We all know that Facebook and privacy aren’t usually the best of friends. In just the past few months, we’ve seen Facebook hijack our email accounts and release an app that shows users where their friends are. These changes make it easy to find the company at blame for the consequences that occur when we reveal too much information about ourselves. Newsflash: You have no one to blame but yourself.
The website We Know What You’re Doing is on a mission to teach millennials an important lesson about Facebook usage: If you post something publicly, literally anyone in the world can see it. The website pulls scandalous Facebook updates that were posted publicly, then posts them under subdivisions like “Who Wants To Get Fired?” (any public status that used the phrase “I hate my boss” will appear, along with the poster’s profile picture, first name, and last initial) or “Who’s Taking Drugs?” (references to drug usage, particularly marijuana, abound).
The purpose of this website isn’t solely to embarrass: It’s also to educate. It provides instructions for changing your privacy settings, and even recommends that you create custom settings to dictate who can see what.
Maybe it's because I've had a Facebook account since I was 13, but I’m surprised that people would publicly post things that could be seen by their bosses risking getting fired. I’ve unquestionably accepted the fact that every aspect of my social life will be digitized for anyone in my work life to see, and that privacy controls will be my only way of separating the different facets of my life. Maybe it’s naïve of me to still cling to the illusion of separation of work and play, to believe that I can break my life into different boxes, but at least I’m going to try.
When I went through the college process last fall, nearly every senior in my class changed our Facebook name. We had been told that admissions officers might search for our profiles, so we took every step possible to ensure that they didn’t find anything—even those of us who hadn’t posted anything more scandalous than complaints about a particularly difficult problem set. We changed our privacy settings so that our names wouldn’t come up in searches. We changed the settings on the photos and statuses we posted so that only our friends could see them.
And then, having already secured our identities, we changed our Facebook names to names that punned on our real names. These fake names are useless given how well we secured our privacy settings, but they’re a tradition and a rite of passage. The moment when a student returns to their original name is their way of broadcasting to all 1,000 or so friends that they are in college.
We’re a little bit different, I guess. We are the youngest millennials, the real Facebook Generation, and we use technology differently than those who are ten years older than us. We've learned things from their mistakes. Facebook is so integrated into our lives that changing our privacy settings is considered just as much a part of our academic/career life as taking the SATs. We’ve never socialized in a pre-Facebook world, and so we don’t get caught off guard by changes to how Facebook privacy works. I doubt our posts end up on We Know What You’re Doing, unless we want them to.
Want some tips on how to protect your Facebook account? Check out this old article.