The Illusion of Facebook Blocking

Facebook is a great social networking tool that has provided an excellent way of communicating with family and friends but sometimes the the controls provide the illusion of privacy when they do not.

120939471321735_1833729336Facebook can be configured to control who can see posts on the timeline with standard permissions of public, friends of friends and friends. This can be made more granular by using customised groups of friends such a group for only family members or close friends.

If someone is bothering you with messages, Facebook offers the ability block communication from another Facebook user but I have seen the incorrect perception that it controls access to timeline posts – it does to some extent but it is not designed to do so. As it is very easy for someone to create another Facebook account – they could regain access to the posts on your timeline.

If a blocked person had access to your timeline posts, because they are a friend of a friend, and they created a new Facebook user account they will just see public posts but if they were to become a friend of friend again they could regain their access to your timeline. For example, they might see on a photograph on a timeline that a friend of yours went to a nightclub one night and request to be their friend because they said they met them that night.

If someone had access to your timeline because all your posts are public then a newly created Facebook user has exactly the same access as before. Blocking a user provides no benefit as they could just create another account to regain access to your posts. You could argue that your account was not searchable but access could be regained because the URL of your timeline page is recorded in the browser history and if not, there are many friends of friends who are searchable providing indirect access to your timeline.

So if you are someone who posts messages with public permissions by default – just don’t! Set your permissions to only give access to direct friends (not friends of friends) and ideally only post by default to a select group of friends you trust. Otherwise, consider posts to your wider group of friends as public. Set your permissions correctly and you don’t need to use blocking.

Also, if you block someone you also lose the ability to see what they are posting publicly – potentially something about you!

To make sure your privacy is protected use the steps described on the What is Privacy? blog to secure your timeline.

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