Hoax doesn’t protect your Facebook privacy

At least two of my friends have posted this status update on Facebook over the past 24 hours. They request that I follow a set of instructions to protect their photos.

Hello to all of you who are on my list of contacts of Facebook. I haven’t wanted to do this, but after finding all of my photos located on another site, I would like to ask a favor of you…. You may not know that Facebook has changed its privacy configuration once again. Thanks to the new “Graphic app”, any person on FB anywhere in the world can see our photos, our “likes” and our “comments”. During the next two weeks, I am going to keep this message posted and I ask you to do the following and comment “DONE”. Those of my friends who do not maintain my information in private will be eliminated from my list of friends, because I want the information I share with you, my friends, to remain among my friends and not be available to the whole world. I want to be able to publish photos of my friends and family without strangers being able to see them, which is what happens now when you choose “like” or “comment”. Unfortunately we cannot change this configuration because FB has made it like this.
1. So, please, place your cursor over my photo that appears in this box (without clicking) and a window will open.
2. Now move the cursor to the word “Friends”, again without clicking and then on “Settings”.
3. Un-check “Life Events” and “Comments and Like”. This way my activity with my family and friends will no longer be made public.
4. Now, copy and paste this text on your own wall (do not “share” it!). Once I see it published on your page, I will un-check the same

Don’t fall for this hoax

Many people in both cases are doing as requested. But I’m not. And you shouldn’t either. Why? In short, it’s an internet hoax according to Snopes.com and many other credible sources.

Also beware of the other variations of this hoax.

Clues it’s a hoaxFacebook Graph Search options

  • Which site did they find their pictures on? They didn’t find their pictures on any other site. They are just cutting and pasting the status update as requested but the wording makes it look to their friends like it happened to them.
  • There’s no such thing as a “Graphic App.” Facebook has introduced a “Social Graph” search or “Graph Search” which makes it easier to search for information but only information that you make available to someone.

Following the instructions doesn’t protect your photos

The instructions don’t protect your protect your photos. In fact, they don’t protect any of your content.

What you are being asked to do tells Facebook that you don’t want to see your FB friend’s status updates classified as “Life Events” or when they “Like” a status update or “Comment on one.”

If you lose the latter two kinds of updates, you’ll lose an important part of what makes Facebook interesting and “social.” More importantly, if you repeat the request your “likes” and “comments” won’t go to your friends which is probably something that you like and wouldn’t wan to end.

Following these instructions will make your Facebook experience more solitary and less social.

Steps to protect your future Facebook content

Choose your audience

You are in control of who can see your Facebook content. You don’t need to ask your friends to do anything to protect it.

When you post an update including photos, you can choose the audience who can see it.Facebook post privacy settings

  • One choice is “Public” where anyone can see it. Some content is best made public. If I post one of my blog posts on my personal timeline, I want it to be public to spread it as wide as possible. No sense protecting it since it’s already public. There is probably other content you share that is ok to be public. In fact,if you want to help a charity that is collecting coats to give to people with limited income, you probably want to have that shared publicly.
  • One choice is “Friends” makes content so your FB Friends can see it. This choice is good for anything that you might not want to be searchable by Google or other search engines. Maybe you want to share a poor donor relations experience with your FB friends but not the world. But this choice doesn’t limit it to only your FB friends. If someone is tagged in a photo or comments on your post, it may be seen by their friends depending upon what those person’s privacy settings are and whether Facebook’s algortihm thinks they might be interested.
  • One choice is “Friends but not Acquaintances” which limits sensitive content. Some of your FB friends may be more casual friends (aka acquaintances). you can choose not to show them more personal content. For example, I prefer (mostly) to share photos of my kids only with my friends and family but not acquaintances. There may be other updates such as personal highs or lows that you’d prefer to keep to a closer group of people.

To classify a FB friend as an aquaintance, go to their timeline and hover over the “Friend” box. You’ll get a list of options that includes “Aquaintance.” Want to make many friends acquaintances? Go to your friend list. The “Friend” box will be beside each of their photos and you can hover on it and change their status. P.S. You can also make someone a “Close Friend” which isn’t an audience option but does mean that you’ll get alerts anytime they post on Facebook.

Review your privacy settings

Your privacy settings are another way you can control who sees your content. When “Social Graph” search also known as “Graph Search” was introduced, there were some legitimate privacy concerns. But when I followed those instructions, I found that my settings were already set the way I preferred. So if you’ve stayed on top of your privacy settings, you’re likely ok. If it’s been awhile, you may want to review them. Here’s a good set of instructions to use to guide you.

In addition, here’s three great tips from Facebook on Search Privacy.

Should you trust Facebook to protect your privacy?

No. Don’t trust Facebook or any other online tool or service to protect your privacy.

Just recently Facebook made it next to impossible for anyone to stop themselves from being searchable by their name. For some of us that level of privacy was just a preference but for victims of violence against women that could put their safety and life at risk.

You need to take responsibility for what you share and who can see what you share. Be sure to take a moment to ask if whether you’d like your mother to see it or have it appear on a billboard or the front page of a newspaper.

Stay on top of your privacy settings. You should know what your privacy settings are and check them regularly. Unfortunately, services like Facebook are becoming increasingly complicated and take a high level of commitment to protecting your privacy.

But if living life online means exchanging a certain level of privacy for benefits such as having a social experience. If you’re uncomfortable with what that means for any tool or service, don’t use it.

Just make sure you are making informed decisions and don’t get taken in by a hoax.