getting started with facebook for journalists

Setting Privacy with Friends Lists

When you consider your privacy settings you need to consider how you, as a professional reporter, are going to use Facebook. Here are some journalist-related uses:

  • Promote your reporting and your news organization.
  • Engaging in a conversation with your readers.
  • Getting information and tips from your readers and the general public.
  • Soliciting user-generated content.

These uses are all pretty public. The idea that you can accomplish this by setting all your privacy options to the most restrictive setting just doesn't make sense. So you need to think through your privacy settings and make informed choices.

Start by reviewing your Basic Information, Personal Information and Contact Information.

profile page information

In the above example the Basic Information does not present any real compromising information. Removing the birthday would be slightly more secure, but birthdays are part of the Facebook culture. The other Basic Information is fine for public view.

The Personal Information above is bland and harmless for public consumption. If your life is more exciting or you enter more risque or controversial personal information you can control who sees that information.

Your Contact Information really should only contain information that you want public. Family and "real" friends have other ways to get you home address, cell phone, Instant Message screen name and land line phone. One option is to use your news organization's address and phone number. Note that you can also edit your email address to be your work email.

The best way to control your privacy on Facebook is to only put up information that you are comfortable having public. 

basic profile settings for journalists

In the above image, Everyone can find and see my Basic Information and Personal Information. If you wish to have only your family see your personal information, create a Friends List that contains everyone except the family friends that you want to be able to see your Personal Information. [See the preceding page for instructions.]

customized personal information

In the above screen shot, Friends can see my Personal Information—unless the friends are part of the "Everyone except Family" Friends List. This exception means that the only friends that can see my Personal Information are the family "friends" that I did not include as members of the "Everyone except Family" Friends List. You can also make lists for "Everyone except close friends," "Everyone except colleagues," and any other collection of friends that you want to grant or deny specific access.

Photos are a real privacy concern. Photos can show your family to the public. Photos can show your car and your house (and frequently your street address). People who pose with you may not realize that, as a journalist, you are a public figure and that by posing with you their relationship with you may become more publicized than they wish. Photos in which you are identified by name are "Tagged." In the previous image of Basic Privacy Settings I have set Tagged Photos to be only visible to members of my Family Friends List. I use the same setting for videos.

Friends are sources of information. As a reporter you often talk to a subject's friends for more information. Making your friends visible makes them access points for information about you that you may not want generally available. In the privacy setting example above, I've excluded everyone except family from seeing my Facebook friends.

Your needs may vary and you may choose other privacy combinations. Through the use of Facebook Friends Lists you can, with some work and creativity, restrict the information you share with different categories of friends.