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May. 25 2010 - 7:34 am | 899 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

3 ways to keep Facebook Likes more private

What you just Liked on a website that is using Facebook’s new social plugins might be something you don’t want to tell your boss or neighbors about. But even though they aren’t your Facebook friends, Facebook says “you should consider the likes and recommendations you choose to make to be public information” – even if you have set your related privacy settings to just “Friends”. Whoops!

Facebook’s new Social Graph has enabled new “Like” buttons all over the web, prompting users to click Like on anything from a political blog post to a pair of jeans in the Levi’s store.

Even without doing anything, if you visit one of these Facebook-enabled pages while logged in to Facebook, it will display the names of your friends if they have clicked Like in the past.

In some cases, those Likes allow the site or page admins to post to your news stream. And likes will be visible to your friends, and perhaps the entire world.

Facebook says “If you decide you no longer like something, you can always remove the connection or ‘unlike’ the content on the original site. You’re always in control of the things you connect to or like.”

However, exactly what gets “erased” when you take an action to protect your privacy is still unclear… does the Levi.com site still have the ability to post to my profile? If I remove the like on Facebook, will it go away on Levi.com?

I tested this out recently, and here are my recommendations:

Page Like on Levi.com

Facebook profile after a Page like

There are supposedly multiple ways to “undo” these likes:

  1. Locate the Like on your Profile page (Wall tab) and remove it there (is this what Facebook implied by “remove the connection”? Maybe not…)
  2. Follow the link on the Like to the original page and dislike there (click Like again)
  3. Edit your profile Settings, choose Likes & Interests, and click “Show Other Pages”, then click “Remove Page”, close, and save changes.

However, I’ve discovered that the first option simply removes the Like from your Wall, and does not remove the Like from the Levi.com page or prohibit the page from posting to your wall in the future.

Using the third option is a good way to review which pages you’ve Liked, especially if they are a distant memory and far down your Profile page. Pages you’ve liked do not show up in your list of applications you’ve authorized, even though they are technically authorized applications (since the page admins can post to your news stream). So you’ll need to find them in your Profile | Edit Profile | Likes & Interests to manage them individually.

Facebook's Edit Profile Menu

The Likes & Interests tab with the “View Other Pages” popup.

And it’s still a good idea to revisit the original page (if it still exists) to ensure it has updated.

More Detail

Facebook shares some of the technical details of “what is shared with the third party site” in a blog post, but they do note these likes are going to be accessible to other websites and applications:

While these buttons and boxes appear on other websites, the content populating them comes directly from Facebook. The plugins were designed so that the website you are visiting receives none of this information. These plugins should be seen as an extension of Facebook.

But then…

When a like makes a connection in your profile, you can control who can see that in your Facebook profile by editing your “Friends, Tags and Connections” settings on your Privacy Settings page. Remember that even if you limit the visibility of a connection, it remains as public information and may appear in other places on Facebook.com or be accessed by applications and websites.

So, in other words, don’t rely on your Privacy settings to keep anything private. Everything’s still technically public. The website you visited receives nothing when you click Like, but can find out who you are later by simply querying the Facebook database. You’ll have to totally remove a Like to be sure it’s not accessible to someone you don’t want to see it. Or better, think twice before you click Like in the first place.


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