New Facebook privacy choices help business users

Facebook's new privacy controls make it easy for users to present different information to business contacts and friends

Facebook's new privacy controls make it easy for users to present different information to business contacts and personal friends, but only if the user is willing to accept the added complexity involved in doing so. It's not difficult, but requires time and thought.

This means segregating friends into appropriate sublists and being willing, if necessary, to adjust the privacy settings for each individual post. If you are willing to do that, a single Facebook account can present your life in different ways to different groups of people.

Chiefly, this allows you to keep business contacts from seeing blatantly personal posts or friends from seeing what you are saying to coworkers, customers, etc.

This adds value to being your friend on Facebook, by showing your friends only posts they might actually be interested in seeing.

The privacy update, which began rolling out to the service's 350 million members last Wednesday, remains a work in progress. Facebook has already made inline changes to the available settings, once again allowing Friend Lists to be made private. (Another change may be necessary as mobile users can reportedly see private Friend Lists).

Key to maintaining separate, if sometimes overlapping, business and personal lives on Facebook are new settings that allow posts to be displayed to "Everyone," "Friends," or "Friends of Friends."

There is also a "customize" option, which allows a post to be shown (or not shown) to specific individuals or groups. The same post can include some people and exclude others, as you choose.

None of this is useful, however, if you don't create at least one group within your Facebook Friend List. This is done from your Friends page, using the "add to list" button to the right of each friend's name and picture.

These lists can also be used with other privacy settings, allowing you to change how your profile and other information are seen, such a preventing business contacts from seeing your religious or political affiliations.

I recommend experimenting with small lists first. You also don't have to assign every friend to one or more lists, but you may choose to.

Some users will find it makes sense to create a list of business users and use it to help target posts. Others will find it easier to include/exclude a list of personal friends.

Create some sample lists and see how you would use them with typical posts.

This is not a perfect solution: If you want totally separate business and personal Facebook identities, you need separate Facebook accounts. The downside is that you will sometimes have to post the same item to both identities if you want it seen by everyone.

Also, expect some leakage between your lists, if only because you sometimes forget to adjust the share settings and a post goes to everyone that was meant for one group or the other.

Still, the new privacy settings can make it easy to show different groups of friends mostly just what you want them to see. And they can also keep you from your friends with posts they won't care about.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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David Coursey

PC World (US online)
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