Anything You Say on Facebook Can & Will Be Used Against You in a Court Of Law
Facebook may seem like a harmless hobby, but make no mistake: The blunders you post on the site can come back to haunt you.
In March, a Michigan man was charged with polygamy after he shared photos from his second marriage on Facebook. The wedding was a surprise to his first wife, from whom he was separated, but not divorced.
More recently, a Virginia court fined a widower and his attorney a combined $722,000 after trying to pull a fast one on the legal system. After a truck overturned and killed his wife, the widower filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the trucker and his employer. But when the defendant asked for a copy of the widower’s Facebook page as part of their discovery request, the widower and his lawyer deleted the widower’s account instead of producing it. (The offending page apparently showed the widower holding a beer while wearing a t-shirt that read “I [heart] hot moms.”)
With increasing frequency, people are finding that their Facebook posts can be used against them in the court of law.
A Lot of Incriminating Evidence
Facebook has more than 800 million active users—and, on average, they upload 250 million pictures a day to the site. There are no estimates on how many of those pictures people regret uploading, but you can be sure it’s more than a few. The photos taken after a few too many drinks, the pictures that show people engaged in dangerous or even illegal behavior…anyone who’s been on Facebook for a while has seen those images.
But it’s not just the pictures that can get you in trouble. Maybe you’ve testified in court you were in one place at a particular day and time, but your Facebook page shows you checked in elsewhere. Maybe your child custody agreement limits how far you can travel with your kids, but you post a status update telling friends you’re taking them to Disneyland and their father can’t stop you. Maybe you’re asking for a no-fault divorce but there’s evidence on Facebook to suggest you were having an affair before separating from your spouse.
There are all sorts of ways in which Facebook can get you in legal trouble, or be used against you in a court case.
Mind Your Ps & Qs
At the California family law firm of Heath-Newton LLP, lawyers say that it’s more and more common for social networking sites to be used as evidence in divorce and child custody cases.
“We advise all of our clients to take the following five steps with their social media, particularly in child custody matters,” says Erik W. Newton, a partner at the firm. “Change all of your passwords so that your spouse or ex cannot log into your account. Double-check your security settings so that only friends can view your page (not friends of friends), and so that you are notified when someone tags a photo of you. Remove any unsavory or questionable photos, especially those depicting alcohol consumption or parties. Remove your Wall completely so that other Facebook friends cannot leave undesirable comments on your page. And emphasize pictures of your children.”
But locking down the security settings on your Facebook account isn’t always enough.
If, during the legal discovery process, the other side asks for access to your social networking accounts, you’re required the supply the information intact—preserved in the same state it appeared when you got the request (or even had reason to believe you might have gotten the request).
And make no mistake—it’s not just Facebook accounts that are cause trouble. Newton says judges are even starting to order couples to swap passwords for their online dating sites.
A recent Forbes article tells the tale of a divorcing Connecticut couple who was forced to exchange the log-in information for their Facebook, Match and EHarmony accounts.
According to the husband’s lawyer, his client had seen some possibly incriminating evidence on a shared computer that gave him reason to believe his soon-to-be-ex-wife might not be a fit parent for full custody of their children. The wife reportedly complied, but not before allegedly asking a friend to log onto her accounts and deleted some message. Needless to say, the judge apparently wasn’t pleased.
Remember when accounting firm Arthur Andersen got in trouble because it shredded evidence in the Enron scandal? Deleting or editing your online activity if you know it’s could be used against you in a lawsuit is no different. In other words, don’t expect to be able to clean up your act after the fact.
Jennifer E. King co-authors the Lawyers.com blog.
Additional Information on Lawyers.com:
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The question of what pictures we can use on a website comes up often. Here is a good article on when you can take pictures for your own use.
Know Your Rights: Photography in Public
Nearly every modern phone has a camera attached to it and subsequently more and more people are taking photos in public places than ever before. The shot might be as simple as snapping a picture of a parade or as tricky as recording video of a riot. Regardless of the reasons, the rules for photographing in public places are the same.
For the most part, your right to take photographs and video in public places in the United States is protected under the First Amendment under free speech. This includes snapping pictures of your favorite monument when you’re on vacation or taking part in a little citizen journalism. It’s not as cut and dried as you may think and it’s good to know your rights and the caveats that come with them.
The General Rule: If You Can See It You Can Shoot It
Your basic right is actually pretty simple: if you’re in a public place and you can see it, you can shoot it. This means as long as you’re in a public location you can legally take almost any picture. However, if you’re using a telephoto lens, parabolic microphone, or hidden camera to get a shot of a private property when you’re standing on public property you might have an issue if someone on that property has an expectation of privacy. So, what constitutes a public place? Most places are obvious, a park, a street, a soccer field—these are unquestionably legal places to take pictures of anything happening. But what about all those Instagram photos of food you’ve taken inside a business? That’s a little different.
Generally if a private property is open to the public (like a restaurant, retail store, tourist areas, etc) you are allowed to take photographs and video unless it is expressly posted somewhere on the premise that you can’t. In most cases it’s okay to assume you’re allowed to take pictures and video in a shop that doesn’t expressly forbid it. However, if a property owner (or store employee) tells you to stop, you have to stop. More importantly, use good judgement and assess the situation and environment before snapping pictures.
This also goes for citizen journalism. If you see an accident you want to record, public servant misconduct, or even TSA checkpoints, you can do so as long as you’re not interfering with police or medical operations. As far as the Department of Justice is concerned you’re also allowed to shoot video or still shots of police officers provided they’re on public land. Videotaping police officers is still a tricky situation without a concrete ruling, but the courts have leaned toward protecting your right to film officers. Photo by Christopher.
Where and When You Get Into Trouble
As with most laws you’ll find some exceptions to the rules. Photographing on any clearly marked private property is considered trespassing. As for public government property you’re mostly okay, however you cannot take photos of most military bases or inside most courthouses. A few other big caveats exist as well.
Just because some places are public doesn’t make them legal for photography. For instance, a bathroom is a public place, but people have an expectation of privacy in the bathroom, so photos are typically not a good idea. This is also the case with anywhere else people might expect privacy, including inside places like AA meetings or doctor’s offices.
The same goes for photos of people in a private space where they have an expectation of privacy, even if you’re on public property. So, if you can see in your neighbor’s window from the sidewalk while they’re showering, you can’t take that picture, even though you’re on public property (and you might want to tell your neighbor to close their curtains). The general rule is basically if you didn’t want someone covertly taking a picture of you in a semi-private place, it’s probably not a good idea to take your own picture. These rules may vary from state to state, so check local laws before you’re labeled a “peeping tom.” If you do get caught taking a photo you shouldn’t or if you’re accused of taking taking an illegal picture when you’re in the clear your response should be about the same. Photo by Julian Stallabrass.
What To Do If Someone Says You’re Trespassing
First up, the easy answer when you’re accused of trespassing: if you walk onto clearly marked private property without permission you’re trespassing and you should stop taking pictures and leave. If an employee or security guard tells you to stop taking pictures because you’re on private property, stop taking pictures. Things get tricky here, if no signs are posted saying you can’t take photos but it’s a public area, you’re technically allowed, but it’s up to you if it’s worth the trouble to haggle over the details with a security guard. You likely have the right, but if you’re questioned directly you should seek legal counsel.
Regardless of whether you’re in the right or wrong, no one is allowed to take your camera away from you in a public place. Even if you’re trespassing, the property owner and the police cannot have your camera (or film or SD card) without a court order. Which brings us to the last caveat, publishing or uploading photos online. Photo by Dru Bloomfield.
Pay Attention to Where and What You Upload Online
Your rights for taking photographs don’t stop when the picture is snapped. If you place those photos online or sell them the situation changes. While you have the right to take pictures almost anywhere, publishing certain photos might get you in trouble in civil courts. Thankfully, the distinction is pretty clear.
You can’t use someone’s likeness for commercial purposes without their express permission. This means you can’t take a picture in a public place with recognizable faces and then sell it to Coca-Cola or a stock photo company (you can, however sell them to news organizations or use them for art). The same goes for many famous landmarks and some National Parks. You can freely shoot the photos, but selling them for commercial purposes may require a permit or additional fee.
You also can’t publish a photo that paints a person in a false light. For instance, if you took a picture of me fake-punching Stephen Hawking with the caption: “Taken moments before Thorin punched Stephen Hawking in the face,” I would probably want to take you to civil court (assuming I didn’t actually punch Stephen Hawking).
Finally, you can’t publish a photo that gives away private information about someone. This includes photos like the aforementioned AA meeting or doctor’s office along with any other situation where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The last concern you should have is your own rights when you publish photos online. Some popular web services like Instagram require you to grant usage permission to Instagram when you upload pictures. This doesn’t mean they get ownership of your photos, but it does mean they can use them any way they like. Other services, like Flickr, allow you to set who can and can’t use your photographs. If you don’t want to sell or make public any of these pictures make sure you’re using a service that leaves all the rights in your hands and be sure to check out Creative Commons for an easy way to license your photos.
In general, the mantra of “If you can see it you can shoot it” will keep you safe from legal prosecution in the United States, but not all countries and states are the same so check out local laws before shooting. Finally, if you feel your rights are violated, seek professional legal advice. You can also print out attorney Bert P. Krages pocket-sized pamphlet so you always have a list of your rights handy.
Disclaimer: the above isn’t meant as professional legal counsel and is meant to help you familiarize yourself with the basics of the laws of photography in public. If you’re unsure whether you are on public or private property your best bet is check before you snap photos. If you’re concerned about a specific case or situation you should contact a lawyer.
Reposted from http://lifehacker.com/5912250/know-your-rights-photography-in-public
Photo by Banalities.
Don’t under estimate the power of social media. I find I use Yelp often especially when traveling. As a business owner it is worth your time an effort to learn about these sites and use them to your advantage. I get asked about #10 on this list all the time, avoid the “The Streisand Effect.” Here is a great list from Todd Wasserman of 10 things you may not have known about YELP.
Next to Google, there’s probably no more important site for small businesses than Yelp. Yet perhaps no other site is as poorly understood. For instance, is it a good idea to encourage your customers to give you good reviews on the site? Does Yelp pay for reviews? How do you go about countering bad reviews?
Since Yelp is such a juggernaut, it’s important to get the facts straight. With that in mind, take a look at these 10 things you may not have known about the service.
1. Most of Its Traffic Is From Its Home Page
You might think that in 2012, most people would be accessing Yelp from their smartphones, but that’s not the case. Sixty percent of searches are from desktops, and the company’s mobile apps are used by about 7 million people. Yelp.com gets 78 million visitors per month. However, like other social media companies, the trend is definitely favoring mobile.
2. Restaurants Aren’t the Biggest Category
Yelp’s biggest category is actually shopping. Shopping reached parity with restaurants in September 2011, but has since surpassed that, says Darnell Holloway, Yelp’s manager of local business outreach. Though Holloway says that perception still lingers; he believes that restaurants have a natural advantage because they get so many customers compared to, say, a dentist. Says Holloway: “If I’m a diner, I’m probably going to see more people coming through the door.”
3. Encouraging Customers to Post Reviews is a Bad Idea
It might seem like closing a sale with “And don’t forget to tell people about your experience on Yelp!” is smart marketing, but Yelp discourages this practice and other forms of review coercion. “We recommend that people focus on awareness rather than asking for reviews,” says Holloway, “because then it becomes an arms race.” But wait, should Yelp want more reviews? After all, more reviews equals more traffic and, in theory, better reviews if you believe in the wisdom of crowds, right? Not according to Yelp. The company believes in quality over quantity. Moreover, “We don’t believe that consumers necessarily want to be seen as a promotional vehicle.”
4. Those ‘People Love Us on Yelp’ Stickers? You’ve Gotta Earn Them
The Yelp sticker pictured above is a genuine accolade designed to be akin to a high Zagat rating. That means that you can’t order a “People Love Us on Yelp” decal for love or money. Instead, the company doles them out twice a year to companies that get overall high ratings.
5. Yelp Provides Free Signage Via Flickr
Though Yelp discourages merchants from bugging customers to write reviews, it is a proponent of more subtle means of persuasion. For instance, the company provides downloadable signage via a Flickr stream. Holloway also recommends putting a Yelp link in your email signature and on your business card.
6. Yelp Has Paid For Reviews in the Past
Though Yelp strives to maintain the purity of its reviews, the company has in the past paid people to write them. CEO Jeremy Stoppelman told The New York Times in 2007 that “there was a time in our earlier days where we experimented with paying for reviews directly in cities outside of San Francisco to help get the ball rolling in our otherwise empty site.” However, the company has not done this for at least four years.
6. Customer Service Appears to Have the Strongest Effect on Reviews
Yelp’s research has found that a customer whose review praises “customer service” is more than five times as likely to give a 5-star review than a 1-star review. Similarly, nearly 70% of those who trash a business’ customer service wind up giving a 1-star review. In a May blog entry on the topic, Yelp featured a word cloud of terms that popped up in positive reviews:
Obviously, it seems to pay to be friendly, nice and helpful.
7. Every Star in a Review Leads to a 5-9% Jump in Revenues
A study by Michael Luca, a professor at Harvard Business School, found that there was a correlation between a high Yelp ranking and revenues. Luca just looked at the restaurant industry in Seattle, but his findings were a ringing endorsement for Yelp. Among other things, it found there were far more Yelp restaurant reviews than there were from Zagat or The Seattle Times.
8. Yelp Tends to Favor Independent Businesses Over Chains
If you’re a McDonald’s franchisee, don’t waste any time worrying about your Yelp reviews. According to Luca’s study, Yelp’s effect on chains is “statistically insignificant and close to zero.” Luca also found that when Yelp penetrates a market, “there is a shift in revenue toward independent restaurants.” This is not by design, but based on the fact that reviewing a McDonald’s in St. Louis is a rather absurd exercise since it will likely be very similar to a McDonald’s in Kalamazoo, Mich., or Newark, N.J.
9. Business Owners Can Dispute Reviews on Yelp
If someone trashes your business on Yelp, you don’t have to sit back and take it. In fact, Holloway recommends business owners go on Yelp and dispute. The reviewers can then answer the business owner if need be.
10. Legal Threats for Bad Reviews Can Trigger ‘The Streisand Effect’
Yelp reviews operate in a grey area between journalism and customer service. If you’re a business owner and see a scathing review that is completely incorrect, you may consider it akin to slander and be tempted to call your lawyer. However, Yelp cautions against this. In an FAQ on its site, Yelp evokes “The Streisand Effect,” in which an action has the unintended consequence of drawing more attention to the problem. (The term got its name from Barbra Streisand, whose attempt to suppress photos of her home backfired.) As Yelp counsels:
“Far from being cowed, recipients will sometimes go public with them as a warning to others not to patronize your business. Second, beware of lawyers who are quick to file lawsuits without telling their clients that it can cost them dearly. Last, take a step back: if you find yourself insisting that a review is obviously untrue, there’s every reason to think that your customers will draw the same conclusion as you. Even if they don’t, Yelp’s review filter is always on the prowl, and it may be able to put enough pieces of the puzzle together over the long-term to filter out the bogus review.”
This is something we have talked to many of our clients about social media the most cost effective advertising and is impossible to ignore
5 Signs Your Small Business Should Be on LinkedIn
1. You Employ 1-50 People
LinkedIn distinguishes companies by many factors, not the least of which is size. As a company presence on LinkedIn, your small business will likely fall into one of two categories: 1-10 employees or 11-50 employees. Not surprisingly, the former category hosts the largest number of small businesses, with 854,000 accounts.
Don’t get discouraged by the “competition,” though. Users will be able to discover your company using LinkedIn’s advanced search tool, which enables users to narrow results by keyword, location, industry and company size, among other metrics.
With that kind of specificity, your business can’t afford to not be on LinkedIn. After all, people are probably already searching for you, or at least for similar companies. It’s an opportunity for visibility that otherwise goes to waste.
2. You Have Something to Say
Share content on LinkedIn by creating updates and company announcements natively on the platform. You can include links to external websites, images and YouTube videos. Once shared, your update will post to the activity feed on your company overview page and to the homepages of LinkedIn members who follow your company.
You can also opt to share blog posts within a widget that lives on your company page. Check out Mashable’s “Recent Blog Posts”, for example: These updates live separately from the aforementioned announcements (which are stored in the activity feed on a page) because they refresh automatically as your blog updates, and will not post to your followers’ homepages.
Like many other social platforms, LinkedIn users and the network itself discourage update spam. That means you shouldn’t overload your followers with excessive, self-promotional content — you’ll lose followers fast.
3. You’re Hiring
LinkedIn is a network for job seekers and professionals. Thus, it makes sense that you would use it to post your latest job openings, whether they’re full-time positions, consultant opportunities or freelance projects.
It’s also a great excuse to open a LinkedIn account if you haven’t done so already. You’ll draw more interest to your page with updates, such as job openings, press announcements and general company news.
You may post an available job to LinkedIn for $295 for a 30-day period. Once posted, these jobs will not only appear in search results, but also in the “Careers” tab on your company page.
4. You Need Advice
Before signing up for a company account, browse the company pages of similar businesses to see how the moderators manage the content and direct the conversation. Learn what type of content shares well, whether it’s blog posts, company announcements or sexy images.
If you have a personal account, find groups that speak to your industry (e.g. Women in New Media or Developer & Technology Professionals) and ask for advice from fellow users on how to create a strategic company presence on LinkedIn.
5. You’re a Non-Profit
Your charity or service organization most definitely has a place within a professional network. In fact, non-profits may enjoy more benefits on LinkedIn than regular companies and, in fact, LinkedIn encourages it.
As a non-profit, you may choose to either create a LinkedIn company page, a group or both. Determine how invested you want to become in the platform, and then create your presence around your goals.
Company pages like charity: water’s are useful for general information, updates, events and job offerings surrounding an organization. But a LinkedIn group page can host richer discussion and engagement, though it requires moderation and management to guide the direction of the group. You may appoint more than one person for the job, but keep in mind that you’ll need to put in some work to make a group truly valuable for your non-profit’s supporters.
Whether for personal or business purposes, how do you use LinkedIn to build your professional network and skills? Share your experiences and tips in the comments.
A client was the first person to alert me to Pinterest so I signed up and I am surprised how many friends have contacted me about it. It is clearly developing into a major social media website.
Here is a good article if you want to learn a little more. http://mashable.com/2012/02/14/pinterest-daily-users-are-up-125-percent/
We have been fortunate to work with a number of Landscaper and maintenance companies. This is a website we built to help improve Garden States internet visibility. Scott is doing his own social media work but we can also help with that. We did add a “Like us on FaceBook” box that also lists all the “Likes” to his FaceBook Page.
Garden State Groundskeeping, Inc. is a full service landscape and maintenance company located in Long Valley, NJ. Our specialty is the beautification of the outside of your home.
Scott Montgomery (client)
- Scott hired you as a Graphic/Web Designer in 2008 and hired you more than once
- Top qualities: Great Results, Personable, Expert
- “Jeff has designed and implemented our website over the past 3 years. He is a great listener who uses his knowledge and insight to build a comprehensive yet simple website for anyone to navigate through. He is to the point and I would recommend him to anyone looking to develop a website or internet marketing plan.” December 22, 2011
Website Design in New Jersey
Having a business that has yet to step foot on the web can be a nerve wracking process, both for the client and the developer. Will the client see a positive impact from our internet marketing strategies? Is their user base tech-savvy enough to interactive and boost the client’s business? Will the client stay active in participation? Fortunately none of these were an issue with one of our latest clients, Lynn’s Home Decor and Gifts.
Building A Successful Website with Social Media
Lynn’s approached Scottidesign about 3 months ago to develop a internet marketing strategy to launch their business into the digital age. We worked directly with the owners to develop a powerful FaceBook campaign as well as a highly customizable WordPress website which they could add content themselves or have us help (CMS). By harnessing the power social media, search engine optimization, and an active newsletter campaign through Constant Contact, Lynn’s has seen a positive impact on their business and community involvement on Facebook.
Website Design and Development
Lynn’s website is focused on their store, showcasing the products they sell as well as more information about the companies who make their products. The website development process was very visual with a lot of pictures of products, an in store gallery, and a page dedicated to the products they sell.
Facebook Marketing Strategy
Facebook played a major role in our overall business strategy, capturing excitement and involving fans. Integration of a Facebook widget on their website, as well as automatically adding content from their website to Facebook helped boost their impact and overall SEO.
Final Website Design & Facebook
Lynn’s Home Decor and Gifts is located in Chester, New Jersey
Interested in a website or social media campaign of your own? Contact us to learn more.
As if we need more proof of the tremendous power and reach of FACEBOOK, it was the most searched term on the internet in 2011 and occupied 4 of the top 10 positions plus Facebook.com was the most visited website in 2011.
Here is an excellent article on the subject written by Todd Wasserman
In another illustration of Facebook‘s top-of-mind status among web surfers, “Facebook” was the most-searched term of 2011, according to Experian Hitwise.
This was the third year in a row that Facebook topped the list. The company’s name accounted for 3.1% of all searches in 2011, a 46% jump over last year, the researcher reports. However, if you take into account four variations of Facebook — Facebook, Facebook.com, Facebook Login and www.facebook.com — the social networking giant’s share of the top 50 searches was 3.48%, an increase of 33%. The four terms also appeared in the top 10:
- 1. Facebook
- 2. YouTube
- 3. Facebook Login
- 4. Craigslist
- 5. Facebook.com
- 6. Yahoo
- 7. eBay
- 8. www.facebook.com
- 9. Mapquest
- 10. Yahoo.com
YouTube, meanwhile, accounted for 1.36% of searches, a 21% increase over last year. Searches for Yahoo were also up 15%.
In a statement from Hitwise, Simon Bradstock, general manager of the researcher, noted that single-word searches rose 11% as consumers got used to predictive search technologies like Google Autocomplete. Bradstock noted that searches for “face” and “you” cracked the top 50 as web surfers let Google and other search engines finish the terms “Facebook” and “YouTube.”
Looking at the most-visited websites, Hitwise gave Facebook more reason to celebrate as Facebook accounted for 10.29% of all website visits, a 15% increase from 2010. Google’s network of websites, excluding YouTube, drew 7.7% of all web visits, a 7% increase. However, if you include YouTube in Google’s ranking, Google bests Facebook with 11.98% of all visits, a 22% jump over last year.
As much fun as Facebook can be, I have always been uncomfortable about going public on line with personal information. Everyone should remember that the world has access to your Facebook pages and the pages of others you post on. I know adults who write letters to the editor in the local newspaper using a pseudonym but tell the world everything about their personal life on Facebook.
There is no need to be paranoid just a little careful, and use common sense. Don’t post you are going out of town for a week and you put your dog in a kennel, post it when you come back. There is no need to remind your college friend, who is now a police officer, of the time he was arrested during spring break 25 years ago.
Facebook is always making changes to their site. Sarah Perez has published an excellent article in the NYTimes to help with your privacy settings
By SARAH PEREZ of ReadWriteWeb
In December, Facebook made a series of bold and controversial changes regarding the nature of its users’ privacy on the social networking site. The company once known for protecting privacy to the point of exclusivity (it began its days as a network for college kids only – no one else even had access), now seemingly wants to compete with more open social networks like the microblogging media darling Twitter.
Those of you who edited your privacy settings prior to December’s change have nothing to worry about – that is, assuming you elected to keep your personalized settings when prompted by Facebook’s “transition tool.” The tool, a dialog box explaining the changes, appeared at the top of Facebook homepages this past month with its own selection of recommended settings. Unfortunately, most Facebook users likely opted for the recommended settings without really understanding what they were agreeing to. If you did so, you may now be surprised to find that you inadvertently gave Facebook the right to publicize your private information including status updates, photos, and shared links.
Want to change things back? Read on to find out how.
1. Who Can See The Things You Share (Status Updates, Photo, Videos, etc.)
Probably the most critical of the “privacy” changes (yes, we mean those quotes sarcastically) was the change made to status updates. Although there’s now a button beneath the status update field that lets you select who can view any particular update, the new Facebook default for this setting is “Everyone.” And by everyone, they mean everyone.
If you accepted the new recommended settings then you voluntarily gave Facebook the right to share the information about the items you post with any user or application on the site. Depending on your search settings, you may have also given Facebook the right to share that information with search engines, too.
To change this setting back to something of a more private nature, do the following:
From your Profile page, hover your mouse over the Settings menu at the top right and click “Privacy Settings” from the list that appears.
Click “Profile Information” from the list of choices on the next page.
Scroll down to the setting “Posts by Me.” This encompasses anything you post, including status updates, links, notes, photos, and videos.
Change this setting using the drop-down box on the right. We recommend the “Only Friends” setting to ensure that only those people you’ve specifically added as a friend on the network can see the things you post.
2. Who Can See Your Personal Info
Facebook has a section of your profile called “personal info,” but it only includes your interests, activities, and favorites. Other arguably more personal information is not encompassed by the “personal info” setting on Facebook’s Privacy Settings page. That other information includes things like your birthday, your religious and political views, and your relationship status.
After last month’s privacy changes, Facebook set the new defaults for this other information to viewable by either “Everyone” (for family and relationships, aka relationship status) or to “Friends of Friends” (birthday, religious and political views). Depending on your own preferences, you can update each of these fields as you see fit. However, we would bet that many will want to set these to “Only Friends” as well. To do so:
From your Profile page, hover your mouse over the Settings menu at the top right and click “Privacy Settings” from the list that appears.
Click “Profile Information” from the list of choices on the next page.
The third, fourth, and fifth item listed on this page are as follows: “birthday,” “religious and political views,” and “family and relationship.” Locking down birthday to “Only Friends” is wise here, especially considering information such as this is often used in identity theft.
Depending on your own personal preferences, you may or may not feel comfortable sharing your relationship status and religious and political views with complete strangers. And keep in mind, any setting besides “Only Friends” is just that – a stranger. While “Friends of Friends” sounds innocuous enough, it refers to everyone your friends have added as friends, a large group containing hundreds if not thousands of people you don’t know. All it takes is one less-than-selective friend in your network to give an unsavory person access to this information.
3. What Google Can See – Keep Your Data Off the Search Engines
When you visit Facebook’s Search Settings page, a warning message pops up. Apparently, Facebook wants to clear the air about what info is being indexed by Google. The message reads:
There have been misleading rumors recently about Facebook indexing all your information on Google. This is not true. Facebook created public search listings in 2007 to enable people to search for your name and see a link to your Facebook profile. They will still only see a basic set of information.
While that may be true to a point, the second setting listed on this Search Settings page refers to exactly what you’re allowing Google to index. If the box next to “Allow” is checked, you’re giving search engines the ability to access and index any information you’ve marked as visible by “Everyone.” As you can see from the settings discussed above, if you had not made some changes to certain fields, you would be sharing quite a bit with the search engines…probably more information than you were comfortable with. To keep your data private and out of the search engines, do the following:
From your Profile page, hover your mouse over the Settings menu at the top right and click “Privacy Settings” from the list that appears.
Click “Search” from the list of choices on the next page.
Click “Close” on the pop-up message that appears.
On this page, uncheck the box labeled “Allow” next to the second setting “Public Search Results.” That keeps all your publicly shared information (items set to viewable by “Everyone”) out of the search engines. If you want to see what the end result looks like, click the “see preview” link in blue underneath this setting.
Take 5 Minutes to Protect Your Privacy
While these three settings are, in our opinion, the most critical, they’re by no means the only privacy settings worth a look. In a previous article (written prior to December’s changes, so now out-of-date), we also looked at things like who can find you via Facebook’s own search, application security, and more.
While you may think these sorts of items aren’t worth your time now, the next time you lose out on a job because the HR manager viewed your questionable Facebook photos or saw something inappropriate a friend posted on your wall, you may have second thoughts. But why wait until something bad happens before you address the issue?
Considering that Facebook itself is no longer looking out for you, it’s time to be proactive about things and look out for yourself instead. Taking a few minutes to run through all the available privacy settings and educating yourself on what they mean could mean the world of difference to you at some later point…That is, unless you agree with Facebook in thinking that the world is becoming more open and therefore you should too.
Note: Other resources on Facebook’s latest changes worth reading include MakeUseOf’s 8 Steps Toward Regaining your Privacy, 17 steps to protect your privacy from Inside Facebook, the ACLU’s article examining the changes, and DotRights.org’s comprehensive analysis of the new settings. If you’re unhappy enough to protest Facebook’s privacy update, you can sign ACLU’s petition. The FTC is also looking into the matter thanks to a complaint filed by a coalition of privacy groups, led by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. You can add your voice to the list of complaints here.
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