Facebook privacy settings: own your online presence

May 4, 2012 4:42pm

By Michael Kaiser, NCSA Executive Director

A lot has been written in the last couple of days about the Consumer Reports study on Facebook (Facebook is an NCSA Board Member company) users use of privacy settings. According to the report 13 million of Facebook’s 150 million U.S. users don’t use or aren’t aware of Facebook’s privacy settings and some people also engage in other risky behavior, such as posting about their current location, which could provide information to others, say a burglar, that might want to do them harm. And 28 percent shared all, or almost all, of their wall posts with an audience wider than just their friends.

As part of NCSA’s STOP. THINK. CONNECT. campaign (co-led by the APWG), we have simple advice for those using social networks and sharing information on the web.

Own your online presence: When available, set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s ok to limit who you share information with.

Responsible use of the Internet involves personal responsibility. Computer users hold much of the power over what they share.  The power is not just what they share about themselves but also vigilance about sharing information about family and friends.  The 28% of you out there who are sharing far and wide might want to give that some thought.

In the digital age, we cannot expect any web service, software or hardware to be able to protect us without our active engagement.  When we drive our cars, the only default setting is that you need are a key and most likely for your car to be in park before you can start the engine. Adjusting the seat and mirrors, fastening the seat belt and having proper tire pressure are all in the driver’s hands to be double-checked before pulling into traffic.

At NCSA, we also conduct surveys about the kinds of risky behaviors or other security vulnerabilities. So we take a slightly different look at Consumer Reports numbers. We actually read them in reverse and see that more 90% of users use or are aware of Facebook’s privacy settings. This is actually a much higher of adoption of security practices then we see in other areas, such as the 77% of small businesses that don’t have formal Internet security policies for their employees.

We should of course try and close all security and safety gaps. So we encourage all Facebook users, especially the 10% who haven’t, to regularly double check security and privacy settings to be sure they are comfortable with the level they are sharing and to STOP. THINK. CONNECT. before they share any information about themselves and others.