Facebook and Security – part 2

29 07 2012

In my last post I introduced you to the various ways you can use Facebook settings to control who can see your information. That is only part of the story however as it assumes you are effectively managing your Facebook community.
Before we go into the details, lets just step back from the virtual world and re-enter the physical one. How many friends do you have? By friends I mean people with whom you would normally share your thoughts and opinions, show your photographs and discuss films or TV programmes. People who are interested in what you have been doing and who you have been doing it with, and who care enough to stop what they are doing and listen to you. If you extend that to include family and work colleagues, the number will increase but the type of information you want to share will change. So, what’s the number? 10, 20, 50, 100 even? Now, how many friends do you have on Facebook? I bet that number is at least double the previous one, and therein lies part of the problem. Most of us are a lot more promiscuous online than we are in the real world, we make online friends much more easily, partly because it is less hassle and partly because we feel a peer pressure to appear popular. It’s probably not surprising, but the number of Facecbook friends varies according to your age. Those under 34 (Generation Y, and the Internet Natives) have over 300 on average, Generation X have around 200, and even the baby boomers (of which I’m one) still have over 150 Facebook friends. Incidenntally, I’m probably a frustrated Gen Xer as I’ve got over 200.
So you have over 100 FB friends, and every day you tell them about getting up, going to work, maybe suggest a good film or TV show, add a couple of witty anecdotes, post that photo your kid doing a wacky thing, and the photo of you throwing up after a good night out. Hang on, let’s rewind that last bit, you’ve just posted a photo of you throwing up? To 100 people, may of whom are work colleagues, maybe your boss? Not so sharp heh? Oh, and they can share it with their friends, and so on, and so on. And that is the real danger of Facebook, it’s not what you tell people it’s what they can do with what you told them. I’m sure you’ve read about kids telling their Facebook friends that their parents are going away and that they are having a small party, and hundreds turn up. Facebook is a social media tool, designed to share information with as many people as possible. Once you post, you lose control over the posting.
In the ‘real world’, if you tell a friend something in confidence, you can be reasonably comfortable that they would not share it because they are your friend. Plus, what you tell one friend may not be the same as what you share with another, as the relationships are different. On Facebook, you have two relationships, friend or not friend, and as we have already agreed, most of your Facebook friends are not actually friends at all (at least not in the ‘I will bare my soul to you’ manner). You have no idea what they will do with that bit of information you just gave them and probably not much idea of how they will react.
So what can you do? Firstly, review your Facebook friends. De-friending is becoming quite a trend at the moment. When was the last time you had any interraction with that person, electronically or physically? If you remove them from your list would you care?
Secondly, think before you post. Are you happy for what you are about to share being spread across the world, because even if you tie down the settings, there is still a real chance of it getting out, and don’t forget, there is no delete function on the Internet. If it’s out there it’s going to stay out there.
As with so much of Information Security, it always comes back to common sense. Be aware and be safe.

If you have any thoughts or comments on this blog, please feel free to share them.

Until the next time, safe surfing.

David

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