Facebook 110: Protecting Privacy in Facebook

In “What’s Wrong with this Picture?” I made an analogy that relates to a situation I think is all too common: people who express anxiety about their privacy in Facebook, but who haven’t taken advantage of the privacy protections Facebook offers.

It’s like playing goalie in the National Hockey League without a mask, and then complaining about facial injuries.

So in this course I’m going to provide a step-by-step process for using Facebook’s privacy settings to accomplish your objectives in using the site, while also giving you comfort that you are limiting access to your personal data.

I’m trying a little different approach this time, in that I am embedding slides with the graphics, but instead of an audio track or a video to accompany, I’m using text with links to narrate each slide. You may want to consider opening another window so you can have one showing the slides while you scroll through the text narration in the other. (Open another copy of this post). I would also recommend you open a third window and sign in to Facebook, so you can apply settings on your personal profile as you learn by switching among the three windows.

Slide 1: As per my analogy, this is a shot of former NHL goalie Gump Worsely, sans mask, with a puck hurtling toward his face. In the next 9 slides I will show you how to adjust your personal protections to avoid a similar problem in Facebook.

Slide 2: To adjust your privacy settings, just go under your Account tab in the upper right corner of your Facebook profile. Or you can just click this link. At the top of the page you will see a message that describe the kinds of information that are available to everyone, along with a link that lets you modify some other elements everyone can see by default. Click that View Settings link.

Slide 3: On this slide you see the basic settings for what the half-billion plus users of Facebook get to see on your profile. You will see rationale for each element, and why you would want to make that information available.

Slide 4: For each of the types of information, you can decide to limit access. You can limit to your networks, to your friends and networks, to friends of friends, or friends only. Then if you click the Preview my Profile button in the upper right, you will see something like the next slide.

Slide 5: This is how a most people see my profile on Facebook. Yours would look somewhat different if you decide to limit access to one or more categories of information. But the point is, you can click the Preview my Profile button to see what you’re making available. And if you don’t like it, you can change it.

Slide 6: Now, going back to your main privacy settings page, let’s look at some of the other information you can share or choose to restrict. This slide shows the categories of information, and highlights that if you choose  the Everyone option it will all be available to the world. I don’t recommend that.

Slide 7: The next broad option, Friends of Friends, makes several items available to people who are friends with people who are your friends, while leaving other categories (such as your contact information) only open to your friends.

Slide 8: If you choose Friends Only, you can limit access to this information to only those you have accepted as friends.

Slide 9: These are the settings Facebook recommends. I personally think they are pretty reasonable for most people, but the key is you get to decide just how much of a mask you want to wear.

Choose whichever of the basic frameworks you think is closest to what you want, and then hit the Apply These Settings button.

This is the end of the first course in the Protecting Privacy series on SMUG. In the next course, we’ll look at further customizing your mask.

Facebook Star Chamber

I got an unwelcome notice when I signed in to Facebook Monday night:

The help link didn’t live up to its billing. Since I knew I wasn’t guilty of posting videos that were hateful, graphic, or attacking an individual or a group (although I occasionally take a poke at Green Bay Packers fans), I was only left to surmise that the problem must have been with a musical soundtrack I had added to highlights of my daughter’s high school basketball games.

So to avoid being banished from Facebook without trial or even explanation, a la Star Chamber, I removed every video that had even a hint of recorded music.

I understand that Facebook is dealing with millions of videos, and that disposing of reported violations as quickly as possible is important.

It would help if they would provide at least the title of the video that had been removed, or if they would check a box as to which of the terms they had judged were violated.

It’s fine for Facebook staff to be judge, jury and executioner on alleged video violations; it’s their site, and it’s free to use. But providing at least marginally helpful feedback on the nature of the charges would help prevent future problems.

So…I’m assuming the problem was with a video I had uploaded to this group three years ago.

If I was wrong, I might become (in Facebook at least) like the guy on the right in this photo:

…although it’s harder to disappear without a trace these days…

SMUGgles know I’m about as big a fan as Facebook has. I just wish they would provide more clarity when problems are reported.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Meet Gump Worsely, who played goalie in the National Hockey League.

Gump was famous for playing without a mask and helmet long after almost everyone else in pro hockey had adopted this protection. Slap shots would fly at his face at speeds often exceeding 100 miles per hour, but as Wikipedia says (so we know it must be true!), he told reporters he went without a mask because, “My face is my mask.”

I guess it was his choice, as he was grandfathered in and didn’t have to follow the new rule.

I think of Gump when I hear people complain or express anxiety about their privacy in Facebook. One of the things I want to ask them is…

Did you remember to put on your mask and helmet?

Facebook has extensive built-in privacy protections that you can control. And next week I’m going to have a course to show you how to configure your settings according to your preferences. You can go to your Facebook privacy settings to start exploring right now, if you’d like.

On an interesting side note, I discovered this other side of Gump in my extensive Wikipedia-based research for this post:

Worsley was also well known for his fear of flying. He suffered a nervous breakdown in the 1968–69 season after a rough flight from Montreal’s Dorval Airport to Chicago on November 25 en route to Los Angeles, and received psychiatric treatment and missed action as a result. It is said that when he came out of retirement to play for the North Stars he was assured that, as Minnesota was in the central part of the continent, the team traveled less than any other in the league.

Air travel was significantly less risky than having high-speed projectiles shot at his unprotected face. Yet Gump’s fears didn’t match the comparative risks of the two activities.

Next week we’ll work at easing any fears you might have about your privacy in Facebook.

Still think Facebook is a Fad?

If you are dealing with skeptics questioning whether social networking is worthwhile for your organization, maybe this post (and the Washington Post article that inspired it) will help you make your case.

From yesterday’s Washington Post:

In 2010, Facebook pushed past Google to become the most popular site on the Internet for the first time, according to two Web tracking firms. The title caps a year of rapid ascent for Facebook in which the social network hit 500 million users and founder Mark Zuckerberg was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. It also marks another milestone in the ongoing shift in the way Americans spend their time online, a social change that profoundly alters how people get news and interact with one another – and even the definition of the word “friend.”

“This is the most transformational shift in the history of the Internet,” said Lou Kerner, a social-media analyst with Wedbush Securities and former chief executive of Bolt.com, an early networking site. “We’re moving from a Google-centric Web to a people-centric Web.”

According to Experian Hitwise, Facebook jumped to the top spot after spending last year in third place and the year before ranked ninth. The company found that 8.9 percent of unique online visits were to Facebook this year, compared with Google’s 7.2 percent. Meanwhile, ComScore, another firm that calculates Web traffic, said Facebook is on track in 2010 to surpass Google for the first time in number of pages viewed. Each unique visit to a site can result in multiple page views….

Another interesting element from the story is the comparison of market valuations, which pegs Facebook at $45 billion, roughly a quarter of Google, despite the search giant having more than 20 times Facebook’s revenue.

This reminds me of a post I did three years ago, in which I said Facebook was worth more than the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Cubs, the Los Angeles Times and YouTube…combined.

Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and their Microsoft (MSFT) colleagues had given Facebook this $15 billion valuation, buying 1.6 percent of Facebook stock for $240 million.

This seemed like an outlandish valuation at the time, even before the 2008 economic meltdown sent the prices of everything crashing.

Facebook still isn’t publicly traded, but the latest figures suggest it has tripled in value in just over three years.

And now it’s the most-trafficked site on the Web, adding nearly a million users a day.

It has about 8 percent of the world’s population among its regular users.

If your organization’s work involves interacting with humans, Facebook is definitely worth your time and attention.

If you’ve got one of these…

…why would you not get a Facebook page for your business or organization?

Here are four reasons why a Facebook page is better than a Yellow pages ad, and why it’s not even a close call.

  1. A Yellow Pages ad is expensive. A Facebook page is free.
  2. A Yellow Pages ad typically has a distinctive cast that suggests jaundice. Color is even more expensive. Your organization’s logo (or other photo) goes on your Facebook page in full-color for free.
  3. A Yellow Pages ad is limited to text and maybe a photo or two. A Facebook page can have unlimited photos, not to mention videos. (Well, I guess I did just mention videos.)
  4. A Yellow Pages ad reaches a limited geographic market. Anyone in the world can see your Facebook page, except for citizens of repressive political regimes or employees or corporate regimes with a blocking philosophy.

I could go on, talking about how on Facebook your best customers can interact with you and share the love with their friends, while a Yellow pages ad is static. And how the paper directories can get lost on a snowy doorstep (at least here in the frozen tundra.)

I’m certain those with a proprietary interest in Yellow Pages (or Yellow Book, or whatever post Ma Bell-breakup variety you have in your area) would be quick to point out how they also have online directories as part of their package.

But that misses the point. The yellows used to have monopolies when people were looking for a particular category of service. It was expensive to produce a paper directory and deliver to every household in an area.

Now with Yelp and Angie’s List and countless other similar sites, it’s easy for potential customers to get information (including contact phone numbers) for local service providers.

And don’t forget local search in Google.

My point is not to run down the yellow directories, or to say you shouldn’t use them. That’s a call you have to make. Maybe they work for you, and should be part of your mix. If their publishers are doing their jobs well, they should be continually adding features to improve their value proposition.

But if you’re spending substantially for Yellow Pages, why wouldn’t you use the free option, too?