#Facebook Embraces the #Hashtag: 3 Tips to Protect Your #Privacy

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Facebook HashtagA staple of social networks like Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, the hashtag, denoted by the # symbol, is making waves on Facebook this week.

Turning topics and themes into clickable links on your News Feed or Timeline, hashtags allow for something that Facebook has never done before: making posts searchable. 

 So what does this mean for your privacy? Keep reading and follow our three tips that will ensure that your use of hashtags won’t put you in the spotlight.

While privacy is usually at the forefront when it comes to Facebook, the network has always been “closed” insomuch as users and pages could never eavesdrop or mine all of the statuses posted. It wasn’t possible to search and see what other users were sharing about specific topics, people, issues or events. But now, if your post is public and includes a hashtag, it is fair game.

The aim is to bring more conversations to the forefront. In the announcement for hashtags on Facebook’s blog, Greg Lindley, product manager at Facebook, says, “To date, there has not been a simple way to see the larger view of what’s happening or what people are talking about.” However, it must be noted in this release that Lindley also states that hashtags are just the “first step” and the “beginning” of the unearthing process.

The blue linked hashtag allows for content filtering. Clicking on it or even searching for one in Facebook’s search bar, will bring up a landing page dedicated to that one hashtag that is visible to other users and even marketers on the network. In the list are all public posts that mention this hashtag. Below are some precautions you should take to keep your privacy intact as hashtags roll out on Facebook.

1- Check your current privacy setting: Even if you use a hashtag in your status, the specific privacy setting associated with the post still determines who can see it. Make sure you set your post privacy to just include your Friends.

2- Clean up your Friends and Lists: When was the last time you did an audit of all of your Facebook Friends? If you are concerned about hashtag privacy, now is the time to make sure you feel comfortable sharing with everyone you are friends with. Additionally, Lists are the way to organize your Friends on Facebook and they also allow users to filter which set of Friends can see certain posts. For example, you probably don’t want your co-workers to see a status update about how much “#MyJobSucks!”.

3- Go back through your old hashtags: While hashtags are now clickable links, users have been typing out hashtags in their posts for years. All of these old statues with hashtags are now searchable. Also, it should be noted that updates from other social networks that are linked to Facebook, such as Instagram, will also be a searchable hashtag. Go back through your Timeline’s history and check all your old statues and make you feel comfortable with that post being surfaced with that hashtag. If you don’t, hit that delete button.

It appears that hashtags will bring a new openness to Facebook. How do you feel about them? #Win or #Fail?

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Jillian Ryan

Jillian Ryan is PRIVATE WiFi's Director, Brand Communications and Social Strategy. With a passion for writing, the web, and fast-paced information exchanged via social networks, Jillian is also concerned about the ramifications of putting your life details and personal data into cyberspace. Follow her on Twitter: @Writing_Jillian.