A short guide to privacy on Facebook

Some useful tips to help safeguard your personal information on the world's largest social network
Social Privacy Protect in action (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Social Privacy Protect in action (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Perhaps the TV show “Person of Interest” has it right – the government created social networking to lure us into revealing our deepest secrets. Being active on social networks while guarding our privacy is like walking the tightrope at the circus. I’ve been online since my parents bought me an Atari 1200xl with a 300 baud modem in 1983 and hope these tips can help you.


A friend at work told me that he didn’t sign up for Facebook because he read the terms of service and was appalled at what Facebook can do with any content that he posts or uploads. Now we know at least one person reads those long-winded documents!

He’s right. Facebook reserves the right to do whatever they wish with anything you post. This is the price we pay for insisting on a “free internet” – free news, music and interaction = less privacy.

Have you ever “almost posted a message” on Facebook? At the last minute you catch yourself and decide it is not meant for public eyes. Did you know that Facebook keeps track of these “aborted status messages?” Like the NSA, they don’t keep the content, just the metadata (when it happened and the circumstances).

Facebook has no interest for you to self-censor yourself. Don’t forget it.

Facebook Babies

In the past, Mom would happily share your baby photo albums with every female guest who entered your home. You didn’t mind as long as the photos went back to the closet. Today, there are millions of mothers around the world posting baby photos faster than the speed of light.

I’m sure glad my Mom didn’t post 10,000 baby and kiddie photos of me. Would you want every potential girlfriend, employer or simply anyone to be able to research through thousands of photos of you? Would you have wanted the bullies in junior high to have access to mom’s “coochi coo, he’s so adorable” comments while you’re sitting in a stroller, drooling with a tacky hat on your head?

What about the child’s right to privacy? What if he or she decides not to open a Facebook account and to lead a private life? How is that possible when thousands of photos and comments are indexed in Google?

Here in Israel, we don’t have the issue of kidnappings and missing children like in the US. The debate is about privacy and not safety. All it takes is for one child to be harmed due to mom’s incessant Facebook posting to reshape the debate. May it never happen.

Every person and every family has to decide on a “family Facebook policy.” One option is to create an album and only allow certain people to see it. Give your baby the option to remain a private person.

Facebook at Work

Many Israeli companies have Happy Hour on Thursday afternoon. The HR department arranges for us to eat delicious cakes and cookies with the occasional glass of wine. This is a cool tradition and I look forward to it every week.

What I don’t look forward to is having my picture taken while enjoying a spoonful of frosting. I support my company’s social media efforts, but after seeing a few photos of my colleagues munching on cake appear on Facebook, I politely asked the photographer to keep me out of it.

Facebook is the ultimate “tree in the forest”. Just knowing of the possibility of being photographed and tagged changes the dynamics. Like the Facebook Baby who doesn’t have control over his or her privacy, nor does the Happy Hour Employee. Speak up or Facebook will forever hold your privacy!

Parting Thoughts

I save my juiciest comments for my real friends. If you’re following my Facebook feed, you’re missing out on the best material. Anything that won’t offend any of 500+ people from all over the world isn’t worth saying publicly! I enjoy the ongoing dialogue with friends that I’ve had real life experiences with. They deserve the best of me. How many of your Facebook friends would you recognize on the street?

Facebook has helped me to reconnect with friends and even family members. But what has it done to the words “privacy” and “friend?”

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About the Author
Kenny Sahr is a startup marketing executive. His first startup, founded in 1996, was featured in Time Magazine and on 60 Minutes. Kenny moved to Israel from Miami, Florida. In his spare time, he is an avid music collector and traveler.
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