Have A Facebook Privacy Horror Story You Want To Share?

In just a few short years, Facebook has turned a networking site for college students into a multi-billion dollar business with hundreds of millions of users. It has also earned a reputation for blurring the line between what constitutes users’ private information and what data it can make available to interested parties.

Our cohorts at Consumer Reports are working on their annual State of the Net survey and they are hoping to hear from people who have had negative experiences with Facebook.

For example, have you ever lost (or not gotten) a job because of something posted on Facebook? Or have you found out that your Facebook status has somehow had an impact on your insurance, credit score or bank accounts?

Considering you’re reading this on Consumerist, you are probably using the strictest privacy settings Facebook allows. Even so, have you ever seen or had reason to believe that your information was shared in a way you hadn’t anticipated, especially with unpleasant results?

Or maybe you’re one of these people that believes in being completely transparent online and hides nothing while sharing everything? We’d love to hear from you too.

If you have a Facebook privacy story to share with the Consumer Reports folks, shoot them an e-mail at tips@cr.consumer.org and you may end up in the next issue of CR.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Olivia Neutron-Bomb says:

    “Facebook has turned a networking site for college students into a multi-billion dollar business with hundreds of millions of users.”

    They should make a movie about that!

  2. Tank Fuzzbutt says:

    My account here and on Facebook is that of my cat. He even has his own separate email. I asked him about the privacy settings and he didn’t care much so I adjusted it for him now that he reached 5,000 friends. Cats on Facebook. Who would of guessed?

  3. Buckus says:

    Yes. I signed up for Facebook.


  4. frank64 says:

    I won’t sign up, I want to have more control over who sees what I am up too.

    I did sign up under a fake name and that email account still gets emails saying someone is looking for me.

  5. JWMcDonald says:

    I’m a grumpy old fart, don’t participate in Facebook (or any other social media) and don’t worry that my privacy will be violated.

  6. aaron8301 says:

    I’m just waiting for more of my important friends to submit to our Google overlords and join G+ so I can ditch Facebook entirely.

    • rookie says:

      me too…
      some days i open the g+ door and all i can hear is a faucet dripping and the echoes of long forgotten laughter…

    • Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

      I wish. But my Consumerist circle has way more activity compared to all my FB friends combined — apparently you people are more fun even if I have never known you all my life.

      So I mainly just use FB for stalking. :3

  7. iblamehistory says:

    I don’t have anything too juicy. I’ve used it since 2004 and much preferred it when it was limited to college students, because now I have to see a bunch of high school drop outs and 45 year olds not knowing how to spell (not that all college grads are better, though… eek).

    The only questionable thing I’ve seen is an occurrence with a CLOSED group. I’m part of this closed group for people with the autoimmune disease my mom had, which I may or may not have (long story). People decided to close the group so we could discuss some more personal medical issues without the prying eyes of friend’s and family who may not understand. I posted there about my pregnancy when I was maybe 5 weeks along; I’m now 14 weeks. We weren’t telling family for a long time–in fact, my in laws will find out in roughly 2 hours. Not long ago someone mentioned that their friends who were NOT in the group had seen their posts from the closed group in that live feed thing. Others reported the same thing. I freaked out but it seems like what I posted didn’t leak anywhere. I’m not sure if it was ever fixed.

  8. humphrmi says:

    No horror story here, but I maintain pretty tight settings. Friends only. I pick my friends carefully. About the only scare was a few friend requests from people I didn’t know, and I just ignored them. For a while I got into the whole check-in thing, but that got boring. I mainly signed up because nobody in my family was going to my family blog site, because they were all on Facebook. Now, I’m no longer posting direct information there, I went back to my blog and then I post a link to my blog when I update it.

  9. shthar says:

    Sorry, facebook came along after I turned 14.

  10. HogwartsProfessor says:

    No, so far I haven’t had any problems. The only app I allow is a WordPress one that links my blog posts to my page. Settings are friends only on most everything, and I don’t have any of my personal info on the page. No drunken party pics either, because I don’t do that anymore. Good thing Facebook wasn’t around the first time I went to college. Yeesh.

    I did ask people not to tag me in photos since I’m job hunting, and I did set it so I have to approve them. I did what I could.

  11. Libertas says:

    Without going into specifics, I used to work with a supervisory level government employee that got shitfaced and made some not so veiled threats and inappropriate comments on a few of his subordinates FB page. He claims to not remember doing it.

    It cost him his twenty plus year career two years before he was eligible for retirement.

    • Doubting thomas says:

      that doesn’t sound lie you could blame Facebook. If FB weren’t there he could have made the threats via email or chat. Blaming Facebook for your own drunken stupidity is like blaming the road for speeding

      • SmokeyBacon says:

        Or by phone – one of our employees did something similar (well, his threats were not veiled) except on people’s work cell phones (he didn’t have facebook – he could barely get his work email) and he lost his job. That is more a drinking thing then a facebook thing.

        • Libertas says:

          No, there is no blame on FB here, he had a long and stellar history of being a complete dumbass when the demon rum was in him. The FB incident was just the last straw.

  12. Lethe says:

    What I have isn’t exactly a horror story, and I vaguely remember something similar being reported on this site in the past, but it’s something that still comes up every once in a while and hurts me each time. My brother died unexpectedly about a year and a half ago, and I still periodically see reprints of status updates people posted around the time that he died when I’m on their profile. I’m not sure why Facebook has never figured out that not every post people put up is due to a happy memory.

  13. Stella says:

    I’m extremely cautious about what I post on Facebook–even with stringent privacy settings. I had a co-worker post a while ago about joining the “DUI club” and I thought, “Ugh. Why would you post something that would most likely eliminate you from future job consideration?”

  14. Blueskylaw says:

    When I hear the word Facebook, I am reminded of an Indiana Jones quote:

    You are dealing with powers you cannot possibly comprehend.

  15. Snip says:

    No Facebook stories, but once upon a long time ago I was an active member of a number of Yahoo!Groups (remember those?) But then I wound up having to petition to have a number of my posts removed from search results after Yahoo let the archives go public. So no FB for me, thanks. I don’t want to have to do anything like that again if I can help it.

  16. jesusofcool says:

    As someone who has been on Facebook since it was open to only those with a university email, I find having to sift through all my posts before I’m forced to use timeline and they’ll be a lot easier to find to be ridiculous. Anyone know of a way to block people from seeing posts before a certain year?

    My biggest Facebook horror story is that they make it impossible to set things the way you want, which makes it so useless for me. I have 3 levels of friends – Close Friends, Friends and Acquaintances. Acquaintances have little access to my page. Anyone know of a way to set the News Feed so instead of seeing more of Close Friends, you just see less of Acquaintances?

    • You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

      Once you switch over there’s an option on the Privacy Settings to “Limit the Audience for Past Posts.” I already made sure they were set to friends only, but I imagine you could make them “only me.”
      Otherwise you may need to do them all by hand :/

  17. The Lone Gunman says:

    If you have a very common name like mine, I doubt that anyone would want to attempt to sift through everyone who shares your name–which would number in the thousands–in an attempt to find you.

    There’s also the fact that you could simply deny having a Facebook page, particularly if there are no pictures of you on it to prove otherwise.

  18. umbriago says:

    I don’t have any horror stories, sorry. I have an account I use to administer pages where I work. I don’t post updates about myself – I mean, at any time – nor do I post pictures, let people know when I’m going on vacation, where I’ve been, what I’ve bought, who I hang out with. I don’t
    even use a picture of myself.

    I really hate to hear about firms analyzing FB data to figure out whether I’m a good job candidate or whatever. What conclusions will they be able to draw about me, someone who doesn’t
    even reveal where he lives or where he works? It can’t possibly work in my favor.

    I am consistently stunned by the amount of information people give away about themselves. Its easy to find people I went to high school with, old girlfriends, and thanks to youropenbook.org, its wildly easy to get a good idea of the lives of complete strangers.

    In short: what’s the matter with you people? Not you Consumerist people, you people giving away your lives for marketing purposes?

    • czechyoself says:

      There was a study conducted at the University of Texas that concluded your personality (e.g., extraversion, emotional stability, openness to experience) could be predicted by your Facebook profile. If I was a hiring manager looking for someone who could gel with my team, then I’d consider that useful information to screen applicants.

  19. dourdan says:

    nothing really bad;
    i went to San Deigo comic con and my sister’s best friend was there (she is an intern at Arcedia comics) so we all posed for a picture and tagged my sister’s name.

    little did i know if you tag someone, ALL of their friends can see. so my dad had to field calls from his side of the family (the all live in LA and San deigo) as to why i made no effort to contact anyone.

  20. RayanneGraff says:

    Here’s my story- I signed up several years ago, I only uploaded pictures & information that I wanted people to see, and I’ve yet to have a single problem.

    In fact, nobody would have ever found out about me & Jordan Catalano if it hadn’t been for Krakow & his damn camera. Nosy little dweeb.

  21. foodfeed says:

    I have no clue how Facebook knows to suggest I friend a bunch of my gmail contacts (old teammates on mailing lists and random roommates) because they claim I’ve never used that feature. I don’t use my email password for any other accounts and don’t make a habit giving it away to Facebook.

    • Apple Brown Betty White says:

      It’s because other people have allowed FB access to their email contacts. FB puts together a network of suggested friends based on your friends, people you’ve emailed with, and it extrapolates relationships as well. For example, if Alice, Bob, and Charles are friends, and Alice and Bob have you on their lists, they’ll suggest Charles.

  22. Danjalier says:

    I got one.

    While getting to know my current girlfriend before we were dating, I was posting some pretty trashy words and photos on my facebook page. She didn’t like it much, and I decided that I rather just not have a Facebook account altogether since it made me look like a far worse person than I was. Plus, I liked her and didn’t want her to have those impressions of me.

    Deleting my account convinced her that I had something to hide. And reopening it (for the purpose of proudly exclaiming my relationship status) meant I was going back to my old ways. LOSE LOSE I’m a weirdo because I don’t have a Facebook LOSE.

  23. denverite says:

    When I applied for my current job, writer/editor for a nonprofit, in July ’10, the first thing they looked for was a FB page. When I told them I deleted it in ’08 due to privacy issues, they were flabbergasted. But it eliminated potential pitfalls & streamlined the hiring process, in my favor.

    Now, whole dossiers can be compiled on you, courtesy of FB et.al., when you apply for a house/car loan or job.

  24. shufflemoomin says:

    Here come the hipster douchbags who think they’re “too cool” for something popular. You’ll also find in the majority of cases these fools DO use Facebook and when someone finds out, they pretend they’re being ironic.

  25. jenesaisrien says:

    An associate had a relative post on her “wall” private family stuff/comments-caused some embarrassment though no major sequelae…Many users don’t understand the variety of privacy settings. Just deactivated Hardly used. In general…so many sources of unauthorized info spreadage, no? I’m figuring privacy is an illusion, though an effort to limit isn’t unreasonable.

  26. orion70 says:

    I’m typically pretty careful what I post on FB (especially now that I’m off work due to illness). Biggest issue I’ve had was during some FB changeover to new design or something, privacy settings reverted to default, allowing a nightmare of an individual from my past to start contacting me. I quickly changed the settings back when I realized, but I certainly could have done without reading those messages.

  27. donjumpsuit says:

    My mom (who is on Facebook) and several other people say “Be careful what you post on Facebook”. Then go off and write a personal email to someone they consider private. I have my privacy settings set real easy. No one can search for me by name or email. (not that they would find anything more than a profile picture if they did find me). I have 244 friends. About 50 are from highschool for whatever reason. The rest I trust with my sordid posts and comments. The weakest link would be if one of these friends took all my information and made it public some how, which would be a intentful and malicious act. I don’t allow any “Apps” to access my information, and only Facebook has this right. If Facebook wants to violate my trust and agreement by selling or publicizing my private information, I will cease to support and unsubscribe. Likewise if Gmail or Hotmail take the contents of my email and sell it or harvest it, I will also cease to subscribe. It is funny to think that people are so paranoid that thier stuff is “on the web” when it is as secure as private emails. Sure they can use it inappropriately, but of all the agencies (banks, government, cell phones), i trust Facebook the most, because they are the most publically accountable in such that everyone is watching and screaming bloody murder when just the tiniest infraction occurs. Meanwhile Bank of America is loosing all our social security numbers and inforamtion all the time, an nobody is crying about that. It’s funny. I laugh. I think people think too highly of their information. Who cares about your private information? Try to think about that. Have less of an ego, and perhaps you can relax and enjoy life.

  28. Omegaman says:

    Ok, its embarrassing but I have an actual horror story from earlier this year. One of my best friends called me up and said “I am impressed by your dedication to pornography, but you probably don’t want to share it on your newsfeed. Apparently some adult video streaming site that I had visited while signed into Facebook on another tab had posted the name of the video that I had watched earlier to my newsfeed. I never clicked on “like” or any other sharing option, and I never entered my FB password on that site, but somehow I ended up allowing them to post that on my wall. Since then I have set up another browser to use if I want to look at anything that I wouldn’t want showing up on my Facebook wall, but I still don’t understand who in the world would actually intentionally post an adult video on Facebook. There seems to be a massive potential for causing embarrassment, but very little potential for people to actually choose to use FB sharing on purpose.

  29. Fonsworth says:

    This may be backwards but….They won’t let me in [ I hate facebook but out here it is literally the only way to talk to people. Nobody uses email or chat programs anymore]. When I signed up they wanted to text or call my cell to confrim I was a real person. I didn’t mind giving that up. I kept getting messages that their system was overloaded, so they couldn’t text me or call.

    I found a form to put in what my wireless provider etc is and what my problem was [not to be confused with receiving updates on your phone form]. I received an auto reply.

    Now they won’t let me in unless I scan My drivers permit or my Passport. I guess I’m not cool enough. It’s funny because I know tons of people with fake accounts and when I tried to sign up it wouldn’t even get me past start without a phone number. Now this.

    I don’t care if they invade the stuff I put online because I am pretty discreet, I do care if they want my real world ID. I tried to use my real name on there too….I’m just thinking of hijacking a friends fake account and turning it into me.

  30. ktlnlb says:

    I just got out on an abusive relationship. My ex is furious that I won’t talk to him, so he resorted to badgering my friends for information about me. I don’t post anything too personal- just funny one-liners and things like that.
    It got to the point where he harassed a friend into giving him their password so he could view my account. She gave him her password. He messaged me under her account. Thinking it was her, I had a conversation and I spoke a little about my personal life. Then I got a text from her, saying “Don’t reply to any Facebook messages from me.” I called her, and she explained what was going on. I told her this was not okay, and then I deleted my account.

  31. smartmuffin says:

    Why do you guys never ask for non-horror stories?

    Here’s my Facebook story, it’s the same as 99.9% of the people who use Facebook. I signed up for Facebook. It allows me to play games, talk to some of my friends, and look at photos of all the girls I had crushes on in high school. Because I’m not an idiot, I figured out the easy to understand privacy settings and have never had a problem. The end.

    • jenrevenant says:

      I never post anything I wouldn’t want my mom to know. Mostly because she’s one of my fb friends… but still, that was the “nettiquette” back in the days when the internet was still a baby…

  32. remusrm says:

    facebook does the stalking for me, lol… one of my exs that i had a bad fall out made a facebook account. I was friend so someone she knew back, she was friends with someone else, and my ex was friends with that chick. Guess who showed up under suggested friends.

  33. duncanblackthorne says:

    I deleted (not suspended, but deleted) my Failbook account several weeks ago and haven’t looked back. I suggest you all do the same unless you like having your entire life put under a microscope by complete strangers who only view you as a target for marketing strategies.

  34. etbrown4 says:

    I signed up for Facebook, which might be better called ‘Spybook’.

    The first thing they apparently do is to, without your permission, rifle through your email contacts list.

    They they appear to compare your contacts with known Facebook members.

    After that they start asking the new member if they want to add those very contacts to your friends list.

    Big question: How else could Facebook known who was on your contact list?

    Based on what I believe is happening to tens of millions of users worldwide, I would not trust Mark Zuckerberg as far as I can throw him.

    I have studied Facebook’s agreement and privacy policy carefully and nowhere do I see that you have authorized Facebook to spy on your personal information.

    There is no telling what other nefarious things they may be doing routing around in your computer files.

    Not sure how accurate the movie about Facebook and Zuckerberg was, but the insidious and deceitful nature of spying on your personal files is strikingly similar to the deceitful tactics alleged to be used by Zuckerberg in the very founding of Facebook. It looks like a Zebra with the same stripes to me!

    I’ve researched the matter and discovered that there are or have been numerous lawsuits filed against Zuckerberg or Facebook based upon their invasion of privacy.

    One wonders what happens to these lawsuits, why they never make the national press, until now, and why the Feds are not prosecuting Zuckerberg and Facebook.

    Maybe Consumerist.com and Consumer Reports can flush out what appears to be an extreme invasion of our privacy.