Protecting Your Info on Facebook


Your guide to maneuvering around all of the privacy settings on Facebook.

Like. Share. Post. Repeat.

Numbers of Facebook users take these actions daily, and in the midst of all the running around on Facebook each user may not even be aware of the information he or she is sharing with the site.

Pew Internet Research reports that about 57 percent of American adults use Facebook. Furthermore, 64 percent of adults use Facebook daily and the reasons for usage sometimes tended to differ between men and women. Women were more likely than men to say they use Facebook for observing photos or learning ways to assist others. Women were equally as likely as men to say receiving comments and updates on news were major reasons for Facebook use. But none of these reasons included “wanting to share my information with Facebook.”

A trip to Facebook’s website tells anyone that users willingly share their name, birthday, gender and email upon registration. And any posts, photos or comments you make are shared information of your choice. Users are also subject to information others share about them and the time and date of some of the photos and videos you choose to share.

Pretty simple right? Like, share my information. Post, sare my information. But not every piece of information you share is quite as simple or limited to posts, photos and comments. I spoke with Tracy Samantha Schmidt, the director of social media strategy at Crain Communications, about some of the questions surrounding Facebook and privacy.

Are Facebook users usually aware of all of the information they share with Facebook? “No. We saw that with the report that Facebook was running psychology tests on users without their permission or knowledge,” explains Ms. Schmidt, referencing the recently discussed Facebook experiment in 2012 in which Facebook used almost 700,000 users without consent.

Facebook data scientists wanted to see whether users’ emotional state could be altered, so they came up with an algorithm, which deleted both positive and negative emotionally affiliated content based on certain words from news feeds. The motivation behind the experiment was the common complaint that users made in regard to seeing wonderful posts about what others were doing and how it made them feel in comparison.

“So nobody is actually aware of what Facebook is doing anymore,” admits Ms. Schmidt. Beyond that, she speaks of tracking cookies (which , if you haven’t logged out of Facebook, track your every move once you leave Facebook). “I think a lot of people still aren’t aware of how cookies work, which is why Congress is pushing a lot of legislation to regulate it.” One such bill, which has been sent to a committee, is the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2014, which focuses mainly on ensuring the privacy of children online.

Despite the threats of tracking cookies and even psychological experiments though, Ms. Schmidt has some advice for maneuvering around Facebook and keeping your information as private as you can.

  1. Stay up to date. Ms. Schmidt says with all of the changes Facebook makes, “it’s pretty hard to keep up with” everything. But it is not impossible. She says is an excellent tool to stay on top of social media news. Paying attention to mainstream media, who usually cover Facebook changes, is another means of trying to stay updated. Lastly, Ms. Schmidt says visiting Facebook’s blog allows users to know the new things Facebook announces.
  2. Take steps on Facebook. If you use Facebook both professionally and socially, make your page private to prevent the sharing of information. Be careful who you friend and make use of the view as function that enables you to see how others view your page. This is useful because some people may want everything visible for a best friend, but not for others.
  3. Beware of hoaxes. Most times, if a hoax is occurring, you will see multiple posts about it or hear about it somehow, Ms. Schmidt says. But still, hoaxes are common…trying to get users to do a certain task with the threat of somehow losing Facebook or their page.

Nevertheless, participating in Facebook does mean surrendering some level of information. But Ms. Schmidt says Facebook is not alone in its data collection, referencing Google who we share more information with than Facebook, according to her.

So can you avoid sharing any information? “It’s pretty hard to avoid it at this point,” admits Ms. Schmidt, “which is why I think we are going to see a lot more lawsuits and a lot more federal legislation to protect us.”

By Bailey Williams


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