We've all done it - had a little nosey at someone you don't knows' photos on Facebook because, well, they're just there aren't they? Popping up all over your newsfeeds.
One that just appeared now was of a colleague's sisters' twin babies; all cute in pink baby grows and those headbands that baby girls wear. I barely know this colleague, never met her sister and now I'm seeing intimate photos of her tiny twin tots.
I'm a social media lurker - you know those annoying people who you think are never "on social media" but they are really; they're just being nosey, seeing what everyone else is up to? Yup, that's me.
While there's nothing wrong with being a sharer or a lurker, these photos got me thinking: a) do parents really know how quickly photos of their children can go viral on Facebook and b) do they actually care?
Do you ever think about Facebook friends? Just because they aren't visible or active (i.e. the lurkers) doesn't mean they can't see things you're posting. This includes every single friend request you've accepted over the years, including that dodgy chap you felt sorry for from your old local to your neighbour's niece who you once babysat for.
Let's meet Emma; she had a baby girl called Molly. Molly is now 13 months old. Emma is going back to work and uploads a photo of Molly, "Thanks to my amazing mummy friends" Emma writes, and tags in six of her Facebook friends.
Let's say along with Emma, those six friends each have exactly 250 friends each on their profiles.
By tagging those friends, Molly's photo has potentially been seen by 1,750 people in the first few hours. One of Emma's friends, Sarah, then comments on the photo:
"Where are you working now, hun?" then Emma's other friend, Lucy asks which nursery Molly is going to.
Another friend of Sarah's called Gemma (but not Emma's Facebook friend, still with me?) likes Sarah's comment... now Gemma's 250 friends can then also see Molly's photo.
Anyone who has access to Molly's photo can now share it, like it or comment on it making even more people see it. Furthermore, anyone can screen grab it, send it to any of their contacts as well as find out where it originates from and find the story behind it.
We now all know Molly's full name, her parents name, the nursery she's going to attend and where her parents work - all in a matter of a few hours.
Potentially over 2,000 strangers who don't know Emma, or Molly, have access to all this information.
Alongside this, without realising, Emma has left some of her photo albums public on Facebook, at least 1,000 of those people will have scrolled through these photo albums and are looking through Emma's latest family holiday pics right now.
Don't forget Molly is just 13 months old... she also has had no choice in the matter.
Did you take part in the recent #MotherhoodChallenge? If so, how many thousands of strangers saw your photos that you may have thought you were only sharing with friends?
Scary, right? Or is this just the norm now and everyone is OK with this and you're thinking 'so what?'
If the former and you're a parent wondering about what to do about your privacy - but still want to share photos with friends and family - you're not alone. You want your best buds to see little one being all cute 'n' cheeky but you're not entirely keen that Adrian from accounts is scrolling through your sunny snaps.
If this is you, then here are some Facebook hacks that might help:
1. Filter your friend lists: in other words; group your friends and family into categories. You can ONLY do this on a desktop and yes, it takes a bit of time, but once it's set up it makes sharing with the select groups so much easier (tip: when you accept a new friend request immediately add them to a list).
- To the left of your newsfeed scroll down to 'friends'
- Select 'more'
- Create a list and give it a distinct name so you will know who's in it
- Type in Facebook friends names into that list
2. Run a privacy check: in settings, privacy. "Who can see my stuff?" Again you'll get more options on a desktop than app or mobile version.
3. Make photo albums private: or at least not public. Choose who you want to view these by creating lists (as above). Each time you upload photos or albums you can use the drop down menu next to it to choose your audience and filter.
4. Who is following you? Did you know that as well as Facebook friends people can follow your newsfeed without you knowing?
- Select settings
- Scroll down to followers
- Select friends only
5. Check yourself: make sure you un-tick that you want to be found from search engines and then view your account from someone else's perspective. You'll be surprised at what the public can see of your profile without being your Facebook friend:
- Select settings
- Scroll down to followers
- Select 'view your public timeline' (tip: you can also type in a name to see what your profile looks like from that person's point of view).
6. If you're posting photos of your child in school uniform, cover up the school's name and logo in a paint or photo app - just like you would for other personal details like a number plate when selling a car, etc.
7. Avoid tagging your friends if you're posting photos of your children. Or, set up a list (as above) of those you regularly want to tag in photos, select that list when uploading and only tag in those people on that list.
8. Create a private or secret group for you and your friends who you want to share photos or chat about your children with; no-one but you and those pals you've selected will be able to see any updates posted in the group.
Finally, remember Facebook effectively own the rights to your photos and even if you delete them, or your account, they can still be used. Almost anything posted online is public property in one way or another, legally or otherwise.
In 10 years time, your five year old will thank you when embarrassing photos of his classmates emerge in Superhero pyjamas in Facebook's latest 'Historic Old-Skool Photos' campaign. Of course, he'd never admit you're cool, but he'll secretly think 'my parents were pretty savvy'.
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