Facebook: How Private is Your Profile?

Facebook added a new feature recently that continues their push to make your profile information publicly available. Most people have their basic privacy settings under control – only friends whom you have accepted can view your profile. Or so you think, right?

Working in technology, I am very careful about the information I post anywhere. Yes, I get the eye rolls when I tell people that the should never post their birthday, especially with the year, on their profiles and that’s ok. But Facebook’s new features, called Social Plugins and Instant Personalization move beyond what is housed on the actual Facebook web site.

As with most of their new “improvements” this feature is Opt Out – which means, unless you turn it off, you are sharing this information now.

So, what is this new feature? According to Facebook:

How does instant personalization work on websites participating in the pilot program?

“We have established a small pilot program with an exclusive set of partners—currently yelp.com, Microsoft Docs.com, and pandora.com—to offer a personalized experience as soon as you visit. These partners have been given access to public information on Facebook (e.g., names, friend lists and interests and likes) to personalize your experience.”

What data is shared with instant personalization pilot program websites?
“When you and your friends visit an instantly personalized partner site – currently including yelp.com, Microsoft Docs.com, and pandora.com the partner can use your public Facebook information, which includes your name, profile picture, gender, and connections. To access any non-public information, the website is required to ask for you or your friend’s explicit permission.”

See the full FAQ on these new features on Facebook’s site here.

So why should you care?

If you do not want your profile information to be available to anyone but the friends you have chosen, log in now and opt out of this new feature.

According to Facebook, here is a summary of what information is being shared and displayed on their partner sites if you don’t opt out:

Will people beyond my friends see what I like or recommend?

“Yes. Likes and recommendations you make are public information, similar to when you comment or write a review on any website today or connect with a public Facebook Page. The “Like” button, Activity Feed and Recommendations only display your friends’ names and profile pictures and to show the likes and recommendations from people who aren’t your friends in an aggregated format (“15 people like this”).

When a like makes a connection in your profile, you can control who can see that in your Facebook profile by editing your “Friends, Tags and Connections” settings on your Privacy Settings page. Remember that even if you limit the visibility of a connection, it remains as public information and may appear in other places on Facebook.com or be accessed by applications and websites. [emphasis mine].

Depending on the connection you made, you can remove a connection completely either by going to the “Info” tab of your profile and editing your “Likes and Interests,” or by returning to the web page where you liked something and unliking it.”

Reactions to these new features

Facebook has received a lot of backlash for these latest “improvements” as well as news of several, now resolved, security issues with partner sites – See this article on TechCrunch for more about an issue with Yelp. See this article on CNN.com for more about the backlash.

Bottom line, you give up a certain amount of privacy by publishing anything on Facebook at all, but you need to be vigilant to make sure they are not sharing more than you think with the world.


  1. I admit, I have not been on this webpage in a long time… however it was another joy to see It is such an important topic and ignored by so many, even professionals. I thank you to help making people more aware of possible issues.

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  4. You know that there are some website out there that let you view private facebook profiles.

  5. Facebook security is a joke.. you can still view private facebook pictures.

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  8. I admit, I have not been on this webpage in a long time… however it was another joy to see It is such an important topic and ignored by so many, even professionals. I thank you to help making people more aware of possible issues.

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