No matter how strictly you control your Facebook Privacy Settings, it appears that private information about your life can still slip through the cracks and be seen by people who you’d rather weren’t aware of certain facts. This is exactly what happened to two young people in Texas when their inclusion in a Facebook Group outed them as homosexuals to their respective parents.
Last year Bobbi Duncan was trying to hide the fact that she is a lesbian from her father. But when the president of the Queer Chorus – a choir group she had recently joined – added her to the choir’s Facebook Group, a notification was sent to her 200 friends, including her father. The very same evening Ms Duncan’s father left all manner of messages and threats on her phone, making the situation very problematic indeed.
Another student at the University of Texas – Taylor McCormick – had been added to the Queer Chorus Facebook Group at the same time as Bobbi. As a result, Taylor was outed to his Facebook Friends and family members as being gay. Despite the fact that both Bobbi and Taylor were sophisticated Facebook users who had taken many steps to control their Privacy Settings so that any clues to their sexual orientation were hidden from their parents, this information was still publicised.
Commenting on this story, Jason Calacanis had this to say:
“This is the price that consumers are paying for Facebook’s horrible, horrible track record and attitude around privacy. We did blog post after blog post about how stupid it was to allow your friends to add you to a group, and Facebook ignored them. Letting others tag you and autoposting those photos to your feed is another example of Facebook’s very immature and self-centered approach to our privacy… I really think that all of these seemingly little mistakes are going to be Facebook’s downfall.”
It’s easy to point at Facebook and its “post first, ask questions later” approach to your personal information, but whichever way you slice it, Facebook is a free, public network that makes its money from your data. It’s only a matter of time before your ‘private’ data becomes less private.
In the case of the Queer Chorus, it’s an unfortunate situation where the organiser tried to help the members stay up to date with the rehearsal schedule, but two young people were inadvertently outed to their parents. If the choir master had used a private sharing network, this predicament could have been easily avoided. Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing, but at least people can learn from the previous mistakes of others.