Facebook Privacy Settings

Published in 2010
by Christopher B. Hopkins and Diana L. Martin

Last year, the Palm Beach Bar Association held a “Tweet, Meet & Eat” seminar to discuss how lawyers and paralegals could sign up to use Twitter and Facebook. It is important to properly modify your privacy settings when using social networking sites since the sites control what information can be discovered about litigants, witnesses, experts – and you. Proper adjustment of your personal settings can maximize your visibility while maintaining your privacy.

Since the Bar seminar, Facebook has twice revised their privacy settings. In late 2009, Facebook reconfigured every users’ setting to default to “everyone.” This meant everyone on the internet could see certain information unless a Facebook user went online and affirmatively turned it off. More recently, Facebook announced at an April 2010 conference that “connections” and “instant personalization” features were being implemented. Again, these new “features” could permit personal data, photos, and video of users to spread throughout the internet.

The broadening of Facebook settings creates a great researching opportunity for paralegals and lawyers. On a broader spectrum, we are seeing our society change its attitude about privacy. That said, many people believe that these privacy decisions should be made by the individual user. Since the “Tweet, Meet & Eat” seminar was such a success, here’s an updated primer for your Facebook privacy settings.

Log into Facebook.com and click “Account” in the upper right corner. We will focus on “Account Settings,” “Privacy Settings,” and “Application Settings.” The general rules are that you likely want to limit your information to “only friends,” turn off any instant or automatic publishing, and curtail other applications from distributing your data.

Account Settings

/Settings: make sure your “security question” is not something which could be guessed by browsing your public data (e.g., name of high school or hometown). Skip “manage privacy” on this page, we will address it below.

/Networks and /Payments: most users have not configured networks or payment information. Unless you use these tools, just ensure they are set to “none” or zero.

/Facebook ads: There are two drop-down menus on the page. Set both to “no one.” Facebook will quibble with you via pop-up windows that you should let them use your name and image. Stick with “no one.”

Privacy Settings
/Personal Information: set your bio to “everyone” and everything else to “only friends.” Under “photo albums,” make your profile picture public and everything else limited to “only friends.”

/Contact Information: everything but “your website,” “add me as a friend,” and “send me a message” should be set to “only me.” Your email address should be limited to “only friends.”

/Friends, Tags, Connections: set everything to “only friends” except city and education/work (this information is likely already on your firm’s website). Double-check your settings with the “preview my profile” button in the upper right corner. Note that “fan pages” are now controlled by connections.

/Applications and Websites: an entire new page appears under this option. Here are the suggested settings, with “Instant Personalization” being the most important.

/Friends Can Share: unclick everything but “website.”

/Activity on Applications: set to “only friends” or consider “customize” to reduce even further.

/Instant Personalization: uncheck the box so Facebook cannot share your information.

Application Settings

Facebook controls its applications under privacy (above) as well as another list of settings under Application Settings. If you use applications, then you may decide not to follow the suggestions below. If you do not use applications on Facebook, the following conservative settings are recommended.

/Events: remove the box and tab and set to “only me.”

/Gifts: remove the box and set to “only me.”

/Groups: this includes alumni and other groups so it may be ok to keep as “added.” But set privacy to “only me.” People in the group will still see you as a member.

/Links: remove the box and tab and set to “only friends.”

/Marketplace: remove tab and set to “only friends.”

/Notes: keep box as “added,” remove tab, and set to “only friends.”

/Photos and /Video: keep box as “added” and set to only friends.

When you are finished, review your Profile (button at the top right of screen). It may be a good idea to go onto an available computer at work and search [your name city] on Facebook to see what information “anyone” can find. Similarly, if your browser has an “incognito” feature, perform the search that way. If you feel you are missing any Facebook features, then just turn them back on. Happy (and safe) surfing.

Christopher B. Hopkins is a shareholder at Butzel Long and Diana L. Martin is an associate with Leopold~Kuvin. You can send them a friend request on Facebook at christopherbhopkins and martin.diana.l.