Privacy on Facebook: Customizing Friends List

facebook-privacy-data-policy

I’m very happy that I manage to write about technology for the very first time in this blog. I could not be happier as long as I just graduated in Information Systems/Computer Science. A kind of sandwich between my country (Brazil) and the USA (Indiana University). We Internet users should agree that privacy on social networks such as Facebook and Instagram are a big deal nowadays. It is just amazing how many people use those social networks for communicating, spreading new ideas, keeping in touch with friends, and several other things. Facebook is the highlight of this new era. As September 2015, Facebook has more than 1 billion users worldwide. One out of every six person in this world has a Facebook account that they actually use at least monthly. Problems with privacy and consequently sociability may be an issue interacting with other people online. I myself have suffered privacy/social problems in social networks. Facebook developers have tried to improve Facebook’s privacy implementing several features to help their members. The problem is that a small group of people are actually able to configure these features. It’s not really the users lack of computer skills, but it is actually the fact most people don’t know they have these features available.

One of the most important Facebook features is probably the friends list customization. I have done a research where we found the 13 privacy strategies applied in other research projects to maximize user’s’ privacy in social networks. One of the strategies was actually “Create Customized list of friends”. This is a tricky feature as long as not every social network is able to implement it and it is not so evident in the interface by any means. For instance, Instagram which was my main target on that research project, does not allow users to create customized list of followers. If you think about it for a second, this feature seems pretty cool and useful. Either on Instagram or Facebook, you are more likely to split your contacts in groups. Being able to separate them in friends/family, friends/co-workers, friends/acquaintances, for example. Again, I myself wish I had known this feature earlier in my social network life. What Facebook offers is cool for two reasons: (1) we can limitate the access from a specific group of people in your profile and (2) a specific group can show less or none information in your timeline. The way I have applied this feature is by splitting my Facebook “friends” in two groups: (1) Friends, which have no limitation of access on my profile and can show information on my timeline and (2) acquaintances, which show less frequently on my timeline and my posts show less on theirs as well. Facebook has implemented by default 3 customized lists: Close Friends, Acquaintances and Restricted. You are not limited to these 3 lists; you can create any lists you want to. A brief explanation of each default list of friends below:

  • Close friends: User will get notification whenever the friends in this list post something. Facebook’s algorithm will also try to put these people high on the timeline posts list. If you don’t know that, Facebook has an algorithm to choose the more suitable posts for you based on a lot of different aspects of your profile. So, these posts appear first at the timeline than others. The notification feature can also be turned off as you want.
  • Acquaintances: Users on this list will appear less frequently on your timeline. They will also get less information about you on their timeline.
  • Restricted: People in this group will be able to see only public information about you. The only difference between them and people who you are not friends on Facebook is that you and them are actually “friends”, but they cannot see anything besides public information.

You should be asking, how can you use this feature. It’s very easy and straightforward:

  • Scroll down to Friends on the left side of your News Feed:

pic_one

  • Hover over Friends and click More:

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 10.21.59 AM

  • A new screen will pop up showing all Friends list Facebook has already created for you based on the places you’ve lived, colleges you’ve studied, and the three default lists (Close Friends, Acquaintances and Restricted). In case you have marked any family member on your profile; a new list called Family will be created as well:

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 10.29.35 AM

  • To add a friend on that list, you just need to click on it:

pic_2

It’s important to note that your friends will not be notified if they have been included in any list. This post is based on Facebook’s Help Center (https://www.facebook.com/help/204604196335128/). Thanks for reading. I hope it helps.

Advertisements