Facebook: Don’t Mess with My Downton (or Take a Deep Breath, a Sip of Scotch, and Review Your Privacy Settings)

Confession: I read past the spoiler warning every time.  So, when I signed onto Facebook Monday morning and was greeted by friends who’d seen Downton Abbey the night before and were shocked and saddened by the episode, I couldn’t help but do a bit of research.  My Facebook friends were kind and did not divulge the source of their grief – but I knew something big had happened and couldn’t wait until the full British version arrived (we do DVDs, not DVR) to see it.Screen shot 2013-01-30 at 12.21.52 PM

The Internet is so easily searchable that in 20 seconds or less I’d found out what all the fuss was about, felt my own dismay, anger, and grief, AND couldn’t share it with those in my household!  For the second time in a month, I wished Facebook didn’t exist (way to blame the source smphobe!).  It made me want to organize my Facebook friends into “people who watch Downton” and “people who could care less about a subtle, British, dialogue-driven series”.  With the U.S. launch of Facebook’s new graph search, finding this information should be easy.  With graph search, Facebook indexes data from personal profiles and status updates (i.e., places, photos, people, Likes, etc.) to make it searchable.

Many in the blogging and digital community are up in arms about the potential privacy risks.  I don’t see much room for debate here.  Facebook programmers are trying to find ways to improve their product, and certainly needed to improve their search function.  It’s not Facebook’s problem that your kid tried to hock black market pantry items to his friends or that your daughter has a mind of her own, fell in love with the help and ran away to Ireland to marry. Those are personal problems until one makes the choice to share on Facebook.  It’s our responsibility to check our privacy settings.  Facebook graph search will only index information set for the “public”, so now is the perfect time to review your privacy settings and talk to your kids (PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE) about how future employers will query Facebook to vet job applicants.  If you wouldn’t write it on a billboard or wear it on your t-shirt, don’t put it on Facebook!  What I’d really like from Facebook (or iOS) is some sort of intoxication alert that won’t allow publishing on Facebook or sending Tweets that you may regret in the morning.

I’m on the waiting list to try the Facebook graph search beta. If I had it today I’d search for friends in my city who like Downton Abbey and invite them over this weekend for a Downton-style feast (and marathon, as the DVDs are scheduled to arrive Saturday!).

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