Give up telling people about Facebook hoaxes? Done.


Yet another “Facebook is making all your data public!” hoax is making the rounds. This one has to do with the new Facebook Graph thing that was just rolled out over the last couple of weeks. And once again, as we see so often, people are posting it without thinking. Here’s the text:

Hello to all of you who are on my list of contacts of Facebook. I would like to ask a favor of you…. You may not know that Facebook has changed its privacy configuration once again. Thanks to the new “Graphic app”, any person in Facebook anywhere in the world can see our photos, our “likes” and our “comments”. During the next two weeks, I am going to keep this message posted and I ask you to do the following and comment “DONE”. Those of my friends who do not maintain my information in private will be eliminated from my list of friends, because I want the information I share with you, my friends, to remain among my friends and not be available to the whole world. I want to be able to publish photos of my friends and family without strangers being able to see them which is what happens now when you choose “like” or “comment”.

Unfortunately we cannot change this configuration because Facebook has made it like this. So, please, place your cursor over my photo that appears in this box (without clicking) and a window will open. Now move the cursor to the word “Friends”, again without clicking and then on “Settings”. Uncheck “Life Events” and “Comments and Like”. This way my activity with my family and friends will no longer be made public. Now, copy and paste this text on your own wall (do not “share” it!). Once I see it published on your page, I will un-check the same for you. Thanks so much!!

Let’s do some critical thinking and examine this, shall we?

  1. Facebook has over a billion users. Granted, the company has never been known for its tight security and in the past they have changed default settings (i.e. those for new users or those who were using the defaults anyway) so that they were less secure than before. But changing existing security settings would likely piss a lot of people off. Are they likely to do this?
  2. Facebook security settings are kind of silly anyway. You should always assume that anything you post on Facebook or anywhere else on the internet will be available to everyone in the world forever. Regardless of what you post and how you attempt to protect it, there’s nothing stopping someone from cutting and pasting it or taking a screen shot and posting that or even printing it on a piece of paper. Internet privacy is, for the most part, an oxymoron.
  3. The average number of friends that any one person has is 130 (reference). Some have many more than this – I know people with 500+ friends. If you post this request and 75% of your friends respond, you’re going to have almost 100 comments on that posting (or hundreds if you’re really popular). Did you really plan to go through your entire friends list in a couple of weeks one by one and “unfriend” those who didn’t respond? Admit it, this was an empty threat.
  4. If you really pay attention to the security settings, you should realize that what you’re telling people to do is actually change their own settings so that they will not see your “life events” or “comments and likes”. It has nothing to do with what other people will see.
  5. With very rare exceptions, any time you see a posting asking you to repost it or send it to all your friends, it’s almost certainly a hoax. This has been true for many Facebook hoaxes as well as email chain letters and such that I’ve been seeing for over twenty years.

I don’t expect everyone to immediately realize that these things are fake; they are getting more and more “realistic” and I’ve seen people who really should know better get caught by them. But surely anyone who’s been on Facebook for more than a year has seen a few of these, and know better, right? ‘fraid not.

I saw one the other day and left a comment (the very first comment on the posting) saying that it was a hoax. By the next morning, there were three “Done” comments – obviously these people had taken the time to read the entire posting and believe it, but not to read my one-line comment and believe it. I guess this makes sense, since these people are friends of the original poster but none of them knew me. Why should they believe me? So I left another comment with a link to the snopes.com article about it. Surely that will convince people, won’t it? By the end of the day, here’s what I saw:

Facebook hoax

<bangs head on desk repeatedly>

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