Facebook unveils new privacy settings

Hip, hip hooray! Facebook just announced a new series of privacy settings that will give users much more control over who can see what on Facebook.

Basically, their new Publisher Privacy Control will allow you to choose, each time you publish, exactly who sees it. They're rolling it out slowly, to a small group of users, but it will soon be available to everyone.

Facebook's New Privacy Settings Here's how Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly described it in the blog post: "For example, you may want to make some posts available to everyone, while restricting others to your friends and family. You should be able to make that decision every time you share something on Facebook, and soon you'll be able to do this."

We're thrilled. Finally, you choose, each time you post something, if this is something you want your coworkers, family or friends to see without having to mess around in the confusing privacy interface. You will even be able to send things directly to just two or three people's walls. And, if you're the type of person, like Bridget and I, who have created "groups" of people, this makes those groups suddenly much more useful.

Boca Raton-based Multiply already had this option since 2004 - Bridget wrote about it back in May for its redesign. (If you want to read Bridget's whole post on it, it's here.) Here's an image what it looks like when you upload something to Multiply:

Multiply privacy

It's not the first time we've seen similarities between the sites. Multiply's CEO Peter Pezaris says they had a news feed before Facebook launched its own version. 

Either way, we think it's great that Facebook has acknowledged what a pain their privacy settings have been to use. We're sure this will be a learning curve for most users, as well, considering some people still can't figure out the difference between a wall post and a status update.

We're looking forward to using this feature - and wondering how well it will work to keep certain parts of your Facebook life private.


I spoke with Michael Gersh, Multiply's COO and co-founder, who talked about how the social networking site has had this privacy feature since it launched in 2004. Multiply's audience tends to be families, aka the "Digital Moms," who want to post high resolution photos of baby's first bath with close connections. He said because of that, connections on Multiply have always been set up so they go into categories, like business contacts or family -- meaning not everyone is a "friend." And you can see what friends of friends have publicly posted without connecting to them.

"Facebook added a lot of features after we had it," Gersh said, adding regardless if Facebook modeled it after them or not, "people look to others for innovation."

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WITI South Florida pannel discussion on social networking in the workplace

Yesterday Niala and I had the honor of moderating a WITI event where technology gurus from local companies spoke about social networking in the workplace, and the security challenges that come when employees use social media.

The panelists included Pete Nicoletti, vice president of secure information services at Terremark; Jay Patel, senior manager of IT advisory services at KPMG; Gabriel Ruiz, director of technology at ADX Technologies; and Kevin Tracy, a senior consulting systems engineer for network security and mobile solutions at Cisco.

It wasn't easy to take notes when you're the moderator, but I did want to summarize some of the great advice the panelists shared with the group Tuesday night at Cisco's Fort Lauderdale office.

The talk jumped between companies blocking Facebook at work, to horror stories of what can come up when you Google search your name ... but all panelists always came back to the core idea of using common sense and setting a social networking guideline for employees.

Fact is, everyone has different ideas on what is acceptable social networking behavior. A millennial might not see a problem with posting party pictures on their Facebook page, because hey - that's their private life and people should understand that. And someone else might not see anything wrong with sending out public tweets about the company layoffs when they are in the middle of the private meeting. The boss might not see things the same way. So there really needs to be a workplace discussion on professional image and making sure you keep personal stuff private, and always think twice about what you post online. Because even things you delete can hang around on the Web.

Jay Patel said he "avoids social networks like the plague." He was off the grid until he broke down and got a Facebook account to get details on his high school reunion gathering. He sees the value in social media, but the biggest problem he has with it is how easy it is for you to lose control of your professional image. Social networks are evolving at a rapid rate, and the information we post about ourselves is being spread and shared in so many ways that you lose total control over what is being posted about your personal life -- and not even privacy settings can do much good. "The technology can't keep up with the technology," he explained.

Pete Nicoletti stressed to keep personal and work stuff very separate. And for personal things, he thinks it is best to not use your real name so it can't be found easily by employers. Kevin Tracy shared the same tip. In Nicoletti's work, he's seen the worst of the worst of corporate social networking disasters, and some of the nastiest problems occur when you share your password with someone and then that person posts horrible things on your profile under your identity. And damage control with a public relations team ain't a cheap or a quick fix.

Tracy mentioned that Cisco has documents for employees regarding social networking faux pas at work. I think this is a great idea.

You can have security programs and measures in place to protect company data from spilling out -- and it's smart to implement tools like that for the workplace. But Patel said at the end of the day, your biggest security flaw is people.

Does your work have a social networking guideline you have to sign? Is it detailed, or does it just stress to use good judgment? Does your human resource department have a workshop on dos and don'ts? Do you even worry about getting in trouble at work for what you do on social networks in your personal time?

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New Year's Resolutions for Life Online

Happy New Year! We hoped everyone enjoyed the holidays, and is feeling ready for 2009. Probably you've already made all your usual resolutions like diet and exercise. In today's column we made some suggestions for setting similar goals for your professional social networking life. Without further ado:

• Cut the fat. Do you have many ''friends'' on Facebook that are professional contacts? Are you using privacy settings to keep them from seeing your unprofessional social life adventures? Sort through your list of friends and make sure all your professional contacts are set on a limited profile. Develop the habit of using a limited profile when befriending new work associates.

• Get your profile in shape. Update and expand on your LinkedIn profile. You don't want a colleague or recruiter to see an out-of-date résumé. And while you're at it, bulk up your profile by adding some LinkedIn groups that match your professional interests. The more active you appear to be on a site, the more attractive you'll be in the professional world.

• Practice safe clicks. Don't click first and ask questions later. Phishing scams under the guise of fake links are on the rise in social networks, and there's no better way to annoy a colleague or business contact than to send a bogus link. These links direct people to a site that can steal your password, corrupt your account or spread malicious links to other connections on your network.

• Clear out profile clutter.
Are you an application collector? Go through your pages and clear out applications you don't use or want visible.

• Join a new network. Explore new social networks. Twitter can be a great resource for professionals to expand connections. Whereas Facebook is more about making connections with people you know in the real world, Twitter is about connecting with strangers sharing your interests. It's a place to follow people in your industry and get questions answered.

And finally . . .

Our New Year's Online Resolution is to remember the Golden Rule: Don't be an application, invite or network pest. Recognize boundaries -- everyone might not feel the way you do about privacy and adding friends, especially when it comes to colleagues on social networks.

What are some of your resolutions for 2009?

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Watch out for the Koobface Worm on Facebook

This problem isn't new, but a number of my Facebook friends have been attacked this week with the Koobface worm and have been sending me malicious links without knowing it.

In light of this, I just wanted make a post about it for all of you that may not be aware how it works... because it seems several of my older Facebook friends are spreading the virus because they may not know any better...

DO NOT click on any strange link sent to you via a Facebook message or wall post. On two I got today, the subject lines were "Sexy video with u." and "You're very sexy on this vid. i envy you." and the message had a long link in it. You can also tell it's not real because it was sent to tons of people, so obviously it wasn't a video of me... unless 100 people were in the same sexy video with me. And I think I would remember a video like that.

When you click on the link, it prompts you to download software to watch a video and then it spams all your Facebook friends with the malicious link. This type of worm is also found on MySpace.

If you think you clicked on a link like this, visit the Facebook Security Center, scan your computer for viruses and reset your password.

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