Your expectation of privacy on Facebook is a fantasy

Another day, another person burned by the assumption of privacy on social media

Here we go again. It’s been a few months since I’ve seen this kind of story run across my news feed, but it is far from unique. It goes like this: Woman posts something on Facebook with the assumption that it will be seen only by her network of friends and will not be publicly accessible. However, her post somehow makes its way public, and now she is facing the consequences of her actions.

This time, the person in question is a Florida mother named Ashley Habat, who had her 4-year-old child enrolled in a private school called Sonshine Christian Academy. Habat was apparently angered about the timing of picture day at the school and went on her Facebook page to vent about it in her status update.

Her post read: “Why is it that every single day there is something new I dislike about Will's School? Are my standards really too high or are people working in the education field really just that ignorant.”

While she was at it, she tagged the school in her post. Brilliant.

The next day, Habat was informed by school officials that her son was no longer welcome to attend the school. In the dismissal letter, Habat was accused of “sowing discord” because of her use of social media to call into question the intelligence of the school’s staff. Sowing discord, according to school officials, is a violation of the handbook Habat and other families at the school agree to comply with at the beginning of the school year.

Habat then did what lots of angry people in this country do – she called the news media to complain.

I’m not sure what bothers me more about this particular story: The fact that Habat was so publicly critical of her son’s school and then is shocked and angered when they decide to terminate the relationship, or the fact that she is using Facebook and still doesn’t understand that tagging a person, place, group or brand in a status update will automatically alert them to the fact that they have been mentioned – and will also give them the ability to see what has been posted.

At CSO we have been discussing the kinds of blunders people make on social media with their security and privacy for years. From the person who gets fired because of a derogatory comment about their boss or company on Facebook, to the celebrity who has a few too many one night and takes to Twitter to fight with trolls, it is now abundantly clear that social media and privacy expectation do not mix. While it is reasonable to expect your conversations in a private message exchange or closed group discussion are not for public consumption, it is still always best to follow the rule that one should never put something on social media that they don’t want the world to see. 

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