Wall Street Journal Infographic about Facebook Privacy Options

March 12, 2013
Lorrie Cranor

Yesterday I published a short guide to Facebook privacy options in The Wall Street Journal. As a privacy researcher, I spend a lot of time examining privacy settings in social networks. Over the years, Facebook has added lots of new settings and has made their privacy settings easier to use. However, there are many privacy settings on Facebook that are still somewhat hard to find, and they control settings that many people didn't know were even possible to control. When someone asks me about a Facebook privacy setting, I often have to stop and think and poke around in a few menus to remember where that setting is. So when a Wall Street Journal editor requested an info graphic that would help people learn about protecting their privacy online, I created an illustration about Facebook privacy options.

Judging from the reactions I have gotten, there are a lot of people who are eager for more information about Facebook privacy setting. I was told my article was one of the most emailed articles on the WSJ website yesterday, and I've been receiving lots of email from people about it. People have sent me some questions about additional settings not covered in the article: for example, how can I make it so my friends can see my birthday without seeing how old I am? (That's not covered in the privacy settings. You have to go to your profile page, click "About" and edit your "Basic info.")

Some people have written to me and told me that their solution to protecting their privacy online is not to use Facebook at all. Of course, that is always an option. But for people who enjoy and find value in using Facebook or other social networks, understanding the privacy settings and some basic online safety rules can allow you to enjoy the experience without giving up all of your privacy. By adjusting the audience settings on your post and restricting what information applications and websites can access, you can limit exposure of your information. Do keep in mind, however, that everything you post is accessible to Facebook itself (subject to their privacy policy), and that your friends might forward your posts or photos to other people without asking you first. So even if your privacy settings are locked down, I don't recommend posting your innermost secrets, your opinions about your boss, or any confidential information (the consequences are covered in a paper my students and I wrote about Facebook regrets, but that's another story….).

Of course many people still fail to fully appreciate that the information they divulge on social networks can be used to track down other information about them that might be used to access their accounts or steal their identity. Additionally, employees who are not careful about what they post can put their organization, and often their job, at risk. In response to this problem, Wombat has designed a "Safe Social Networks" training module, which organizations can use to train employees how to safely use Social Media sites such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.