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Can my employer access my Facebook account?

Posted By : of Data Doctors on October 7, 2010

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On Facebook, if a person is not friends with any co-workers, has all settings to friends only, would the employer be able to access that person's account in any way, shape or form?

- G

This question was answered on October 7, 2010. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

In general terms, an employer wouldn’t have direct access to a person’s account under those circumstances (meaning, they couldn’t view everything posted as if they were a friend), but the reality continues to be that anything you post on the Internet should never be considered truly private.

If you have any concerns about the wrong people seeing something you post, you should find another way besides Facebook to communicate the information to others.

Despite persistent internet rumors that employers have a secret division at Facebook that they can pay to gain access to private profiles, nothing could be further from the truth.

If Facebook ever compromised the privacy of their users in such a covert way, there would be a mass exodus from the network as an untrustworthy system.

Having said that, Facebook’s privacy setting can get confusing and there are a number of areas of assumed privacy that many users overlook.

The most obvious is the ability to Like or Share most anything that appears in your news stream As soon as someone you are friends with clicks the Share option on anything that you have posted, it becomes visible to their entire network and possibly more based on their privacy settings (including Everyone if they have very lax privacy settings).

A single friend that has their wall post privacy set to Friends of Friends will extend any ‘Shared’ information that you may have originally posted two layers out.

Hypothetically, if your employer is friends with one of your friends or even a friend of a friend, it’s conceivable that they could come across something that you intended to be viewed only by your friends.

Privacy in the electronic age is virtually uncontrollable, which goes back to the advice of refraining from putting anything into electronic form (Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, blogs, IM, text messages, etc.) that you wouldn’t want others to see.

This Facebook scenario is really no different than sending an e-mail to someone assuming that it will stay private only to have them forward the information to others intentionally or by mistake.

Make sure that don’t use Facebook’s ‘Recommended’ settings for privacy so you fully understand what you are agreeing to share.

When you get to the Privacy Settings screen, be sure to click on the ‘Customize settings’ link so you can go item-by-item for ‘Things I share’ and more importantly ‘Things others share’ AND, don’t forget to decide whether friends can check you in to the new ‘Places’ location-based feature of Facebook.

One thing that’s important to understand is that if you inadvertently had a privacy setting set too lax (like Everybody or Friends of Friends) and you change it to Friends Only, all of your old posts are still under the previous setting.

The only way to reset the privacy for old posts is to delete them and repost under the new privacy setting Existing photo albums can be changed all at once by clicking on the ‘Edit album privacy’ link while you are in the ‘Customize settings’ section or via the ‘Album Privacy’ link when you go to your existing albums.

Another area that is often overlooked in Facebook’s privacy settings is the “Info accessible through your friends” setting under Privacy Settings/Applications and Websites.

Third party applications and websites that your friends use can gain access to your information based on what is checked in this area as well, which could end up allowing something in your profile or status updates to end up on non-Facebook websites or networks.

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Posted by of Data Doctors on October 7, 2010

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