Facebook is a useful business tool and a fun place to keep in touch with friends, but having a profile on Facebook also exposes you to a host of privacy risks.
Sharing too much information on Facebook can (and has) led to thefts, tarnished reputations, dismissal, and other unpleasant situations.
Take for example, the seventeen-year-old who had armed thieves arrive at her house after she posted a photo of her grandmother’s savings. Or the Perth property manager who was startled when a tenant rang up and started talking about things that they would only have known by reading through the property manger’s Facebook page.
Using any social media platform involves sacrificing some degree of privacy, so there’s no one easy way to make your Facebook profile “safe”. Instead, you have a few options.
Here are five invaluable tools you can use to take control of your Facebook privacy.
Want to share Facebook posts with some of your friends, but not others? You’re in luck, because Facebook allows you to organise your friends into lists. Add your friends to lists such as ‘Close friends’, ‘Family’, or ‘Acquaintances’ to help you manage your different types of connections.
I’ve learned that one of the lists real estate agents find most useful is the ‘Restricted’ list. By default, Facebook will hide your content from people on the ‘Restricted’ list, unless you’ve shared that content with the public. This is particularly useful for people you barely know, or acquaintances who you have friended out of obligation.
2. Post visibility
Every time you share a post, you have the option to choose who you share it with – whether that’s the public, your friends, or specific people or lists.
Posting a photo of your young children? Just choose to share it with family. Checking in to a work function? You might want to restrict that to your colleagues. Sharing something a little personal? You may want to share it with ‘Friends except acquaintances’.
By restricting the visibility of posts that contain sensitive content, you can greatly reduce your risk of over-sharing.
3. Timeline review
If your Facebook profile is purely for business, having a friend tag you in a drunken photograph is the last thing you want. And if you’re conscious of your privacy, you certainly don’t want someone to reveal your home address to the world by tagging you in a check in at your house.
To avoid these kind of situations, turn on ‘Timeline review’ in your Facebook privacy settings.
Once you do, every post that you’re tagged in will be hidden from your Timeline until you approve it. This option takes a little ongoing effort, but it’s great for avoiding a tarnished reputation and keeping your geographical location to yourself.
4. Search engine visibility
Chances are, your prospective clients Google your name regularly. If you’d like to keep your Facebook profile from appearing on Google and other search engines, change your privacy settings so that ‘Search engine visibility’ is turned off.
This is a great option for people who want to keep Facebook as place for personal expression. Agents who use their profile as a marketing tool, however, will probably want their profile to appear on Google.
5. Common sense
None of these settings will help you much if you decide to publicly announce that you’re leaving the house unguarded for a week, or if you post a rant about your boss to your colleagues! A healthy dash of common sense really is the most important privacy tool of all.
By customising your privacy settings and keeping your audience in mind whenever you share a post or comment, you can enjoy the benefits of Facebook while keeping your safety and reputation intact.
Have you ever had a privacy mishap on Facebook? How do you balance self-promotion and privacy? Hit reply and let me know.
(Image by Joshua Brown via Flickr.)