Facebook enhances its privacy settings, but users also must do their part

By Kara Haas, CPA
Facebook recently announced changes that will make it easier for users to know as well as to control who is able to see their posts, photos, tags, and profiles.
The label "everyone" has changed to "public." Facebook believes the word "public" is more descriptive of behavior: anyone may see it, but not everyone will see it.
Within the user profile, most of the settings are currently a few clicks away on a series of settings pages. In the updated version, an inline menu allows users to choose who they want to see specific parts of their profile, and they can to change their settings easily with one click. The inline profile controls include "public," "friends," and "custom." The custom option lets users specify groups, friend lists, or individuals they want to include or exclude.
Facebook also is responding to a multitude of requests that it make changes to the photo tagging feature. These changes will make it easier to block photos and will enable users to approve or reject any photo that they are tagged in before it is visible to anyone else.
Changes will roll out across the subscriber base in waves. As the new features are available, users will be prompted to take a tour of the changes.
It is of utmost importance that social media users properly maintain and pay attention to their accounts. By checking profiles, settings, and activities on a routine basis, potential unwanted posts, spam, or abuse can be limited. Oftentimes, when people complain about being compromised, it is because they have not routinely attended to their accounts.
Dustin Wheeler, an accountant and technology professional with Wallace Neumann & Verville, LLP, shared with us how he keeps apprised of any unwelcome security changes. He suggests the following:
  • Subscribe to a few social media blogs using Google Reader. Wheeler advises users to scan the headlines of some popular blogs, such as Mashable, Lifehacker, and Engadget. If a headline suggests a change in terms of service, public information, or privacy issues, read further. 
  • Follow the advice of industry experts, such as Michelle Golden, who developed the Social Media Toolkit for the AICPA Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS). Wheeler says that when Golden posts something about social media privacy on her blog, Golden Practices, he pays attention.  
  • Search for additional information about possible hoaxes and scams on a regular basis. 
Balancing the search and marketing benefits of social media with privacy is an ongoing challenge for many users. Learn what measures you must take to avoid being caught off guard.
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