Facebook users can now see if and when you have read their group posts. Privacy anyone?

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Privacy, Social networks

Facebook quietly introduced new functionality onto its site last week that could have some worried about their online privacy.

The social network is rolling out the ability to see if and when someone has seen a post on a Facebook group.

Less privacy on Facebook groups

For now you can still snoop on the profiles and pictures of your ex-partners (their privacy settings permitting) to keep a track - without them knowing - of how miserable their life has become since they split up with you.

But if you are in the same Facebook group (perhaps related to a school, club or joint interest), you can see both whether someone has seen a particular post and at what time they saw it.

So, although you can configure Facebook to not tell your online friends when you are online (effectively hiding from their instant messaging chats, and maintaining a pretence that you have a social life rather than being plugged into the internet constantly) they can still keep some track on what you are up to, and when, on Facebook.

I don't want to come across as a complete privacy zealot here. I can understand that there are justifiable explanations of why knowing if someone has read a group announcement could be very useful... but is there anyone else who agrees that Facebook just became a little less private?

Similar functionality already exists in the Facebook Messenger app, telling you if and when your contacts have read a message.

Facebook Messenger

One wonders if this is a slippery slope, and whether Facebook will consider introducing the (desired by many, and dreaded by the privacy conscious and anonymous snoopers) ability to tell who has been checking out your Facebook profile?

When TechCrunch asked Facebook if the "Seen by" functionality would be ported over to the news feed, the site said it was "not going to discuss what we might (or might not) do in the future."

Hmm.

In the meantime, I've been unable to find any way to prevent Facebook from sharing whether I had read a group post, or share to users with the Messenger app if I had seen a message. I would, at least, have liked the option.

Once again, Facebook has become a little less private.

If you want to learn more about privacy and security threats on the social network and elsewhere on the internet, join the Naked Security from Sophos Facebook page.

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83 Responses to Facebook users can now see if and when you have read their group posts. Privacy anyone?

  1. Guest · 765 days ago

    if u don't want it seen, don't post it. it's that simple.

    • Guest · 765 days ago

      Which part didn't you understand? The issue here is being identified as having seen something. It's not about posting.

    • naughtyian · 765 days ago

      That was not the point :)

      That point was that the one READING may not want his/her presence to be known in case he/she read some FB Group message.

      I am against this new 'functionality'

      There really should have an option to turn-on/off this.

      PS: Yeah, I know, if we don't want our 'presence' to be known, then don't join any FB group then :D

    • The point is that you don't have to post it, you only have to read something posted by someone else.

    • Tim · 765 days ago

      Did you not read the article? this is about you being tracked on what you've viewed, not what you've posted.

      It's hard to keep any sort of privacy when facebook is forcing non-repudiation for simply seeing (not even looking!) at something. I think that facebook is really pushing the boundries now.

    • Josh · 614 days ago

      do you know how to enable this feature?

  2. Duhh · 765 days ago

    This is not about posting, it's about whether you want people to know whether or not you have read something on a group wall. Of course, in your case it probably doesn't matter anyway.

  3. Guest · 765 days ago

    Quote: "So, although you can configure Facebook to not tell your online friends when you are online" - how do you do this, I've been searching all over for that option!

    • Judie Green · 765 days ago

      In lwr right corner, click on "chat box" to open, click on "gear icon" located either at top right or lwr right, click "go offline"...this does actually put you "offline", just makes you appear offline to your friends.

  4. rasg · 765 days ago

    what? you are in a social network and want privacy? out of the internet! now!

  5. Richard · 765 days ago

    "... I've been unable to find any way to prevent Facebook from sharing whether I had read a group post ..."

    Easy one - don't use Facebook!

    • Lucy · 765 days ago

      I'll never get my RDA of entitlement if I exercise restraint and common sense.

  6. Guest · 765 days ago

    so fn what.

  7. Not Seeing It · 765 days ago

    When checking a group I am a member of, I do not see this. Is it still being rolled out and is not yet applicable to all groups? Is it only viewable to the person who made the post?

    Also, if it is viewable by anyone, and it is a public group, does that mean that even non-members can see this information?

    • The functionality is being rolled out slowly across the Facebook network. It may take a while for everyone to see it.

  8. Kat · 765 days ago

    RASG - So then, if you are at a party, becuase it is a "social event" it should be recorded (every conversation, even the ones in the dark corners and bathrooms) and shown on the internet, the tron in Time Square and so forth? After all, it is SOCIAL?

    • Lucy · 765 days ago

      So is it the lack of plausible deniability that bothers you? Not sure if you've noticed but most people record pics and videos of their social events and then they ...wait for it ... post them on Facebook!

  9. chok · 765 days ago

    You can configure the notifications on the group to send you email when somebody (or just your friends) post something. I don't see that "seen by" yet on any the groups of which I am a member, so I have not been able to verify whether Facebook marks that I have seen it when it sends the email.

  10. Jay · 765 days ago

    So if a group post comes up in your newsfeed and you read it there without clicking on it, presumably that would not register as having read the post under this new functionality - nor if you go to the group page and read everything on it - only if you click on a particular post?

    • Guest · 765 days ago

      Excellent question Jay. I, too, would like to know what conditions must occur for FB to "decide" that you have read a given group post.

    • Nick · 679 days ago

      If you read a group posting in the News Feed (even containing media files), it doesn't register you as having read the post, but if you visit the group page (whether or not you clicked on a particular posting there), it registers as read. I mean, once you visit the group page, all latest postings will be registered as read/seen (including albums, pics or videos posted on the group page). However, for individual photos in an album to be registered as seen, you must click on those particular photos. I hope this helps.

      • Nell · 676 days ago

        Do you know if this applies to people who are not in the group? In other words, say the group page has public settings, but you are not actually a member of the group? Would it still register you, as a nonmember, having "seen" the post or picture?

        • Alison · 235 days ago

          I wish I knew the answer to this because it is worrying that you have no control over what other people can view relating to your profile.

  11. Guest #2 · 765 days ago

    Guest 1, that little chat head in the lower right of your screen, click it and go offline!

  12. Everard_Edbutt · 765 days ago

    Is this being introduced so companies can track who responds to their group messages, allowing them to further target those people?

  13. saxonrau · 765 days ago

    I wonder if just reading the summary in Notifications will count as "reading" it for the sake of this function? That would be both invasive AND misleading to the group organiser.

  14. saxonrau · 765 days ago

    Would it count as read if you just see it in the Notifications screen? That would be invasive AND misleading (so that's probably how it works :| )

  15. Joel O'Brien · 765 days ago

    Don't put anything on Facebook that you wouldn't put on a postcard!

    • edie · 765 days ago

      Read the article again. You don't have to put anything on FB to have this posted. Just go visit a group that you joined and it will show up.

  16. Joe · 765 days ago

    Actually, FB has no way of knowing you have seen or read a post. They can only tell it was displayed. I display a lot of stuff I don't read.

  17. FMH · 765 days ago

    This is not the only place Facebook is doing this, if you read articles through FB on Yahoo for example, the news feed will show your friends you have read a certain article.

  18. viverra · 765 days ago

    Facebook does a poor job of telling which notifications I've seen, so I imagine this will be pretty inaccurate, too.
    If I have, say, 20 notifications, and I start clicking on them, halfway through the list FB decides I've seen everything and no longer shows them on the list. I have to click on "show all" to see the complete list again. Very annoying.

  19. Joep · 765 days ago

    So when does FB record that I 'read' a post? I assume that by 'read' they actually mean that it showed up in my news feed and/or I went to the group page and it showed up there? Or is it only when I visit the group page and not when I go over my news feed? Does that mean that when I open the group page FB assumes that I read every single post that shows up there? Or do I have to interact with the post (like, comment, share) before I've read it? And if just opening the group page will do the trick, do I have to click on more posts... to make the next batch show up as being read by me? Just curious as to the mechanics of this as an admin of several groups on FB.

  20. Libby · 765 days ago

    I don't have an ex and even if I did I would "unfriend" them. I'm particular on who is my "friend" so my list is at 100ish but I still dislike the idea of people knowing if or when I read a post...it feels very invasive and concerning stalkers...this feels very much like stalking!
    It would only sort of matter when an RVSP is wanted for an event or you'd like to know that someone knows about a time sensitive issue. But then, if that is the concern...email them directly (then you can know if they've read it) or think outside of the box and actually talk to them!
    This really isn't needed.

    • with this way of thinking fb is also not needed :)

      • infrastructure.. i think the first reason that this is done is not because it is actually needed but just because it can be done, so fb team plays with what can be done, then uses it as much as it can be used to profit and moves on forming the future of this technology that is not steady but evolving as time goes on.. Next year this think that now seems useless may be useful in ways that our minds can not catch at the moment.. think that great inventions seem useless at first time like the microchip.. the one who invented it he did not know what the hell to do with it, but voila..

    • Famousbutprivate · 620 days ago

      If you are going to read things other people put you should have to give up privacy and let them know you are reading it, as you are invading their privacy, cmon guys

  21. Gil Favor · 765 days ago

    Hey...this is terrific! Those who couldn't see before now that Facebook is a jack job will finally get the message and bail out. Of course, those who are immune to the ever-increasing Facebookian abuses of their privacy will just shrug and dig themselves a deeper hole. They're happy, and Facebook is happy at their clueless expense, so all is well.

  22. Lucy · 765 days ago

    I think this is a GOOD thing. The internet is a haven for creepsters and this functionality adds two much needed things to the free-for-all that is the internet: transparency and accountability. Wouldn't you want to know if your ex with a tenuous grasp on reality is post stalking you? I would. And now maybe crazy ex will think twice about post stalking as well. The internet isn't anonymous anyway (it just gives the appearance of being so) so if you want to post stalk someone be willing to do it balls out or not at all. If you're a member of a group and belong there why would you care if other members see if/when you read a message? To vaguely suggest this makes Facebook "a little less private" is just cowardly fear mongering that takes advantage of the fact the average Facebook user knows as much about how the internet works as a bag of rocks. That is irresponsible "journalism." Nothing you do on the internet is ever private. Either accept that or take your ball and go home.

    • Megan K · 765 days ago

      i agree with you in theory, but remember that it's only one small step from this to the nearly inevitable: Facebook putting on blast to the world what you've read. for example, if you belong to a group that's set up to organize a surprise party for a friend, would you want said friend to be told that you read a post in said group? or think about this one: maybe you work for a company whose employees tend to have very strong political ideals that lean in one direction...to maintain workplace harmony, you might not want them to know that you're reading posts in a group that leans 180 degrees the opposite direction.

      there are definitely legitimate uses for this feature, but it narrows the gap considerably as far as where things could go from here (as i stated above). i also believe, as a group owner and a member of several others, that there should be two opt-outs: one for the group as a whole, and one for each user in the group, just like with email notifications.

      • Jason · 764 days ago

        How did you plan surprise parties for said friend before FB?

    • Guest · 742 days ago

      Maybe you should manage and select your personal relationships better so you don't wind up with creepy ex's stalking you in the first place!

  23. Edie · 765 days ago

    Does anyone know if Ghostery has a block for this yet? Also is this fully functional or like the timeline still being phased in?

  24. louise · 765 days ago

    Does anyone know if this is able to be viewed by everyone in a group or just by the admin? It would be a useful tool for an admin if the post were an announcement about a meeting cancellation or such. Otherwise, seems like it would be pretty useless for most group members.

  25. jdclover · 765 days ago

    The whole "seen by" thing was done by Friendster back in the day when it actually was a social network. No uproar that I remember because they were doing it.

  26. Sly · 765 days ago

    I have to admit. I think it is a good thing in a way.. I admin several groups on behalf of 3rd parties & it is good in the respect that you can see on the fly (as can other admins) how many people have seen the post. If people are going to spy on you, then they are going to spy. I had (have) it from the glorious ex-wife.

    As most people say if you wouldn't put it on a postcard don't put it on the web...

    It never ceases to amaze me that people openly share to much or rant on the web, then get upset as "such & such" saw it!!!!! Duhh how private do you think the (& I Quote) "Worldwide Web" is????

  27. chrst · 765 days ago

    you know the more these "updates" are introduced the more I want to delete my facebook

  28. Graham's Gram · 764 days ago

    Maybe you don't want your boss to see that you read a post at 10:15 if you were in a meeting from 10-11. Lots of reasons you might not want the time posted.

    Also, this is as useless as the old Outlook read receipts ... because as has been pointed out, "displayed" does not equal "read".

    If you want to read every post in a group without anyone being told that you read them, then set your setting for the group to email you every post.

    • Jason · 764 days ago

      If you are knowingly doing something you know your boss will not approve of, well then....

  29. James · 764 days ago

    What about our friends the Trolls they will go wild. Facebook will not be a happy place to come to!!!!!!!! I was in a group where the Trolls took the group over???

  30. JG444 · 764 days ago

    this is why I have 'real' friends, not pretend friends on FB, ones I know :)
    I like my privacy so I don't use FB. Simple.

  31. Matt · 764 days ago

    Could always trying just getting your own network such as with Odysen. Invite whomever you want and leave it at that, no worries of spam, advertising or other privacy distractions, just a simple communications tool to use with others you trust. There's also a free plan you can use with a small group, sort of kick the tires a bit.

  32. jandoggen · 764 days ago

    "But if you are in the same Facebook group (perhaps related to a school, club or joint interest)"... Doesn't Facebook do that automatically if you enter the city where you live in your profile?

  33. Guest · 763 days ago

    I too am saddened by the constant loss of privacy. Those who arent are simply unaware of the real consequency, ignorant of the negatives or just so enamoured with the positives they are willing to give far too much up.

    sad

  34. Lydia · 736 days ago

    Do you have to be a group 'member' for your name to be noted as having read/looked at a post (example- if you check out a 'public' group page would the group administrator be able to see your name listed??)

  35. Aidan · 728 days ago

    I don't know whether anyone has already mentioned this, but having just discovered this function on a group I am a member of, I have realized that you don't actually have to have clicked on any of the posts people in the group have made in order for you name and time to appear on the "seen by" list. Simply accessing the group page automatically adds you to the top of the "seen by" list on all the page's posts, even if all you have done is simply scroll down the page very quickly. Personally, I think it rather does invade people's privacy, it would be better to have a "looked at by" function, where you appear on the list if you actually click on it (in the case of a photo, link etc.)

    • Lynnr · 700 days ago

      This is also why it's just a rubbish feature. I checked the exact same thing. My name appeared in the "seen by" list and I hadn't read the posts concerned. All I had done is clicked on the group page and then clicked away. I hadn't read any of the posts concerned. So it's just not accurate.

  36. Claire · 728 days ago

    Reiterating this comment??
    Do you have to be a group 'member' for your name to be noted as having read/looked at a post (example- if you check out a 'public' group page would the group administrator be able to see your name listed??)

    • Guest · 677 days ago

      "Reiterating this comment??
      Do you have to be a group ‘member’ for your name to be noted as having read/looked at a post (example- if you check out a ‘public’ group page would the group administrator be able to see your name listed??)"

      If someone has an answer to that, could you please share it? I can't figure this out either.

  37. noooo · 708 days ago

    NOOO :'( facebook why do you suuuck. this update is so annoying.

  38. Scarlett · 698 days ago

    You, sir, are an idiot...and there's not much more to say about it. I'm assuming you don't have a facebook?

  39. Asdf · 679 days ago

    What if you appear offline

  40. savy42 · 677 days ago

    This is such a stupid thing. Because it gives people the assumption that you have read a particular post. When in fact, you have merely visited the group page that the post was posted on. There could be 100 posts on a group page. I could read just one of them yet every single one would show that I "saw" it just because I was on the group page. Why add something like this? What is the purpose of it?

  41. craycray · 673 days ago

    i'm confused. there's this weirdo who is creepy who is friends with my friends. he's in this group that i'm not a member (fan?) of. i sometimes check to see if he'll be at events because if he is, i'm definitely not going. can he tell i'm looking under that group if we're not even friends? i'm confused..what if you just go to the group, but you don't actually click on any of the posts? uh oh. OH NO i just remembered that i've also done that with this hot guy who is also friends with my friends. i go to see what events he's going to cause he flirted with me a couple of times. holy crap i'm paranoid now lol he probably knows..so confused about this article and what it specifically is referencing. who knows? the admin? or everyone in the group? thanks facebook. now i need a freakin valium ::sigh::

  42. IvIountainman · 672 days ago

    Being an admin of several FB groups I have some further info on this. The feature is some what annoying however its purpose is to aid both user and admins during the early stage of a group. Somewhere between 200 and 300 member in a group the # seen by feature is automaticly deactivated.
    The feature is benefical by allowing users to see if the group is getting enough traffic or if its dead. It pretty much does the same for the admins
    Again once a group has a reasonable number of members the seen by feature is disabled as your less likely to know all the members personally, and the group is operating succesfully.

  43. sol · 671 days ago

    I don't mind so much the group knowing iv'e read a post, as this is efficient and helpful, thus the purpose of joining a group. I more dislike the private messages I read that indicate to the sender that i've read them and when. In both cases, it does seem to cross the line and I find it invasive.

  44. Daniel Reinhardt · 669 days ago

    I feel this is a good thing, now there is no need to be anonymous. For those who do not want this, then simply get off the internet and be merry with your lives. Privacy on the internet is not going to happen. Anonymous people need to be held accountable for any all interactions done online. More companies and networks should adopt an Anti-Anonymous attitude and force people to use identifiable information, so there is greater responsibility and care in what they post. It would sure take a big bight out of cyberbullying and the like, because I would love to see who is reading my content and whether or not they take it and bully me and flame me on other sites. For all those who disagree, then you have not had the luxury of being cyber bullied. I have been, and to the point where they called my house and threatened me and my family.

  45. Lori · 667 days ago

    Funny, all these people on here criticizing others about doing Facebook. So, *why* are these people reading and taking part in a discussion about Facebook? Weird and interesting.....

  46. PeTeY · 656 days ago

    I'm sorry but when exactly has facebook EVER been private?

  47. I think the "seen at" feature was much more than an issue than this.. I wonder if you can disable it though. It's annyoing!

  48. george · 635 days ago

    Well I have a group and this functionality (seeing who read your group posts) has stopped. I can no longer see who did. Facebook has removed the 'seen by' .
    I presume this is facebook-wide and maybe it is because they thought better about it
    abd felt it was interfering or even dangerous:( But it was useful to me, how can we bring it back? Any ideas, why they stopped and how can we get reinstated? Thanks for feed back

  49. Ana · 633 days ago

    "Does anyone know if this is able to be viewed by everyone in a group or just by the admin?"

    My friend recently read a Group Post and saw that her ex had read the same post. This meant that he could also see that she had read it. She has a restraining order out on him and so, to be on rhe safe side, has left the group. She now has no idea if her name is still there as having read the post, and is worried sick!

  50. Tshering · 621 days ago

    I don't like it. I am a member of several groups & some groups automatically post on my wall as I don't mind it to block. Then, even I scroll my wall for interesting events, they count me in who read this post. I surprised & shocked as I first notice! Basically, I don't have any idea about the posts as I don't interest & read them. But they still count on me even I didn't read it on my wall. This's ridiculous! I don't mind privacy but Facebook should inform users about new applications & give the option. It also need to improve. If I go to particular group & read the post, that is fine. But your counting machine is putting on my wall & counting whenever I scroll my wall is a bit ridiculous! I don't like the policy of Facebook even I am not crazy about Privacy!! No respect on users!

  51. Honkers · 620 days ago

    No, if you want to read something someone put and be sneaky then they should know about you doing it especially if its a former gf/bf it lets you know theyre snooping and then you could block them!!!!

  52. Johnny · 620 days ago

    Those profile view apps are not genuine apps at all, and some may be harmful to your computer. Do not use them!

  53. Geraldine · 616 days ago

    I have tried to connect to the Stalkeez Viewz link without success. I had no choice but to play a couple of 'games' before I could 'break through', I went along with it, lost the spin in wheel, of course and still no success. Help! Bit worried now as I had to give out my mobile number?! Am I a foooool ?

  54. Oh my god... Social media privacy is getting worse day by day... some one claimed that social media is the way ot tracking everyone... i thik hes right...

  55. Thank you Graham for this very intelligent tread.

    I am admin on several groups, and really want to find a way to uncheck the "have read" function, but I dont know how at this point.

  56. krazi · 467 days ago

    if you're not a member of the group and you didn't click on any post, just checking on the group page, your name won't appear on the list right?

    • None · 457 days ago

      I've just tested... it seems you have to be a member of the group to get logged, and even then, you need to click into the particular post. It just creeped me out, too. :o

  57. julie · 431 days ago

    so how do we apply this ? Anyone able to talk me through it please?

  58. Beth · 380 days ago

    What if i am not a member of a group but i see a post to the group on say my timeline then can members of the group see if I've seen the post?

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.