Fixing Facebook: Tips for Handling Common Complaints

Facebook users have a love-hate relationship with the world's most popular social network. Facebook's community is unmatched in size, providing an unparalleled opportunity to remain in daily contact with friends, family and co-workers. Yet confusing and lax privacy controls, controversial redesigns and annoying applications make it a struggle to carve out a useful experience from the service.

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In essence, deactivating your account disrupts the persistent nature of Facebook that allows your online presence to exist even when you are not online. The downside is that your relationship with your friends will be almost entirely one-sided: you can view their profiles whenever you choose to reactivate your account, but they cannot see yours unless your account is active, eliminating much of the interactivity that Facebook offers.

You can control who sees photos tagged with your name, so even if anyone can tag you in a photo, you can decide who gets notified of that tag and has access to the photo. Go to your privacy settings and choose to customize your sharing settings. Under "Things other share," the first option is "Photos and videos I'm tagged in," which can be configured to enable any privacy you need.

Note that this will restrict access to any photos of you uploaded by others, be they complimentary or embarrassing. The photo owners' permissions will also be in effect, so if they have restricted access to their photos, your friends may not be able to see the pictures anyway.

Searching fan pages

Companies that manage their brands on Facebook may find themselves with thousands of fans -- but without the ability to find any one fan. Clicking "See All" lists fans a hundred at a time in no apparent order and with no search or filter functions. Facebook groups support member searches, but pages do not; and, unlike personal profiles, Facebook pages cannot be downloaded for an administrator's offline perusal or archiving.

Being automatically added to groups

Facebook's new Groups feature is supposed to be a way to sort your friends by category or interest. But these lists are public and do not require your consent before your friends apply these labels -- which could be anything from "Family" to "Weekend drunks."

Ken Gagne covers Macs, retrocomputing and electronic entertainment. Follow Ken on Twitter at @IDGagne, read his Computerworld blog, or subscribe to his news and features RSS feed.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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