Facebook alone has over one billion active monthly users and 13 million of them have never touched their privacy settings, according to recent research done by Marketo. Other disturbing finds from the same study:
- 28% share all, or almost all, of their wall posts with an audience wider than just their friends.
- 11% of Facebook users said that someone else has tried to use their login without their permission.
According to Pew Internet Research (May 2013), teens are sharing more on social media today than they were when the first Pew privacy study was done in 2006:
- 91% post photos of themselves, up from 79% in 2006
- 71% post their school name, up from 49%
- 71% post the city or town where they live
- 53% post their email address, up from 29%
- 20% post their phone numbers, up from 2%
Do these stats show that young people are more confident about their privacy on social media or that they are less concerned? Sixty percent of teens in the same survey said they have their Facebook profiles set to "friends only" and report high levels of confidence in their ability to manage their privacy.
With the addition of Facebook Graph Search, it has never been more important to manage privacy settings in Facebook. Graph Search, introduced in January 2013, allows Facebook users (and advertisers) to search for information about people on Facebook, and the search is populated by information you have shared with the public. All the information in your "About" sections (work history, favorite music, events, liked pages, contact information, and the rest) needs to be privatized if you don't want to show up in a Facebook Graph Search. Check your "About" section and see what's available for public view.
Three Categories of Internet Privacy
There are three basic types of internet privacy behavior:
- Public: Most or all privacy settings are open to public view and are searchable either on Google (depending on the channel) or on Facebook Graph Search.
- Friends/Followers-only: On Facebook and many other channels, this means that you have set your private information to be viewed only by those you approve as friends or followers. Twitter does not have an approval feature for followers other than a locked account.
- Locked Accounts: All privacy settings are shut down, and permission to follow or friend is managed on a case-by-case basis by the user. On Twitter, this means that no one can see your tweets except approved followers, and your tweets cannot be retweeted. However, screenshots are always in the mix.
There are many combinations of the above on social media. It's important to read through the terms of service and visit the privacy settings on every channel.
But for the 13 million who have never touched their privacy settings on Facebook, that means their profile information, status posts, and pictures could all be public. Facebook and other social media platforms make money from advertisers and application developers who want user information to be public. Even though they say your privacy is important to them, it just means they will not override any of your applied settings. They can, however, default some of those options to public in the event that they decide to change certain features.
Diligence is the key to privacy in social media. Subscribe to platform updates and check your privacy settings regularly, especially given the reality that social platforms change frequently.
This is an excerpt from the new book Practice Safe Social by Chris Syme, now available on Amazon.com. The book teaches people how to protect their reputation and prevent a crisis by using social media responsibly.