It has been a pretty tough couple of weeks for Facebook. I find the reaction to the privacy controls and the people leaving Facebook in droves especially entertaining. People get fired over comments they put on Twitter, pictures they are tagged in on Facebook, and content posted online using their employer’s assets, yet we are still shocked when our online profiles are disclosed?

The real shock to me is, how have we not figured this out yet?

My first internet account was a Netcom shell account in the early 90s. Soon after, I had my very own Linux installation (kernel 1.2.8) running on my school’s network, and not long after that I figured out I could read all of the email waiting for any user on my system.  Back then, we had a phrase describing the privacy of email.

Don’t put anything in an email that you wouldn’t put on a postcard.

Unless you were encrypting your emails with PGP, anyone with some level of physical access to the infrastructure, or administrative access to the logical components could read it. To clarify, over FIFTEEN years ago we talked about the lack of privacy in email.  But today, it’s somehow OK to put your personal details on a website that is designed to share it with your friends, and we get mad when it is disclosed?

Social art, by kevindooley

Come on, folks, really.

What’s the first rule about keeping a secret?  DON’T TELL ANYONE! If you have things you don’t want a random person to know about you, leave it off your Facebook profile, don’t tweet about it, and for goodness sake don’t accidentally email your entire company the inappropriate details about your weekend!

Don’t rashly delete your Facebook account.  Instead, here is a five step program to get control of your Facebook profile:

  1. Restrict your privacy settings!  There are MANY and they default to very weak policies.  Instead, make details available to only your friends, don’t let everyone see photos you are tagged in, and make sure people know you don’t want to be tagged in their photos.  Create a separate group for acquaintenaces, and only let them see your info page! Role-Based Access Control exists in Facebook!
  2. Don’t accept all friend requests!  Ignore it if you don’t want a confrontation, or just inform the person that you use Facebook to see pictures of your family.
  3. Regularly comb through your friend list and delete inactive folks or people you have not connected with recently.  You can always add them back.
  4. For goodness sake, DON’T click on every link you see!
  5. And finally, remove any detail about yourself that you would not be comfortable writing on the back of a postcard and sending through the mail.

It’s a little bit of common sense, and a little bit of buyer beware.  And since Facebook is free, why are you complaining?

This post originally appeared on

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