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ID theft

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Facebook ticker can mean trouble

Social media sites have been abuzz with commentary about the most recent changes made to Facebook. Among those changes are a new ticker, a real-time list of what your friends are doing, positioned to the right of the screen. This new feature is being added on a staggered rollout, so you may not have it yet. But rest assured, everyone will soon see this next to their news feeds.

The ticker is collapsible, meaning you can click on it and keep fully up to date on your friends' activities. But there is a problem. With this new feature, you can eavesdrop on "conversations" between your friends and people you don't know. You can even read what the stranger originally wrote.

If you have your privacy settings set high, they will still work with this new feature. However, the enforced eavesdropping will be due to lax or non-existent privacy settings amongst your friends.

In other words, if you have "friends of friends" or "public" as the privacy setting for your posts, then one of your friends clicks "Like" on your post, all of the people your friend is friends with will be able to read the commentary. Your friend's privacy settings can't block this from happening, but your privacy settings can protect your friends' privacy.

So what should you do? First of all, stop using the "friends of friends" setting for your posts. If you use the "public" setting, let your friends know you are doing so. This gives your friends the option to decide if they want all of their friends, or yours, to be informed of their comments.

You should limit all previous posts you have made via the privacy settings, which will change everything to "friends only" and will stop people you have deleted, people who sent you friend requests that you chose to ignore, and friends of friends from seeing your activity. 

You can use lists to decide who you want to see things by using the privacy controls in the top right of your posts, and you should encourage your friends to restrict their settings to "friends" or custom lists as well. 

How do you know if a post will be broadcast to all of your friends? Under each post on the right is an icon which will tell you who it was shared with. If there's a globe, it means it was public. A "friends" icon means it was shared with friends only, and if there's a "custom" symbol (a gear), it means your settings are either friends only or customized, which means the post is safe to comment on because there will be no sharing with strangers via the ticker/news feed.

The bottom line here is simply this: Don't post something you don't want shared. Once it's out there, it can never be retrieved.

Published Sep 27 2011, 11:26 AM by IdentityTheft
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