#Facebook gets #hashtags, which does #WTF to your #privacy?

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Privacy

facebook logoFor those Facebook users who are allergic to any notion of privacy whatsoever and would prefer that the entire world be privy to contents of their #dinner or antics of their adorable #children, Wednesday was a high and holy day indeed, for that was the day that Facebook embraced the hashtag.

The company announced that starting on Wednesday, users would be able to add clickable hashtags to posts, similar to Twitter (for whom user Chris Messina invented the hashtag back in 2007), Instagram, Tumblr, or Pinterest.

Clicking on a hashtag will lead you to a feed that shows what other people and pages are saying about the hashtagged subject.

Facebook hashtag example

As Messina said about his hashtag rationale, he wasn't interested in other people's talk about creating official groups on Twitter.

Rather, he was more interested in enabling eavesdropping:

I’m more interested in simply having a better eavesdropping experience on Twitter.

To that end, I focused my thinking on contextualization, content filtering and exploratory serendipity within the Twittosphere.

With hashtags, Facebook is also interested in eavesdropping, aka encouraging users to open up conversations to strangers. Likely, as pointed out by The Register's Kelly Fiveash, the aim is to "juice up more ad revenue."

As it is, Facebook is happy to point out, "roughly a Super Bowl-sized audience" engages with the social network every night, during "primetime television alone."

Take Game of Thrones, for example, for which the recent, remarkably gory episode "Red Wedding" got over 1.5 million mentions on Facebook. That's not too shabby, given that 5.2 million people watched it.

How will this impact your privacy? It shouldn't, if you avoid using hashtags to get Facebook Nation to follow your conversations.

#privacyCurrently, users control the audience for their posts, including those with hashtags.

Unfortunately, there have been far too many users who don't control who sees their posts, even in the pre-hashtag world.

As Consumer Reports reported a year ago, 13 million US Facebook users weren't using, or were oblivious to, privacy controls.

At the time, Consumer Reports found that in the prior 12 months, Facebook users "liked", updated their profiles, and posted status updates to produce these data points at these rates:

  • 39.3 million identified a family member in a profile
  • 20.4 million included their birth date and year in their profile
  • 7.7 million "liked" a Facebook page pertaining to a religious affiliation
  • 4.6 million discussed their love life on their wall
  • 2.6 million discussed their recreational use of alcohol on their wall
  • 2.3 million "liked" a page regarding sexual orientation

If you want to ensure that hashtags don't get the privacy-oblivious into even hotter water, do them a favor and educate them on how to work Facebook privacy controls.

There's a great video from Consumer Reports here on how to do just that.

Oh, and if you want to hear the security latest news about Facebook, give the Naked Security Facebook page a 'like'.


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4 Responses to #Facebook gets #hashtags, which does #WTF to your #privacy?

  1. Joey Nova · 495 days ago

    If hashtags were to be used for their intended purpose I'd be all for them. Categorisation of data is a good thing. People hashtagging every word in a post because they believe it will gather more likes is what grinds my gears. Look on instagram at how many people hashtag the word "the". There is no hope for mankind.

    • Derek · 432 days ago

      Simple solution is to ignore sites like instagram, twitter etc... If you want to gather information on a topic just do general google searches or better yet go to the library. You can access lot's of library information online. As for facebook just use it to connect with family and friends about relevant things and ignore being sucked into all the nonsense. Finally stop using twitter and get a life of your own.

  2. pamelajaye · 495 days ago

    I only want to verify whether or not including hashtags in your own posts will override privacy settings. If not, I don't mind them. I have many friends from different interests and Lists isn't working as well as it could.

  3. Lisa Vaas · 495 days ago

    Well, Facebook is saying that your privacy options will be the same for hashtagged stuff as for the post itself, so we can hope that proves true. As for me, I'm all over bombarding Facebook Land with utter nonsense, hashtagged up the yin-yang for all to see, but then, I'm a journalist, and you can't expect much better from the likes of me. Take, for example, my posting this morning about an almost-utter-disaster of a #breakfast, where I accidentally cracked a raw egg into a dish of heavy sweetened cream with strawberries. #Frankensteinian, I think I called it. But I'm too cheap to throw it out, so I scrambled it all up. Delicious! #Serendipitous! #lowcarb #delight! There are words for the way I plan to use hashtags on Facebook. #Promiscuous is the most polite. One thing I sure as heck WON'T be doing and hope none of our readers do, of course, is posting publicly about when I'm going on #vacation, because we all know how much fun a good #burglaryspree can be.

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.