Facebook has made online reputation management more difficult, even for users with the strictest privacy settings enabled. This is because of a plug-in that allows other websites to link their comments section to Facebook. Now, site users who remark on an article or webpage not directly on Facebook may have unknowingly offered up a wealth of personal information for anyone to see.
Many people mistakenly believe that because their profile is set to private, comments are safeguarded. However, Facebook does not offer any privacy options for comments postedoutside a personal homepage.
Facebook comments can expose a person’s political and religious beliefs, financial status, personal opinions, and family dynamics. While some people believe that everyone should be held accountable – always – for words and actions, others point out that search engines make such statements too easily available. Search engine giants Google and BING both now index Facebook comments, meaning that someone looking for information regarding a particular Facebook user needs only to enter a simple search term (posted below).
Search strings for locating Facebook user comments:
“Exact Facebook Profile Name” “Add a comment” “Reply • Like • Follow Post”
“Exact Facebook Profile Name • Follow”
“Exact Facebook Profile Name” “via mobile”
“Exact Facebook Profile Name” “Top Commenter”
“Exact Facebook Profile Name” “Facebook social plugin”
This information can be used by potential employers, law-enforcement agencies, and even future love interests to determine “who” the user really is. But comments may be taken out of context or represent an outdated, immature outlook on a subject that leaves the user high and dry where future love, law, and money are concerned. Business associates may even use Facebook to determine whether or not they want to continue doing business with a particular individual or company.
According to Nashville-based Reputation Advocate (reputationadvocate.com), Facebook users only have two options to keep themselves protected. The first is to simply stop leaving comments on public pages and sites that utilize the Facebook plug-in. The second is to always consider the possibility that a comment will be broadcast globally and then determine if it is something that should be seen by everyone. In other words, ask yourself, “Would this damage my reputation if it were said publicly?”
As of today, there is no privacy setting allowing comments on public pages or websites to be hidden. This applies both to current and past online interactions. One saving grace is Facebook’s activity log, which allows a user to locate and then delete any worrisome comments from history. Unfortunately, this is not a full-proof method as highly controversial conversation threads are often shared via/copy paste, leaving them open to indexing by search engines.
While Facebook could easily fix the problem by adding an option to leave comments anonymously or restrict viewing to approved parties, they have failed to do so.
Steven Wyer, author of Violated Online, says that even seemingly innocent comments can cause an online reputation crisis and recommends all Facebook interactions to be monitored continuously. This is especially true of teenagers, adds Wyer, who may later need to rely on their reputation to obtain entrance to college or employment.