Tuesday 26 September 2017

Your boss is watching you on Facebook - here's what you can do about it

Updating privacy settings key to keeping nosey bosses at bay, writes Adrian Weckler

Your boss can find out a lot about you by using Facebook graph search
Your boss can find out a lot about you by using Facebook graph search
Be careful about what you 'like'
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

YOU can stop wondering whether your bosses are watching you on Facebook. With over half of Irish adults using the social network, they almost certainly are. And they're discovering things about you that you may not have anticipated.

They can do this easily, using Facebook graph search. This feature allows you to search for Facebook users based on their profession, their location, their pastimes or their preferences. It can get very interesting. For example, try any one of these three actual searches using Facebook graph search.

* "People who work in Dublin, Ireland, and who like alcohol."

* "People who live in Dublin, Ireland, and who visited Mountjoy Prison."

* "People who work in Dublin and who like Sinn Fein."

To be clear, there is nothing remotely wrong with any of these activities or preferences. But is it the kind of data one wants a prospective – or current – employer to see?

Furthermore, the examples I have chosen are tame: Facebook graph search allows you to specify actual companies in your searches.

In other words, if you're wondering whether there is anyone at a large accounting firm, a school or a government department that 'likes' illegal drugs, you can simply do a search, based on the same construction I have outlined above.

And even where the activity 'liked' isn't illegal, it can still be embarrassing. There are quite a few Irish working people signed up to Facebook groups such as 'I Hate My Job' and who are discoverable using a basic Facebook graph search as outlined above.

Think it's a step too far for your boss to go snooping around in Facebook? You might be right. But if you merrily share your thoughts with fellow Facebookers on groups such as 'I Hate My Boss', you're going to have a less straightforward task in answering your employer's charge of misconduct.

Having spent some time trying out different combinations (most of which we can't print for obvious legal reasons), I have come to the conclusion that there are plenty of Irish working people leaving themselves open to professional de-selection based on what they are posting on their Facebook pages. If you're worried that this might include you, here are three things you can do to protect yourself from the prying bosses on Facebook.

Graph search doesn't return results of people who have marked their profiles as being private or restricted only to friends. This is not difficult to do. Simply click the settings icon (the little cog symbol) in the top right corner of your PC screen. Choose 'privacy settings' and change your status from 'public' to 'friends'. You're now mostly protected from graph search queries.

One irritating aspect of Facebook's recent drive toward facial recognition and photos is that you can be quite easily 'tagged' by others in photos without your immediate knowledge. (It will come up as a notification when you log in.) This means that your name (and link to your profile) is attached to your face in the photo tagged.

This might sometimes be on a boozy night out, a wedding or a trip abroad. Many people don't bother to untag these photos, with the result that searches for photos sometimes bring up party pictures.

To untag yourself, simply click 'photos' (on the upper left side of a PC screen). Find the photo you want to 'untag', hover your mouse cursor over it and and click 'edit' (the pencil symbol). You'll see an option to remove the tag.

Bolstering your privacy settings is a good start. But it is not uncommon now for people to have many hundreds – or even thousands – of friends.

This could easily include work peers or bosses. In this case, just be careful of the things you 'like'.

While social or political campaigning is properly regarded as civic-minded, it does not always seamlessly integrate with work.

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