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Workers scared to befriend bosses on Facebook

Careless updates cost prospects

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Three in four Facebook users avoid making friends with their boss through the site for fear that an off-hand remark might jeopardise their employment prospects.

An online survey of 450 surfers, commissioned by net security firm F-Secure, found that 73 per cent were not "friends" with their boss. A similar 77 per cent said they used the privacy settings of the site to control who could see potentially sensitive information - a finding markedly higher than figures from Facebook itself would suggest.

Only one in three Facebook users reviewed their privacy settings at the behest of the social network last December when it made a controversial decision to share users photos and status updates with the world at large by default.

The apparently higher security awareness of the F-Secure sample is perhaps just as well because a third of those quizzed (35 per cent) admitted posting something on Facebook they later regretted.

Organisations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have campaigned vigorously against what they are argue are a succession of privacy-eroding changes from Facebook over recent months.

On Thursday EFF published guidance for Facebook users on how to opt out of Facebook's latest privacy land-grab, a scheme called Instant Personalization, where select websites would "personalise your experience using your public Facebook information". The scheme - trialled through sites including Pandora, Yelp and Microsoft Docs - means details including a user's name, profile picture, friend list, and pages are shared with third-party websites.

However the F-Secure survey suggests that the most marked privacy concern for many users is the more specific fear that their online activity, opinions and status updates might negatively affect their employment prospects.

Employers have been using Google to vet job applicants for years and searches on social networking profiles is now also becoming standard practice for many recruitment agencies and employers.

The majority of Facebook users polled by SurveyGizmo as part of the survey (58 per cent) said that they used the social networking website at least occasionally while at work. Workers around the globe have been reprimanded for ill-thought out postings on Facebook, from office workers throwing a sickie all the way to a soldier whose comments leaked details of a planned mission by the Israeli military.

Sean Sullivan, a security advisor at F-Secure, commented: "Facebook users have to be aware that anything they post on the site, whether privacy-protected or not, could easily become public. A safe guideline is ‘To look before you leap.’ If full disclosure, accidentally or otherwise, is a potential disaster, don't upload it.

"Facebook is a free service but we ‘pay’ by viewing advertising and making our lives into content that can be searched, shared and made money from. Users are willing to make a bargain, but they are also demanding from Facebook more control over what they share and with whom," he added. ®

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