Facebook has been busy introducing change this last month, most notably this last week. And the biggest questions seem to be related to privacy. Everyone’s copying and pasting statuses asking their friends to hover over their name and subscribe to “most updates” instead of “all updates”. People are afraid to tag people in pictures. The list goes on. I’m still digging through the changes and trying to figure them all out. But as I do, I’m trying to summarize what I find here, using the fictional friends Betsy, Tacy, and Tib—and their creator, author Maud Hart Lovelace—as examples. So think of this as a live blog post for the next few days and check back often. Be sure to post your questions/concerns in the comments, too, and I’ll do the best to answer them! (And if something’s confusing or you’ve seen an instance where it was not so, please let me know, too!) Read on for details about…
Privacy: What Has Not Changed (The Privacy of Your Wall Posts)
When you post a status, you have the ability to control exactly who it is shared with. Don’t want someone’s friends to see it? Don’t tag them. You can even exclude individual people from seeing a specific status. Be sure to check your default privacy settings (see below)—set your default to just friends, or just close friends, and only they will see what you post on your wall. The new “ticker” has made people feel like they are stalking their friends—and vice versa. But in reality, it’s only making more visible what already was easy to find. Yes, you’re weirded out by seeing in your ticker that your friend Betsy commented on some person named Tacy’s status, because you don’t know Tacy and aren’t friends with her—but that’s Tacy’s fault for leaving her wall posts public or friends of friends instead of friends only. You could have easily found it before by going to Betsy’s wall—you’d have seen the link to Tacy’s status where Betsy commented and have easily been able to click and view it. Facebook hasn’t changed privacy levels—they’ve just made what’s not private slightly more visible. The good news is that you can hide these sort of updates in one of two ways: 1. Hover over Betsy’s name, hover over the “Subscribed” button, and choose “Most Updates” instead of “All Updates” (or specifically unsubscribe to her “Comments and Likes”): 2. Use Lists instead of your default News Feed. Then, you can choose which types of updates to see for your “Close Friends” vs. your “Acquaintances.” (More details on lists below.)
When viewing a list, choose “Manage List”, and click “Choose Update Types…”
Click on “Manage List” again and then chose which type of updates you want to see for that specific list—on both your news feed and your ticker, not to mention when viewing that specific list:
Of course, if you have time for following all of your friends’ conversations, or want to follow all the viewable comments of your very close friends, Ticker makes that easy.
And, naturally, if all Betsy’s friends were more privacy-conscious like Tib is, they’d have made sure long ago that their wall posts were only and always visible to just friends. Since you’re not friends with Tib, you never see when Betsy comments on Tib’s statuses.
How do I know if my comments on a friend’s post are public or not?
Check the symbol under the post to check who can see the post and all the comments on it. Hover over the symbol for details. Your friend Betsy’s statuses would show:
You’re not friends with Tacy, but she shares with everyone so you would see this on her posts:
Betsy and Tacy are friends of Tib’s, so they see this on her posts:
If Betsy got smart and decided to share with just her “Close Friends” list once in a while, then her close friends would see the names of everyone else she shared with. (When you post to any custom list, such as “Close Friends” or “Acquaintances”, people can see the names of the other people you’re sharing that post with.)
Privacy: What Has Changed (Tagging)
[September 2012: Facebook has since added the custom check box “Friends of those tagged”, so custom groups are no longer necessary for this issue. I’ve noted outdated information with a strike-out in the rest of this post. -GL]
Before, you could tag your friend Betsy in a picture and her friends might be able to see it, but you didn’t have to worry about them commenting on it.
Now, if you tag your friend Betsy in a picture or a post and you are sharing the picture or post with all of your friends (and not with just a specific list), her friends can not only see but comment on your picture or post. But Facebook is quick to remind you of that—it shows you even before you post that you’re sharing with “Friends+”: If you don’t want Betsy’s friends to see the pictures you tag her in, share with a custom list, instead of all your friends (for example, make a custom list called photos that has all your friends on it, and then set all your albums so they are viewable only to the “Photos” list). In reality, this is fixing the previous incongruence that you could see a photo/post but not comment on it—now, if you can see it, you can probably comment on it. (Read more at Facebook Help.)
Facebook is giving you more options about reviewing the places you’re tagged and where what you’re tagged shows up (go to your Privacy Settings and change “How Tags Work”).
But I’m still planning to be a bit more careful about tagging people in posts and pictures in the future, unless I’m sharing with a limited group. (Read the details on the changes to Tagging on Facebook.)
How to Make the New Lists Work for You
The one new feature that has the most people upset is the one I’m most excited about. See, last week, I was working on putting friends in my new lists, and I happened to catch a glimpse of a profile picture of a friend from back in my high school days. Low and behold, he had his arm around another mutual friend of ours from that era! I’m friends with both of them on Facebook—but that doesn’t mean I actually keep up with them and everyone else I’m friends with on Facebook. Contrary to popular opinion, Facebook has had lists options since before Google Plus even existed. They weren’t necessarily copying Google Plus in their recent streamlined lists, they were just making it easier for you to use the list features they already had in place. I’d been using the list feature for a long time—long enough that I’d totally missed the announcement that two old friends had gotten together, since I just bookmarked my list and rarely visited Facebook.com.
Enter the new “Close Friends” and “Acquaintances” lists. Into the “Close Friends” lists you put the people you want to stay in touch with, the people you actually want to read every status update from—it’s the list you’ll scroll back through all the way when you’ve been offline a week. Facebook describes the “Close Friends” list as, “Best friends who you want to see more of on Facebook.”
If you use the Close Friends list, you’ll most likely want to turn off the notifications:
Acquaintances are the ones you friended for old times’ sake, the ones you aren’t really in touch with any more but once in a while want to say hi to—you want to find out when they have a baby or move or get married, but if it was snail mail you wouldn’t keep in touch except for an annual Christmas letter. Facebook describes “Acquaintances” as “Friends who should show up less in News Feed.”
Combined with the “Family” list that is automatically populated by the people you’ve specified a relation to, and the people you add, Facebook will populate your “News Feed” at Facebook.com with updates prioritized by who you’re closer friends to, who you’re related to, etc. And? When you haven’t been online in a week, it will show you the top commented/liked posts at the top of the page, so likely if your friend had a baby or got engaged while you were offline, you’d be able to find out easily when you came back to Facebook.com.
You can create your own lists, too—and based on who you tag in your Education and Work section, you can keep up with old classmates or former coworkers—so the possibilities are (almost) endless. Additionally, if there’s someone you really don’t care to keep up with, you can hover over their name or view their profile and choose to be subscribed only to “Only Important” or “Life Events”. And if you really want a feed back that’s closest to the one you used to have, create a new list, call it “Old News Feed”, and put in it exactly the people and pages you want to view (click here for video tutorial).
There’s even a “Restricted” list so that if you really feel like you better be friends with your boss, you can put him in the list and he will only ever see your public updates (which, if you set your default privacy settings to friends only like you should, will be nill).
In an effort to simplify, I’m just using the two default lists: Close Friends and Acquaintances. I go to Facebook.com to find out the latest/top news from all my pages, subscriptions, and friends—and if I don’t have much time and just want to catch the latest from my dearest, I go straight to my “Close Friends” feed.
(Update: If I don’t put people on any list, they end up showing up in my news feed almost as often as my close friends—and it eliminates the option to batch edit what items of theirs I am subscribed to. So until Facebook gives us that ability, I may add a third list for somewhere between Close Friends and Acquaintances. Now if there was only a way to tell what friends were not on any list and needed to be put in one!)
Additionally, when you’re viewing your “Close Friends” list and click “Update Status”, your status will only be visible to your “Close Friends.” The same is true for all lists. (Read more at Facebook’s blog, on Mashable, and in the Facebook Help section.)
Do I need to set up lists?
Like Dain Binder says, “The best part is if you want nothing to do with [the new lists], just ignore them, and no action is needed. You can continue on like you were before.” You can just keep going straight to Facebook.com where you can keep up with all your Facebook friends. It’s really that easy.
Lists aren’t necessary for keeping your Facebook wall friends-only. They only enhance your wall’s privacy beyond friends-only. In addition, they make it easier to keep up with a small section of your large friends list.
And if you’re prone to tagging posts or photos, lists can help keep the friends of everyone you tag from seeing or commenting.
Our friend Tib doesn’t think she needs lists. She keeps everything small and private, so she wants to interact with and stay in touch with everyone on her small friends list.
However, she’s tired of all Tacy’s friends commenting on her photos, so she took the time to put all her friends into a “Photos” list with which she shares her photos, so that even when she tags Tacy in a picture, Tacy’s friends can’t see or comment.
Our friend Tacy doesn’t do lists. She makes everything public, is on Facebook constantly, and just skims the updates and comments of her many friends, liking the top posts at random.
But our friend Betsy? She’s beginning to think lists might make it easier for her to actually keep up with the posts of her close friends, while just checking in on others once in a while.
And Maud? She had friended a lot of people for networking purposes, and while she un-friended a lot of them when she enabled subscribers, she still can’t keep up with all the people on her friends list. So she’s using the “Close Friends” list for more personal status updates and photo sharing.
How do I keep the friends of everyone I tag from seeing and commenting on my pictures?
[September 2012: Facebook has since added the custom check box “Friends of those tagged”, so custom groups are no longer necessary for this issue. I’ve noted outdated information with a strike-out in the rest of this post. -GL]
Put all your friends in one of the default lists—Close Friends, Acquaintances, or Restricted—or simply create your own list called “Photos”.
Create an album—or edit your current albums’ privacy settings—to custom:
Then choose which lists to share the photos with, which ones to hide them from.
(Note that when you specify to make it visible to “These people or lists” Facebook reminds you only that anyone tagged can see this post. So, if you tagged Tacy in a picture she could see and comment on the picture, even if she wasn’t in the list(s) you shared it with.)
You’ll see this in the custom icon next to the album or post:
Everyone else? They’ll see the names of every single person that you shared the images with:
If you try to share something with all your Friends and just hide it from one list, the friends of anyone tagged can also see the post/pictures. So use the method above if you plan to do any tagging! Because even though this second example hides the specific names you’re sharing with, anyone tagged and their friends can also see the post:
In the second example, you are reminded:
Even though in the second example, everyone else only sees:
How to Change Your Default Privacy Settings
Everyone’s default should be a minimum of “Friends” (unless you’re Maud Hart Lovelace, but we’ll get into that below). Just go to https://www.facebook.com/settings/?tab=privacy and click the button under “friends”: But ifyou want more customized defaults, here’s how to get them.
- Go to https://www.facebook.com/settings/?tab=privacy and click “Custom”:
- Choose the default that your wall posts, likes, etc. will be visible to and hidden from:
- Then when you go to update a status, it will automatically show the settings you chose:
- But you still have the option to change it for each individual status:
Why do I have “subscriptions” showing in my profile? I didn’t subscribe to anyone!
So you were Facebook friends with the talented and famous author of the Betsy, Tacy, and Tib books, Maud Hart Lovelace. It was neat to see the updates that she share just with you and her 4,999 other friends. (There was a limit of 5,000 friends for personal Facebook profiles.) And suddenly, after the New Facebook came out, she’s not showing as your friend any more. Instead, your profile shows this line: “Subscriptions”. Here’s the deal. Facebook just enabled public figures to enable subscriptions so that anyone could subscribe to their public updates without the whole “add as friend” process. Maud probably decided that she didn’t want you reading her personal updates about when she was having a hard time writing a chapter. She just wanted you to see her public updates about when the chapter was finished. So she “un-friended” you, which automatically made you a subscriber. She also decided that, since she had 15,000 people who liked her Facebook “fan” page, she’d make her life easier and take advantage of the feature Facebook will soon make available to page owners: she’d merge her page with her personal profile and convert her “fans” into “subscribers.” So, since Tacy had “liked” Maud’s fan page, she suddenly found herself a “subscriber” to Maud as well. Maud decided she knew Betsy pretty well, so she’d keep her as a friend who could see her more private pictures and posts. And Tib, the more private type, had been timid to add someone as famous as Maud as a friend (after all, it would be scary for the famous author to see her status about her dream to write and publish a book!), but she was thrilled to be able to “Subscribe” to Maud’s public updates (people you are subscribed to can not see your friends-only posts). The only thing that made Tacy sad is that when Maud merged her fan page into her personal profile, all the original fan page content was gone—including that time Maud had actually replied directly to one of her comments! And, please note that if Maud’s Facebook page had been for Lovelace Publishing Company instead of for the author Maud Hart Lovelace, she could not have merged it with her personal profile. Brands and companies are not allowed to have personal profiles or subscribers—pages are required for businesses. (Read more about the subscribe function at Mashable, Hyperarts, the Facebook + Public Figures Page, and on the Facebook blog.)
What’s New: The Timeline
A few months ago, I started noticing “On this day in…” over by the ads and events on my Facebook pages: it highlighted my statuses, and that of my friends, on this day in previous years. Talk about memorial stones of God’s faithfulness! There was the status when the rain came, bringing a rainbow right over the fire that came so close to our home. There was the status when my second child was born. What fun to relive the memories! And now, Facebook is taking those memories to a whole new level, transforming our profile into virtual Timeline. Instead of clicking “older posts” dozens of times to find an old status, there’s a slider that gives you access to statuses, photos, life events—everything on your Facebook profile—by year. It automatically added in the birth of each of my siblings and cousins, not to mention beginning my timeline at the year of my birth. It’s truly the profile for scrapbookers! Trust me, I grew up as the daughter of a Creative Memories Consultant. Facebook’s new Timeline is a dream come true for those who, in future years, will be trying to finish an album and can just click back into their timeline for dates and emotions to journal in their scrapbooks. (Read more Mashable and on Facebook’s blog.) If you want to follow some complicated steps, you can enable the Timeline now. Or, go here and click “Sign Me Up” to have it available to you sooner. Otherwise, when it comes out (sounds like September 30 is the target date?), there’s a few things to note. The information appears in two columns.
If you want to highlight a big event, click the star, which will make the event span both columns. Just like your current profile, you can control the privacy of every item. Except that the beautiful new “cover” image is totally and completely public—no option there. It’s hidden the “about” section a bit more, so if you’re looking to promote a Facebook page via your profile, having it listed as your employer will be a key with the new Timeline, to keep it visible (your website address is hidden at the very bottom of the about section). (Read more at Kikolani.) And just for fun? Check out Mashable’s “The Evolution of the Facebook Profile.” What did it look like when you first signed up for Facebook? (I joined March 12, 2007.)
What’s New: The Ticker
Its location can be a bit annoying. Not to mention that the Ticker contains what many people feel is TMI. But, the nice thing about the Ticker is that it moves all that extraneous, right-this-very-moment information out of your News Feed. And if I’ve been following a conversation on my friend Betsy’s wall, I can easily click in the Ticker for a popup with the most recent comments, rather than leaving where I’m at in my News Feed. (Read more on Facebook’s blog, in the Facebook Help, and on Mashable.) That being said, it would be nice to see the ability to customize the Ticker a bit more. Though apparently it listens to what you tell your News Feed about what you do and don’t want to see. But no luck on them disabling it—it’s a prime location for what they call “Sponsored Stories” (aka ads).
Having trouble resizing Ticker? Login to Chat (you can make yourself always unavailable) and it moves Ticker into the Chat sidebar, which makes the whole thing easier to view/use and a bit less in the way. (There are some hacks to hide the Ticker—including a Chrome Add-On.)
What’s New: Gestures
Instead of just being able to “Like” something, you’ll soon see all sorts of verbs where you’d normally see “Like”: “Watched”, “Listened”, “Read”, etc. You’ll be able to “[verb] any [noun].” If you listen to music and watch movies online, Gestures combined with Apps will open up a whole new way to find music/movies your friends like! (Read more at Mashable.)
What’s New: Apps, Cookies, & Privacy
Even Mashable is concerned about privacy when it comes to what Facebook is doing with apps and cookies these days—even when you’re logged out of Facebook. I’m looking forward to see how it develops. Meanwhile, what I can tell you is this: beware what apps you approve, because they only have to ask once, and then they have permission to post your actions with them into your timeline and your friends’ tickers. And honestly, we’ve always known cookies were spying on us—perhaps Facebook will wake us up to the benefits of disabling cookies entirely.
What’s New: Anything Else?
There appears to be no more limit to status update lengths!
You don’t have to have 25 “likes” to give a page a username.
You don’t have to “like” a page to write on the page wall.
Anything else you’ve noticed?
Privacy Story Problems (Q&A)
Q: If I comment on my friend’s post, and someone else comments after me who has their privacy settings set to public, will anyone be able to see my comment?
A: No. Check the symbol under the post to check who can see the post and all the comments on it. Hover over the symbol for details. When Tib’s friends go to comment on one of her posts, they see those little heads next to the date and time she posted. That shows that Tib shared her status with only her friends. That means only her friends can see the post and read the comments on it. If the post was viewable to friends of Tib’s friends or viewable to public, then anyone could see what Betsy and Tacy are writing there on Tib’s wall. But as it is, only Tib’s friends can see it. Betsy’s friends who aren’t friends of Tib’s can’t see it. And even though Tacy has her own wall viewable to public, only Tib’s friends can see what Tacy posts on Tib’s wall. The privacy settings of a post apply to all the comments below it.
Q: Am I only as safe as my least safe friends?
A: No. What you post on your wall is always under your control. As long as you have your privacy set to friends only, no one else can see what you or your friends post on your wall. However, when you post on a public “fan” page, any of your friends could see it because the page, and thus all its posts, are public. If you have friends who have their posts viewable to the public (like our Tacy), then you can see the little globe by their post , and you know when you comment on that post on their wall that it is viewable to the public. Your wall is private and viewable only to your friends if you have it set that way, no matter what your friends’ privacy settings are.
Q: If my friends don’t change their privacy settings, are they “telling all my secrets to their friends?”
A: No! See answer above. You are in control of your wall’s privacy. What your friends set their wall privacy at affects only the things posted on their wall, and has nothing to do with what you post on your wall—even when they comment there, their friends won’t see if your wall is set to friends only. Just check the privacy settings on their wall posts before you comment. “And don’t forget – next time you leave a comment on someone else’s Facebook post, don’t say something that you may later regret.”
Q: Can I set everything on my Facebook so it’s only viewable to friends?
A: There are a few things that will always be viewable publicly:
- Your answers to “Questions.”
- Your “cover photo” on the new Timeline profile.
- Your posts/comments on any public “fan” page.
- Your posts/comments on any person’s wall that is set to public. (They can later “Limit the Audience of Past Posts” to change past posts that might have been public or friends of friends to friends only, and at that point your post would then not be public any more.)
- Your posts/comments on any public post by someone you’re “subscribed” to.
- Anyone else have something to add to the list?
A: Yes!! Our friend Tib had everything set to private. And when the inline privacy settings came along, she didn’t think to check and make sure everything stayed the same. Until she happened to put her Facebook profile address in a browser that wasn’t logged into Facebook. And she saw everything—her school name, her city—available for everyone to see. (It’s only fair to note, however, that Google Plus did the same thing to Tib—all her inline profile settings reverted to public without her knowing.)
Check your default privacy settings as often as you change your password—or oftener. But remember that each piece of information in your profile now has its own inline privacy setting. Check these items whenever you update any piece of info in your profile—and especially whenever Facebook makes any changes:
- Check your default privacy settings at https://www.facebook.com/settings/?tab=privacy.
- Go to https://www.facebook.com/editprofile.phpand check each item in your profile to make sure it has the privacy settings you want.
- Use the “View Profile As” button to see what someone on your restricted friends list would see.
- Copy the address for your profile and paste it into a browser that’s not logged into Facebook—that’s what anyone could see, even if they’re not your friend.
Q: Is Facebook charging to use the new Timeline?
The Three Friends
- You are friends with Betsy.
- Betsy is friends with Tacy and Tib.
- You are not friends with Tacy or Tib.
- Betsy makes her wall visible to “friends of friends”.
- Tacy makes her wall visible to “public”.
- Tib has all her privacy settings default to “Friends”.
- Maud Hart Lovelace is a writer (aka “public figure”) who just decided to enable “subscriptions” to her public Facebook updates.
- You were friends with Maud.
- Maud and Betsy were friends.
- Tacy had “liked” Maud’s fan page.
- Tib is going to “subscribe” to Maud’s updates.
What about Google Plus?
When Google Plus first came out, it was touted as “Facebook without your grandmother.” But that’s the problem—the thing I love about Facebook is that my cousins, my aunts, and yes, even my grandmother are on there! Sure, Google Plus has a new, sleek, and clean layout—and it’s now open to everyone 18 or older, no invitation necessary. But what good is that when the people I care about aren’t on there? I do have a profile on Google Plus. But I forget about visiting there. And until my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandmother are all on Google Plus, it won’t be a serious contender against Facebook, at least for me. (And I still get a kick out of the fact that when Google was once the bad “big brother” who knew and tracked everything we did online, we are now flocking to it in droves when Facebook becomes the other bad “big brother”.) (Read more about Google Plus on Mashable.)
Keeping the Tool in the Box
Everyone’s annoyed to one degree or another. And granted, Facebook may have acted a bit quickly and over-the-top in an effort to stay ahead of the competition (aka Google Plus). But when it all comes down to it, my friend Trina has the right perspective:
“If Facebook is making you furious, it’s could be time to back off and bring this part of your online time into balance. Facebook won’t annoy if you’re not on it too much.” (read about Trina’s personal Facebook struggle and consider her tips for balance and “keeping the tool in the box” at her blog, “All That Is Good”)
Sites to Read/Reference:
- Facebook Help Center (easy-to-understand, easy-to-read, must-visit for all your FAQ—seriously!)
- Facebook Blog
- “Five Facebook Changes and What You Need to Know” from Social Media Examiner
- Mashable’s Facebook Topics
- “Customizing What You See in the New Facebook” from Jen Fong
- “Facebook’s New News Feed – All You Need to Know” at Hyperarts
- “Timeline for Facebook Profile Changes Everything” at Blogging Basics 101
- Dain Binder’s post “Facebook Changes – What The Average Everyday User Needs To Know”
- “What I Like About the New Facebook Timeline Profile, Privacy Settings, and News Feed” at Kikolani
- The Classic Housewife’s Post: “The What’s What in Facebook’s Latest Changes”
- Facebook Ticker Privacy Scare