Facebook Security and Stalking

There are a lot of questions when it comes to Facebook security: who can see my profile, can someone tell if I’ve been snooping on their page, and how do I make my Facebook profile more private?  Today we’re going to go over the basics of Facebook security and cyber stalking.

Tightening up your privacy settings

It’s a good idea for everyone to restrict who can see your profile.  If you don’t, you might find yourself one day at an Ellen show with your Facebook pics on national television.  Especially if you’ve had your Facebook straight through your teenage years, then you’ll probably have a photo or post that doesn’t show you at your best.  Be smart about what you’re putting out there.  When I was searching for a daycare for my son, I looked at several in-home daycare options.  I’d always look up the provider on Facebook before scheduling an interview.  I nixed quite a few options when I came across photos of heavy drinking, partying, obscenities, and questionable parenting choices.  Yes, I made judgments at first blush, but I don’t regret doing that.  Maybe if Jesus were here today, he’d revise what he said about “from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” to “from the overflow of the heart, the Facebook status is updated.”

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Go into your settings.  Click on “Privacy” to change what others are able to see on your profile.1
  2. Something that foster parents should know is that your phone number is searchable unless you turn that option off in your privacy settings (Note that it can still be searched if your number isn’t on your actual profile!).  Even if you’ve changed your name to make your profile harder to find, if bio parents have your number, they can type it into the search bar and your profile will come up.  If you don’t want to be found by your phone number, change this from “everyone” to “friends.”2
  3. You can go in and check your work.  Go to “Timeline and Tagging Settings” and it’ll give you the option to review what other people see on your timeline.  You’ll be able to see what your profile looks like to the general public or a specific person.  3
  4. Have you ever Googled your name?  If you type your name into a web browser, your social media accounts will come up (as long as you’re using your actual name, of course).  This includes Facebook unless you turn off that option.  I don’t allow search engines outside of Facebook to link to my profile.  You can turn it off too in your privacy settings.  4
  5. If you want to go the extreme route, you can always change your name on Facebook.  Some people only use their first and middle names to make it harder for someone to find them.  I’ve seen people add spaces in the middle of their first or last name to the same effect.  Since I’ve already made my profile private, I haven’t felt the need to change my name.  I know there’s no identifying information on my profile, so I don’t fret about it.  If it bothers you, change your name (just be aware that it’ll make it harder for friends to find you as well).

Facebook Stalking

As foster parents, we all know that information can be limited.  There’s a natural curiosity to see what parents are up to, and it seems most people have checked out parents’ Facebook profiles to see if they can find any information or learn about the family dynamic.  I guess my perspective on it is if they choose to make their social media accounts public, then the public has free access to it.

Can You Tell Who’s Viewed Your Profile?

People freak out at the thought that there might be a way for someone to find out if you’ve been on their profile.  So can someone tell if you’ve been on their profile?  The answer (straight from Facebook itself) is no.

6

I have seen the claims from 3rd parties of ways to go about this without Facebook’s help.  This site goes through 4 methods that claim to be able to see who has viewed your profile.  I tried each of them and was unimpressed.   First is a Google Chrome extension.  It was a super easy add-on, but it ONLY works to track visitors IF that person is also logged in to Facebook AND using that same extension.  Which is no one.  No one is doing that.  Or, to put it more simply, don’t add the extension and your views won’t be tracked by that one other nerd out there that actually downloaded it too.

The other somewhat intriguing method is to look at the actual code.  The site walks you through the steps.  The gist of it is you can view the source, and there’ll be a section called “InitialChatFriendsList” that will show you who has last viewed your profile.  However, this theory has also been debunked.  The Daily Dot explains what’s going on here:

“We individually looked up the first 25 people in our InitialChatFriendsList and directly asked them, “Hey, when was the last time you looked at my page?”

The first result on my InitialChatFriendsList hadn’t visited my page in two weeks. The second hadn’t looked in months. The third had visited it that very day. The 14th had visited it three weeks earlier. The 25th couldn’t remember ever looking at my page at all since we became friends. What did all 25 of these people have in common? We all interact with one another during the week.

We like each other’s posts and talk over Messenger. We do interact, so yes, in one regard InitialChatFriendsList does probably tell you who you’re interacting with on Facebook, but not in a way that can be tracked via any real useful metrics. You can’t tell who is stalking your Facebook but not interacting with you via this method.

So, does it work? This Always Sunny in Philadelphia GIF sums it up:”

can i see who viewed my facebook profile

Suggested Friends

Facebook claims that profile views don’t factor into suggested friends.  They say that suggested friends are based on common friends, interests, events, and location.  However, I’ve heard enough anecdotal evidence (and it would make sense that Facebook would track and use this information to their advantage) that I wouldn’t put it past them.  What this means is that if you’ve viewed someone’s profile, you may show up in their suggested friends list.

Thedebrief.co.uk also supports my theory:

“In a recent Vice investigation into how this suggested friend list happens, David Liben-Nowell, a computer science professor at Carleton College who studies the structure and evolution of social networks said:

‘My hunch is that [Facebook is] using names you’ve searched for or profiles you’ve viewed to suggest friends to you. It would almost be silly for them not to: if you’ve shown an interest in a person while using Facebook, then you’ve as good as told Facebook that you might want to have some kind of relationship with them.’”

The Takeaway

Make your Facebook profile private.  If you worry about bio parents finding you, tighten up your security and privacy settings.  If you keep up with someone on Facebook and don’t want it to get back to you by showing up as a suggested friend, sign out before you look at their profile or create a separate account for all your devious stalking.  You also have to be careful that you don’t accidentally like something on someone’s public profile (which is easy to do on a touch phone, for example).

I’m sure many foster parents could also be private investigators.  You do you, but remember to be safe and aware of any effects of your digging.

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