How and why to fix your Facebook privacy settings

Right now, by default, when your friends upload photos to Facebook and they start tagging people, the software will recognize you and suggest, “Hey, that looks like Dave! Do you want to tag him?”

That may or may not be desirable behavior. Here’s how to turn it off.

And here’s why I think you might want to turn it off.

When people start taking photographs of you in social settings and posting them to Facebook, with or without you knowing it, you lose control of what those photographs say about you. And people will jump to conclusions. I used to have a photograph of myself posted on this very blog that showed me sitting at a table at Steak n’ Shake. There was a rather large glass in the picture. But I had numerous people over the years ask me what alcoholic beverage I was drinking in that photograph–never mind it was taken someplace that doesn’t even serve alcohol.

If there’s alcohol in the pictures, either real or implied, it might send a message you don’t want to send. If there are lots of people of the opposite gender hanging all over you, it might send a message you don’t want to send. And there’s a cumulative effect too. If 90% of the pictures of you online show you in a bar, someone might conclude that’s where you spend 90% of your time.

The trouble is that it won’t always just be your friends looking at those photographs. Potential future employers and/or business associates may very well go looking. Unemployment is over 9 percent and there are always more candidates than there are openings, so they use whatever they can find to weed people out. And by definition, these people don’t know you well, so they will jump to conclusions.

Honestly, not many photos of me get taken these days, and usually when they do, I’m playing with my kids. Innocent stuff. Nothing that damages reputations.

I’ve been told that my preference for hanging out with my sons rather than hanging out in bars has helped my career.

At any rate, I don’t want to make it any easier for people to tag me in photos than it already is. I guess I have a certain advantage in that people searching for me online will find a mountain of stuff–I’ve found references to web sites I set up in the mid 1990s, mostly because I know how to look for it–and few people have enough time to sort through all of it.

But there’s an important distinction. I created that stuff, and maintain control over most of it. I can always go back and delete a blog post or a post on a forum. And I think there’s a difference between me posting content, and someone who saw me somewhere snapping a photo–perhaps with me being unaware of it–and then uploading it and tagging me in it.

There’s really not much I can do to prevent that entirely. But I don’t have to make it easier.

And while you’re in there, here are four more changes you might want to make.

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