Most people recognize that despite the various options Facebook provides, the site is not for people who cherish their privacy. Recent media stories have highlighted the plight of individuals who have discovered some of the loss-of-privacy pitfalls that the majority of us don’t consider. One story was about a young woman who was outed to her family when her choir, whose members are gay, included her in its Group postings. Although Facebook continues to change and add to its privacy settings, it is important to know that despite your personal privacy settings, you don’t have control over what might show up on your own Timeline.
There are three ways other people’s postings show up on your Timeline without your prior approval.
Photos are the most common postings made by others that might pop up on your Timeline. You have no real recourse here, so the best defense is prevention. When the party gets crazy and the cameras come out, it’s well past time to leave. If someone does post a photograph of you, it’s not yours to remove if you don’t like it. If it is just not a flattering shot, that’s one thing; but if it could damage your reputation, that’s more serious. Your only recourse is to ask the photographer to take it down. If it is offensive in any way, report it to Facebook.
Along with photos go taglines. When someone loads a picture on Facebook, the site makes it very easy to tag (name) the people shown in the shot. When the individual posting the photo tags someone, the picture shows up on that person’s Timeline. Again, if you are the lucky subject, you might be featured in a photo that you don’t want out in the public arena. Facebook has a tag review option that gives you the chance to review the photo before it shows up on your Timeline; however, you will be tagged in the photo on the photographer’s Timeline as well as any other individuals who are tagged in the same shot.
Any Facebook friend can decide to form a Group and add Facebook friends to it. So any one of the members of your painting group, your bridge club, your volleyball team or any other organization can decide to form a group and if you are a Facebook friend, make you a member. Facebook adds you to the Group without asking your approval first. Groups can be private or public. When a Group is public, your friends might be notified that you are a member of the Group. Here is where the recent media stories kicked in, outlining how a young woman’s family relationships were harmed by such a situation. Public Groups also allow any of its members’ friends to access the messages and conversation between members.
Even if we have nothing to hide, most of us like to think we have control over what goes on our Facebook Timeline. It is worth remembering that despite those privacy controls, we don’t. Social media continues to evolve and so do the privacy options that govern it. There probably never will be a foolproof network. In the interim, it pays to befriend on Facebook only those people we really know and trust – and to check those privacy options frequently for updates.