Social Evidence

Privacy on Facebook? Yes, Privacy Does Exist on Social Media and YOU are Responsible for the Correct Privacy Settings

POSTED ON February 14, 2017

Facebook Privacy

Why Is Privacy So Important?

By Andy Adkins – My identity was stolen once – not that unusual, but fortunately for me, it was before the social media blitz. I’ll spare you the details, but it was mostly an inconvenience (no money lost, nothing bad happened). But, with today’s Internet of Things, including social media, people’s identities are stolen all the time, either directly or indirectly.

How many of you have received a replacement debit or credit card in the last year or so? That usually means your bank has been hacked or they’ve discovered a potential security breach and to ensure security to their customers, they reissue a different debit or credit card.

How many of you have received a “Facebook friend request” from someone who is already a friend on Facebook? Sometimes you go ahead and click on it, then realize your friend was hacked (what do you do then?) and sometimes you recognize your friend has been hacked and let them know.

How many of you post photographs while you are on vacation… away from your home? How many of your Facebook profiles list the city and state in which you live? If someone you’ve never known called you on the telephone and asked you where you lived and when you’d be gone on vacation, I bet you wouldn’t tell them – hopefully, you’d just hang up the phone. (Hint: this is a tip – don’t post your vacation photos on any social media until after you’ve returned home).

How many of you post an image of your dog… with its name? And, how many of you have a security question for password recovery that asks, “What is the name of your dog?”

What do you really consider private? There’s your, “real” life, and then there’s your “social media site” life. Am I right? With all the potential things that can go wrong, the best way to secure your online privacy is by consciously controlling what you are sharing, with whom are you sharing, and how you’re sharing. Here’s a short list of things that ought to be kept private:

  • Your birth date – it’s ok to share your birthday day, but I would caution your birthday year. Why? Because it’s not that difficult to apply for a credit card—with someone else’s information.
  • Your home address – Is not a good idea, especially when most Internet sites, including Facebook, can “map” your address with the click of a button.
  • Your email address – Of course you need to utilize an email address for Facebook, but if you haven’t done so already, perhaps you should use an email address different than your work email address.
  • Your cell phone number – On the Internet, your cell phone number is a unique identifier specific to you.

It’s also important to realize that it is in Facebook’s best interests (not yours) that everything you post and every image you share remains visible to as many of your friends as possible. That’s one reason why Facebook’s default settings on everyone’s profile are the settings that facilitate as much sharing as possible between friends. Note that in 2014, Facebook changed privacy setting for new users from “Public” to “Friends.”

Researching for this article, I wanted to find out how many people do not use privacy settings on Facebook. The Huffington Post reported in November 2012 that 25% of users on Facebook don’t bother with any kind of privacy control. That’s a lot of “public” and non-protected data all over social media sites.

Some other interesting statistics from Pew Research and reported (2012) by ZoneAlarm, a consumer Internet security company:

  • 11 percent of social network users (not just Facebook) have posted content they regret. Males are almost twice as likely as females to profess regret for posting content.
  • Women are more likely to be more private about their posts. 26% of men are “public” while only 14% of women are. In addition, 48% of men post to “Just Friends” while 67% of women post to “Just Friends.”

Facebook privacy

How Private Is Your Facebook Page?

Simply follow these steps:

  1. Click the “down arrow” in the upper-right corner of any Facebook page.
  2. Select “Settings” from the dropdown menu.
  3. Select “Privacy” on the left.
  4. Click a setting to edit it.
  • Who can see my stuff?
  • Who can contact me?
  • Who can look me up?

Facebook Privacy ‘101

There are four basic privacy settings to think about when using Facebook – they all have to do with whom you want to share your social media.

  • Only me – this is the most private. You can only share things with yourself (unless, of course, you have a dual personality. But if that was the case, then the other you would know what you were going to post before you posted it (think about that).
  • Lists – these are privatized “lists” of friends (i.e., groups of people) that you can share information with. Some of your friends may not appreciate some of your humor as others may.
  • Friends – most common setting (and, Friends of Friends) used on Facebook.
  • Public – this is the least private setting and basically opens up your entire social life to anyone on Facebook.

Also, equally important, is even though you have overall Facebook privacy settings, you can choose a different audience at the time when you post individual messages or photos on your Timeline.

Facebook also provides a “Privacy Checkup.” In the upper right part of the screen, click on the “Lock” (“Privacy Shortcuts”) and click on “Privacy Checkup.” Here you can see your Privacy settings, but more perhaps importantly, you can see the other apps that you’ve used Facebook to log into. Last, but not least, is your “Profile” settings – here you can choose who can see what (Only Me is the most private; Friends is what most people use; Public is, well, Public – this may not be the setting you want).

Facebook Privacy Tips

  1. I’d be tempted to say, “Stay off Facebook” as the number one Tip (as my good friend John Simek tells me), but since we are glued to social media these days, let’s just use the old phrase, “Be aware of your surroundings.”
  2. Understand what you are sharing and to whom. You have the ability to change to whom you share posts and photos, every time you post. If you only want to share something with a few people, then only select those friends.
  3. Facebook periodically “enhances” your privacy setting options, so it’s important to periodically check your own Privacy Settings. You can get to them by clicking on the “lock” in the upper right part of your Facebook page.
  4. Don’t accept unknown friend requests from strangers.
  5. Monitor what your friends are sending and sharing with you and what they post on your timeline. Remember, YOU are in charge.
  6. Understand that people who can see your post can also see the audience you chose to share with: Public, Friends, Only Me, or Custom.

Andy AdkinsAndy Adkins is the Chief Information Officer of Social Evidence, LLC, a leading cloud-based social media collection, organization, authentication, and analytics application. He has been an independent legal technology consultant for more than 25 years, a past chair of the ABA TECHSHOW (2000, 2001) and past co-chair of LegalTech Conferences (2000-2007). He is the author of “The Lawyer’s Guide to Practice Management Systems,” published in April 2009 by the ABA Law Practice Management Section. He can be reached at 352.538.5346,, or


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