Saturday, 30 July 2016

About being cautious on Facebook

Facebook. Great for connecting, but you do have to be careful.

You have to pay attention to privacy and security on Facebook, otherwise you can make not only yourself but also your Facebook friends vulnerable to opportunistic people.

Have you ever had that thing happen to you, on Facebook, where you receive a friend request from Sheri Steilmann (a made-up name), you think: “What? I thought Sheri was my friend already”; you shrug, puzzled, accept the request, and then all kinds of weird stuff starts appearing on your page. Oh no! It wasn’t Sheri (who was indeed already your friend), it was someone who had stolen her identity, created a copycat Sheri Steilmann page, and is working through her Friends list sending out friend requests.

Once you have discovered this, you can block the offending person and report them to Facebook. Save their URL before you delete them, so Facebook can identify and block them. Make sure you get the false Sheri so the real one doesn’t get reported and blocked!

When this happens it’s all very depressing and embarrassing – it happened to me a few years ago before I got wise to it, it’s happened to lots of my friends, and of course people who are new to Facebook are much more likely to be taken in.

There are two things you can do to protect yourself and your friends against this kind of thing. These measures are especially important if you have lots of friends.

I’m assuming you have already attended to your privacy levels and ensured that only your friends can see your posts. Otherwise the entire world can listen in to your conversations.

Let’s imagine you have loads of Facebook friends – say, 285 – only some of whom you know personally. You accepted lots of requests when you were new, before you got cagey and choosy. You can’t stand some of them and hate their posts, so you turned off notifications for them. You might not even be friends with them, because they might have unfriended you. You have no idea. You don’t like them and never check. Eventually you forget they even exist. So, when you get a friend request from them, you don’t know who they are, though their name seems vaguely familiar.

At this point – make it a habit every time you receive a friend request, to check. Check if they are already on your list. If they are, it’s a copycat; don’t accept the request. If they are not already on your list, check the Facebook page of the person who’s sent you the request. If their security and privacy are tight so you can see hardly anything, send them a message asking who they are, how they found you and why they want to be your friend. Be careful who you accept as a friend, because people can find out a lot about you, your family and your Facebook friends and their families – Facebook friendship makes people vulnerable; you have to be sure you can trust the people you befriend. Bear in mind that your friends will trust them because they are friends with you.

So the first thing you can do is check before you accept.

The second thing you can do is attend to the privacy settings on your friends list. This is separate from your general privacy settings.  If you inadvertently, unfortunately, embarrassingly let in a copycat identity, the damage they can do is limited if your friends list privacy is at the setting where only you can see it.

I have a friend on Facebook who has over 2000 friends. I know, because I scrolled down and looked at them. A lot of them look like trusting, not especially savvy types. I clicked on a few of them and looked at their pages, learned a lot about their lives and families. Most of them had about 300 friends.

If I were an unscrupulous person, I could take advantage of that to terrible effect. I bet my friend with 2000 friends can’t remember who they all are. I bet if I copied an identity of one of her friends who lives in a different country, the chances are she wouldn’t know them personally or remember they were already a friend. I bet she’d accept if I sent a friend request under the assumed identity. And if I picked an ID with a bad headshot of a woman in a covering, I’d come across as trustworthy to people who don’t know me.

Then, because I can see all her friends, I could send them friend requests. They’d see a nice woman in a headcovering and accept me. I’d work through all their friends lists in the same way. Hacker’s playground. I could find out all sorts of stuff about them, make all kinds of mischief.

You can’t entirely stop that kind of thing happening by setting high privacy controls on your friends list, but it at least effects some damage limitation.

So, if that appeals to you as a plan, here’s what you do.

Go to your Facebook page. Click on your “Friends”.

When your Friends page opens, look below the row of People You May Know mugshots, to the header bar that says Friends in big letters. At the right-hand end of that header bar is the little pencil icon to manage the list. Click on that. An option to Edit Privacy will come up. Click on that.

You will bring up a menu allowing you to edit the privacy controls determining who can see your friends list, and who can see the people and lists you follow. So now you can choose. Mine are set to Only Me.

Therefore, if a friend of mine has not checked before accepting a friend request, and has unwittingly given some unsavoury being access to our private conversations, though they may be able to see me, at least they won’t have access to my friends lists.

Of course, privacy is still breached, but at least some boundaries remain in place.

If your friends list runs into the hundreds and even thousands, I do recommend you consider doing this.


Yiayia Ann said...

Thanks for this. I am a bit baffled by facebook although I enjoy it. Part of my reason for being on it is to make some things public and I have learnt a lot from seeing other people's 'likes'and 'shares' and even some of the things facebook suggests to me. It is scary though. Very easy to get sucked in and as you so rightly point out, forget it is not an extension of the local coffee shop.

I don't really understand this having hundreds and thousands of friends unless you are a celebrity etc. I feel I don't understand that definition of friendship. Same with twitter. How on earth could you keep up with it all? I suspect they don't, just have an inner circle of people they actually know.

I am off now to create a stronger password.

Pen Wilcock said...

Some of my friends who have hundreds of Facebook friends have been able to develop a locus of discussion - a meeting place where friends are made and ideas shared; very valuable. But it doesn't come free of problems, and has to be handled wisely. x

Yiayia Ann said...

I can see how that would work. I suppose Innermost House is an example.

Pen Wilcock said...

Absolutely. x

Ganeida said...

I have reasonably tight settings & periodically cull my friends list. Most are people I have known for years through blogging & have a fair idea of who they are. I will check my friends settings though. ☺

Pen Wilcock said...

I think knowing who you have on there, as you do, is very helpful for security. For me, one of the big issues is that people may be trusted by others because they are my friends. I think you're wise to cull the list from time to time. x

Anonymous said...

I wanted to keep my friend list to a minimum, but then I started working somewhere and suddenly many of my coworkers wanted to friend me. The work I do is confidential and I work under a board with a code of ethics that is very strict and does not allow me to have contact with clients on social media. Unfortunately, some of my coworkers do not work under the same codes of ethics, and we either share some of the same client (for different types of services) or their clients see me at the center in my professional capacity. As these coworker/friends have refused to block their clients, their clients can see some of my postings that connect with my coworker's and have commented on my posts. So I have to go through our center's client list, look for coworker's client's names, match them with my coworker's friend list and block them on my fb. I always try to keep a mostly professional demeanor on social media and post/talk about really neutral things because I might have missed someone, or someone might somehow be able to access the info. The alternative is of course to get off fb, but my boss asks us to post center related information as a networking tool. And it as a way for me to connect with my grown children who I do not get to see very often. So I feel stuck in presenting a somewhat false self to the world (or a very edited one) and keeping my true voice to the paper and pen journal at my bedside. DMW

Pen Wilcock said...

Gosh - what a delicate and complicated situation!

Pilgrim said...

I get off facebook in the months before presidential elections. I have been on and off Pinterest and Twitter, too distracting. Now I'm trying Instagram. :-)

Pen Wilcock said...

Sounds sensible! x