Mike Isaac

Recent Posts by Mike Isaac

On Facebook, There’s No Privacy Setting for Your Friends’ Bad Judgment

Happy holidays, and welcome to the new Facebook, everyone! With the company’s recent privacy changes and updates rolling out to all users, it’ll now be easier to get a handle on all those confusing settings you’ve tried to figure out over the years.

One problem, though — the discretion of all the friends in your network. Case in point, Randi Zuckerberg’s intimate family photo being shared out publicly on Christmas Day.

Here’s the deal in a nutshell: Randi took a picture of members of the Zuckerberg family reacting to the new Poke app that Facebook released last Friday. Mouths agape, sisters Zuckerberg are seen laughing at the new app while brother Mark stands sheepishly in the background, looking a bit confused (or amused).

It was supposed to be a private moment, shared with only the friends inside of the networks of the few Zuckerbergs who shared it. And, good on them, they used Facebook’s privacy settings correctly.

Problem is, there are no privacy settings to keep friends of friends from making bad judgment calls in sharing. Callie Schweitzer, a Vox Media marketing director, saw the photo inside her Facebook feed and decided to tweet it out to her nearly 40,000 followers on Twitter. Obviously, the photo went viral.

Randi Zuckerberg was none too pleased. “Not sure where you got this photo,” Zuckerberg tweeted to Schweitzer on Christmas. “I posted it to friends only on FB. You reposting it to Twitter is way uncool.”

I’ve emailed Zuckerberg to see if she has a further response. Ms. Schweitzer very politely declined my request to comment via e-mail.

Schweitzer backpedaled, eventually taking down the tweet with the photo and apologizing publicly. But her parting note to Zuckerberg said it all: “i loved the photo bc it seemed so fun and normal. You should make it public!” (She added a winky face for good measure.)

This is the crux of the issue. No matter how many privacy settings you tweak, no matter what you consider proper “digital etiquette,” there is no accounting for the taste and discretion of your friends. Like Schweitzer, anyone could see a photo you’ve shared inside your network and, on a whim, decide to tweet it out in a manner of seconds.

Think on this — the average Facebook user, like you or me, shares content on the “friends of friends” setting, which could have been how Schweitzer ended up seeing Zuckerberg’s photo (as Schweitzer is friends with one of Randi’s sisters). And according to Pew Research, the median Facebook user reaches upward of 31,000 people using the “friends of friends” setting. Now that’s pretty “friendly.”

And this setting in particular provides an interesting counterargument. Schweitzer’s re-sharing of the photo isn’t necessarily in the wrong. As she’s a “friend of a friend,” that picture popped up in her news feed. There wasn’t an immediate way of knowing that this sort of photo wasn’t one the Zuckerbergs wanted to be kept private.

After all, perhaps Randi (of all people) should know by now, that what happens on Facebook certainly does not always stay on Facebook.

The great irony of all of this: The very app the family is checking out in the notorious photo could have been used to keep Zuckerberg’s photo from circulating widely across Facebook, Twitter and other networks.

Next time, just use the Poke app, Randi.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo