Raz Chorev | Socially Acceptable..
online presence, Social media

How important are your privacy settings, when using Facebook?

Tamarama Bay and Bronte Beach

Image by suburbanbloke via Flickr

This is not a hypothetical debate, this is what happened to me this morning:

Everyday, I go for a morning walk in my area, (Bondi to Bronte, see pic to the right) VERY early in the morning…(today it was actually night time, by some definitions..) . Half way through the walk, I found a Drivers Licence, lying on the pavement. Picking it up, the owner was not a local Australian. The DL belongs to a Canadian woman, maybe a tourist, or a short term resident.

I had the option of leaving it in the bus stop, and forget about it. I couldn’t. I have lost my Drivers licence once, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience, to put it mildly… So I needed to find her, and quickly.

Having no idea how to locate this woman, I emailed a friend in Canada, whom I believed could help me locate the woman’s family. Being effective as she is, within a couple of hours (having a meeting in between), she emailed me, saying:

“I believe I found her family, left a message with her sister/mother….Will pass on your contact details if she calls back”

I was happy with that, yet a voice in my head said – “she can be found online, I’m sure!”

Googling her name returned too many results. The name on the woman’s Drivers Licence had her first and second names, and her surname. Searching for the full name generated no results, and searching for only one of her names at the time, showed too many results, as both her names are quite common.

so I went to Facebook – where else can I find a 26yo girl? 😉

Within minutes I found her, confirmed her info (name, residence, home town) with the information on her DL, and sent her a message…
Within 45 minutes (!!) she called me, and she’ll pick it up tonight, after work!


As an advocate for online connectivity, I love this story! Seeing the glass half-full, I love the fact I could help this woman reunite with her DL, saving her days of frustration, hours of waiting inline at police stations/RTA (or DMV or whatever they call it in Canada), all because her Facebook privacy settings gave me just enough information to make sure it was her, without exposing her life completely.
But I’m sure some people would be scared that they could be found to quickly and easily, as if George Orwell’s 1984 is coming to life.

What is your opinion?

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  • http://tonyhollingsworth.wordpress.com Tony Hollingsworth

    Great story Raz,

    You had me go and check my Public Page:

    I think there’s enough there to verify its me (if the DL had the photo on it) Without the photo on the DL it would be near impossible in my case. What do you think?

    I’m actually not thrilled with Facebook’s latest public page settings. I can’t control having the various pages I’m subscribed to showing to the world. What can you see Raz given we are not (yet) connected on FB?

    There’s a lot of confusion around about Facebook privacy – and lots of good posts out there explaining the options. We should learn and educate each other abou what works best. I think Facebook are trying to give us options, but it is still complicated.

    We must always be aware and control the amount of personal information we give out, on Facebook and beyond.

    One way I do this is to create a “test” Facebook account which I use to view my profile and verify how it appears to the public, and friends.


  • http://www.acidlabs.org Stephen Collins

    Nice work, Raz! Plenty of karma earned there.

    Of course, we all need to take decent care of our online identities. You and I have talked about this before. But if we expose the “just enough”, great serendipity has an opportunity to occur – whether that’s getting a license returned or finding clients or meeting new friends.

  • http://twitter.com/Iconic88 @Iconic88

    Great stuff Raz!! I bet she was chuffed you located her.

    When it comes to Facebook, they’ve got so much click friction throughout their site, no wonder many people find FB a maze to get through and stick to its basics ~ status updates, photos and keeping abreast of events.

    This has flowed onto their privacy settings as well. They appear so befuddled in what they’re trying to do, that they’re tripping up over themselves by trying to copy the goodies of Twitter to dominate the space of real-time search.

    If in doubt, people should be wary of these changes and note what information they make available.

    Tip: Even the bad guys can’t use what you don’t put in your status update.

  • Laurel Papworth

    Well written story with drama and suspense :)
    I remember the days when EVERYONE that had a telephone was in the directory (name address tel number) and only rich ppl had silent numbers. It amazed me as a kid that we could call international directory assistance for overseas ppl. Last few years people have moved away to private numbers. I guess like every social innovation we eventually question privacy/fear over expediency/findability. Anyway I’m rambling. Good piece!

  • http://twitter.com/Iconic88 @Iconic88

    LOL! I remember those days too Laurel!! did you use to ring international directory assistance for fun?

  • Carolyne Wildman

    Hi Raz,
    It wouldn’t be the first time @trib took the words right out of my mouth – my first thought was, of course, serendipity! But is it? What a wonderful story to illustrate our modern world, which is shrinking geographic barriers every minute, while simultaneously expanding our touch-points and reach in beautiful synchronicity.
    So, while this story may have been labelled a case of utter Hazard 10 years ago, today it is less serendipitous and more quotidian to quite easily reunite things or people that / who have been inadvertently separated.
    So perhaps FB privacy is a question of hide & seek; whether or not you want to be found and how easily. You may want to make it two-clicks-quick. Maybe you want to be found only by those willing to put effort into the search. But if you want the game to end at some point, you wouldn’t choose a completely obscured, undetectable hiding spot.
    In short, as long as we have the *choice* and tools of control available, I believe privacy is still a very personal word and decision.
    Cheers Raz,

  • http://www.profitablesocialmarketing.com Steve Brossman

    Hey Raz,
    The privacy settings are very important. It was quite “sneaky” how Facebook slipped in the changes with only minor notifications.
    The truth is you are in control of your privacy settings however many people just accept the “standard settings” as what they should have.
    The other thing is that everyone should only post information, photos and videos that they would want the whole world to see. You never know when things will change and catch you off guard.
    I personally believe “net private” is potentially “not private”
    Great story re the drivers licence.

  • http://tonyhollingsworth.wordpress.com Tony Hollingsworth

    All this talk of serendipity (@trib @wildchildinaus) has me thinking about an “a-ha” moment I had with Twitter and Facebook which I blogged about here.

    By the way Serendipity is my favourite word!


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