Sunday, March 10, 2013

The GRAPH APP Facebook Hoax, and what you SHOULD do

I'll be back with more on getting started with Twitter, as I have 1 or 2 more blog posts for new Tweeters, but I am taking a quick break to look at all buzz about Facebook's GRAPH APP, and your friends' desperate pleas for you to make changes in an effort to protect their privacy.

In a word...DON'T!

This is simply some outright false information, some misleading assumptions and some lousy recommendations spun in a blender and poured out as an incorrect strategy which has  virally spread across Facebook.

It looks something like this as an update from your Facebook friend:

WARNING!!! FACEBOOK HAS CHANGED THEIR PRIVACY SETTINGS ONCE MORE!!! DUE TO THE NEW “GRAPH APP” ANYONE ON FACEBOOK (INCLUDING OTHER COUNTRIES) CAN SEE YOUR PICTURES, LIKES, AND COMMENTS. The next 2 weeks I will be posting this, and please once you have done it please post DONE! Those of you who do not keep my information from going out to the public, I will have to DELETE YOU! I want to stay PRIVATELY connected with you. I post shots of my family that I don’t want strangers to have access to!!! This happens when our friends click “like” or “comment”… automatically, their friends would see our posts too. Unfortunately, we cannot change this setting by ourselves because Facebook has configured it that way. PLEASE place your mouse over my name above (DO NOT CLICK), a window will appear, now move the mouse on “FRIENDS” (also without clicking), then down to “Settings”, click here and a list will appear. REMOVE the CHECK on “LIFE EVENTS” and “COMMENTS & LIKES”. By doing this, my activity among my friends and family will no longer become public. Now, copy and paste this on your wall. Once I see this posted on your page, I will do the same……

Let's learn a little bit about what's going on here.

This is just simply false. If you have seen this, or if you have even posted this yourself, do not feel bad. It sounds very dramatic and urgent, but it is not.

The fact is, Facebook’s latest Graph Search does not make any of your personal data any more public than it always has been. Your information, your photos, your demographics and your data are available to the same audiences. All the Graph Search feature does is allow your data that your friends could have seen anyway appear if your friends search for something. If you post about Mexican restaurants in Austin, your friends will see your information if they search Facebook for Mexican restaurants in Austin. People that are not your friends won't see it. (And by the way, Hula Hut is my recommendation for location and great food. Unless you want fajitas, in which case you need to head here for the best in Austin.)

If you take the recommended steps, all you really do is remove your friend's updates, Likes and Comments from YOUR view. You are not protecting yourself, or them. You simply won't see their updates when you use Facebook. Why would you do that? Why remove your friends' updates from YOUR view? Isn't that why you are friends in the first place, so you can see what they are up to?

There are 3 recommendations I make to better protect your information, and they will quickly get progressively more draconian.
  1. Reconfigure your Facebook Privacy Settings to Friends Only. Do this in Facebook by clicking the gear (Settings) icon in the upper-right next to your name. Then clicking Privacy Settings. This determines who can see your stuff, and that first line is critical. Setting that to Friends Only limits your data and your updates to your friends. Any line that reads Everyone is one I would trim back, as it means that information is open publicly, literally to anyone.
  2. Set better boundaries on Facebook. If you really are that concerned about your friends knowing you like Mexican food, quit talking about it on Facebook. Or if you don't want to get Facebook ads about Caribbean vacations, stop clicking LIKE on all things Caribbean. It's really that simple. Every time you click, post, Like or Comment, Facebook learns something about you, and it is going to sell that data to its advertisers. To you, clicking LIKE is a game, a way of showing what you like. To Facebook and its customers, clicking LIKE is gold, signaling your interest in this, that and the other.
  3. Get off of Facebook altogether. Yes, really. You are using a free service that allows you virtually unlimited communications in words, photos and messages with friends everywhere, for nothing. If you fear someone seeing a photo of your family, then honestly, it shouldn't be on Facebook in the first place. And perhaps you shouldn't be there either. Anything private enough that you fear it going public does not belong on your Facebook account. You didn't think Facebook was really truly free, did you?

Bottom line...don't take those recommended steps. You will only hose up your NewsFeed by blocking the very people sending you this message. And I would bet you a beer that 95% of your friends won't do a single thing if you sit tight. Really. Your energy is better spent considering what you are putting out on Facebook in the first place.