be awkward in some circles (as we all do at one time or another) figure you might be called to account to explain it. When that happens, apologize quickly and sincerely, and then give your explanation of the missing context or misunderstood intent or whatever it is you need to say. If you are looking for a private chat space with friends or lovers, a safe place to vent about the job or boss or significant other, go out for coffee or a drink with a friend.

Keep it light online.

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