Social Networks

Check Your Privacy Settings!

I advise about-to-be-graduating students, people thinking about political office, and folks in the job hunt to double-check privacy settings on their social networks. I suggest that they restrict their photos to “intimate friends” (my language) and not “the world.”

However, I don’t do a good enough job of advising them to double-check their significant other’s privacy settings.

Sir John Sawers, newly appointed MI6 chief, has learned that lesson the hard way.

According to The (London) Telegraph:

[H]is wife’s posting on the social networking site [Facebook] have exposed potentially compromising details about where they live and work, their friends and where they go on holiday.

Lady Shelley Sawers put no privacy protection on the account, meaning that any of Facebook’s 200 million users in the ‘London’ network could see the entries, no matter where they were in the world.


When I was in San Francisco in May, I met up with a college friend. She asked that all of us who were posting photos not to include her last name. That’s an admonition most parents make regarding their children. It’s one that many of us might consider requesting in advance, as it’s much easier to nip compromising photos in the bud in “real time” than retroactively.

This anecdote reminds me of my junior year at the University of Georgia. I was running for senior class secretary. I got a call from a friend that the campus daily, the Red&Black, had a photo of me at a campaign party in “half blink” … which made me look inebriated. (Shoot, half-blink will make most people look inebriated!) Note: this was before cellphones and the internet! I don’t recall who got my resultant panicked telephone call, but the photo did not run. And yes, I was elected.

This personal story shows that compromising or suggestive photos are nothing new. What is new is today’s real-time, almost-ubiquitous web with millions of cameras (cellphones) and push-button publishing making the photos more easily accessible to everyone.

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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