Why can’t I hide my list of Facebook friends?

By Felix Salmon
December 10, 2009
published a list of my facebook friends, along with those of other critics of the site like Barry Ritholtz, Dan Colarusso, Dave Kansas, David Einhorn, Eric Savitz, Henry Blodget, Jeff Matthews, Joe Nocera, Joe Weisenthal, John Carney, John Hempton, Paul Kedrosky, and Sam Antar.

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The sleazy anti-shorting crowd at Deep Capture has published a list of my facebook friends, along with those of other critics of the site like Barry Ritholtz, Dan Colarusso, Dave Kansas, David Einhorn, Eric Savitz, Henry Blodget, Jeff Matthews, Joe Nocera, Joe Weisenthal, John Carney, John Hempton, Paul Kedrosky, and Sam Antar.

First, I’d like to apologize to the friends whose names were published. But it’s not my fault, it’s Facebook’s. Here’s their privacy policy:

Certain categories of information such as your name, profile photo, list of friends and pages you are a fan of, gender, geographic region, and networks you belong to are considered publicly available to everyone, including Facebook-enhanced applications, and therefore do not have privacy settings.

I’m a semi-public figure, and although I might not be happy with this kind of cyberstalking, I know I’ve put myself out there and that there will be consequences of that. But that decision of mine shouldn’t have some kind of transitive property which feeds through to my personal friends, and I don’t want the list of their names to be publicly available to everyone.

There’s one thing I can do which makes retrieving this list a bit harder: I can restrict the list of people who see my name in search results when they’re searching for me. But the whole point of having a Facebook page is so that old friends can find me: I don’t want to be hard to find. I just don’t want people who find me to automatically thereby find my list of friends as well. My friends deserve more privacy than that.

Update: Maybe it is possible after all. Thank you to Heidi Moore, who showed me this trick: if you click on “Profile” at the top of the page, you’ll see a box of “Friends” in the left-hand column. That has a pencil in it; click on that, and then uncheck the box saying “Show my friends on my profile”. It’s got to help, anyway.

friends.jpg

Update 2: This isn’t a perfect solution, by any means. Heidi adds:

Even if you close off your friends list in your profile, it’s open to anyone on all of Facebook who shares even one friend with you.

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