Facebook is the world’s largest social network, counting over a billion active users. But it’s also become a treasure trove of personal information, and many of us have taken precautions to protect our posts on the site, including making our Facebook profiles private. Are we really hiding our content? Is deleting a Facebook account enough?
We’ve uncovered five things that Facebook likely doesn’t want you to know, even if you’re not a Facebook user. What we’ve found may shock you, and might cause you to think twice about how you use the site, if at all.
1. Facebook chooses what you see
Spend a lot of time crafting the best status ever? You might be wasting your time, as Facebook doesn’t show your friends everything. According to USA Today, your posts are run through an algorithm that in turn chooses how it is displayed to your friends.
This is especially true if you run some type of Facebook page. Even though users have “liked” your content before, it doesn’t mean they’ll see it. If they aren’t interacting with it — whether commenting, liking, or sharing — your content will appear less and less frequently on their News Feeds, and at some point it might even completely disappear.
Many of us have probably experienced this first hand. You can likely recall a time when a friend posted something to Facebook that you never see in your timeline and only stumble across while perusing their profile. While it might be Facebook’s attempt at decluttering the News Feed, it still isn’t giving you much direct say in the matter.
2. People can see what you “like”
Be careful what you “like” on Facebook. Tech-Moxie notes that the site’s privacy tutorials do admit that your likes are public. This means that any of your friends, no matter who they are, may see that you’ve liked something. This could be potentially hairy if you’re connected with co-workers or your boss on Facebook.
What is shared and what’s not? That’s not so clear, as Facebook’s algorithms that choose how your Facebook content is shared with others is secret.
3. It’s tracking you, even if you don’t Facebook
Any page that uses Facebook’s Like or Share buttons actually exposes non-users to Facebook tracking, the European Court of Justice found late last year. This is allegedly done by placing a cookie on your computer which in turn tracks your online activities. Worse yet, the company used the fact that it had been doing so for years without complaints as a way to justify its actions, The New York Times reports.
Is there anything we can do? In the United States, no, as there are no privacy laws that specifically forbid this type of activity. In Europe, however, this is completely illegal, and the company stands to be liable for a significant monetary penalty. If you want to avoid this kind of tracking in general, consider disabling third-party cookies in your browser settings.
4. It soon may know who you are in any photo
Facebook has had some type of facial recognition software for years, but the New Scientist suggests that the company has even more accurate recognition in the works: one that recognizes who you are even if you’re not looking at the camera. The algorithm looks at other distinguishing characteristics, including “hairdo, clothing, body shape and pose.”
While this may make tagging much easier, it also raises privacy concerns. What if you don’t want to be identified in a photo? While the site does provide some ways to opt out, it’s unclear whether or not you’re still being tracked.
5. It knows more about your friends than you do
A lot of Facebook features may seem innocuous, but you might be sharing more information than you intend to. For example, the social networking site asks you to supply an email address to find friends, but once you give this information, the site retains it.
The company’s methods that attempt to predict who you might be connected with are pretty much a secret, the Washington Post writes, but can be almost freakily accurate. Along with searching through your contacts, it’s also in some way comparing it to your profile information in an attempt to find people you’re likely connected with.
Make sure you really want to provide personal information to Facebook. If you’re somebody who likes to maintain a truly private life, offer only as many details as required.
Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald