I've seen a million articles that say basically, "Be very careful what you put on Facebook because employers check that before they hire you... would you want them seeing pictures of your drunken party?"

These advice articles never address the obvious question of... how can random employers see my profile? Can't all this "advice" be addressed by simply checking your privacy settings?

  • @Blue - many/most people (especially at the time when this advice was concieved) did NOT check their privacy settings.
    – user5341
    Jun 28 '11 at 20:23
  • OK, but the advice is ignorant... it's saying to limit your whole facebook content instead of saying "click a checkbox in your privacy settings"!
    – BlueWhale
    Jun 28 '11 at 20:43
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    Forget Facebook, try a Google search with your full name in quotes. See how much information is spilled on the internet. Jun 28 '11 at 20:51
  • Smart enough employers can very easily find a lot of info about you from your online presence. FBI has a Facebook, Google, etc. API that they can just call in a batch mode. FB and GOOG created that back door in order to save $ on processing individual requests. So ... tighten your security and do not be a foo, but privacy is still dead.
    – Job
    Jun 28 '11 at 22:45
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    Do like me: register to avoid cybersquatting, and just don't use that sh*t. Then you'll never loose time with questions like this. Jun 29 '11 at 7:07

This advice is based on default privacy settings as of 2010, for which pretty much everything except personal contact info was totally public. And with Facebook's SEO efforts, for many people would be top hit on Google when searching for their full name.

FB default privacy as of 2010

See Evolution of Facebook Privacy Policies

Since then, after lot of criticism privacy setting have been improved and advanced privacy settings introduced. So now you can keep everything private, with privacy groups you can separate your work friends, family, close buddies etc.

  • 3
    What's wrong with a bar chart or table? The data is not fit for this representation.
    – user2721
    Jun 29 '11 at 8:34
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    sadly this keeps on being shown to not be true in practice, as flaws keep being found. If you have a reasonably large group of friends, there are reasonable odds that your data is accessible to an employer. The guidance remains good.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jun 29 '11 at 11:38
  • @Rory: as I've said, now with groups, you may make content available to selected group of people, rather then generic "all friends". So even if you have a lot of people as "friends" on FB, it's still possible to keep privacy tight. Flaws... well, that's whole different subject...
    – vartec
    Jun 29 '11 at 12:01
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    no, you can't keep your privacy tight on Facebook. Even with the improvements they have made. See my answer for one route in which doesn't require flaws.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jun 29 '11 at 12:03

Well... yes and no.

If you have good privacy settings and you trust everyone that has access to the information, you are safe.

However, many people add people as friends who they have never met and give full access to everything. I have known some companies to create fake people in order to ask/add people.

In addition, it should be said, it is possible that you have a mutual friend who told on you!

update to comments

It is just common knowledge amongst people in recruitment and IT professionals that this sort of thing goes on, I am not really sure/not seen any sources.

So many people have thousands of friends, they have no idea who is who and add anyone who sends an invite.

If you do not believe me, create a new account, put some good looking girl as a picture and add add random people with over a few hundred friends, I guarantee that the majority will add you straight away, and out of those 60-70+% will allow you full access to their pictures and everything else.

  • 4
    Especially take care with 'friends of friends'. That group is really broad, especially if you have someone as a friend with lots of other friends, eg a music teacher or a politician.
    – johanvdw
    Jun 28 '11 at 22:18
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    @William, how do you know that you are safe? How do you know companies create fake people? Please add some references to provide evidence for your claims. Thank you.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 29 '11 at 5:08
  • @Oddthinking updated
    – wilhil
    Jun 29 '11 at 8:51
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    @oddthinking ... Here is a picture from the account - imgur.com/Yw2JV - just a random selection where one is a real person, and I have access to all their pictures... Again, I have given the proof... if you want to be convinced, create an account and start adding people!?
    – wilhil
    Jun 29 '11 at 9:12
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    @Rory, @William, I fear I am not making myself understood. This currently reads as "This is what I reckon the answer might be." rather than "Here are the facts, and here are references to empirical evidence to demonstrate that it is true." Suggesting that the reader can do the research themselves means you haven't actually answered the question. Readers might choose to verify the evidence of your claims, but they shouldn't be asked to find it themselves. Perhaps Rory, you can do the Google search and use the result to answer the original question?
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 29 '11 at 13:22

Facebook divulges a lot of information through its API, and tools such as Maltego can provide you with vast quantities of relationships between individuals, information from their facebook accounts, linked to other social media accounts etc.

Have a look at this presentation for some deeper information.

Of course the 'can' they doesn't always line up with 'are they legally allowed' to - in may jurisdictions it is likely to be an offence... however that isn't really answering the question.

  • 1
    By finding relationships. You may think your data is private, but you have no control over what settings your friends have, or how facebook and applications share data. I repeat, what you think you have set through the privacy settings in Facebook is definitely not what I would class as private!
    – Rory Alsop
    Jun 29 '11 at 14:06
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    @BlueWhale, you may grant various trusts to an application, which gives it access to more of your data. FB App writers are required to promise not to infringe on several privacy rules (such as recording your name outside of FB), but this is unenforceable.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 29 '11 at 16:16
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    @vartec, If I persuade your friends to install my app and grant permissions, and they can see your photos, then I can see your photos. Also, if you are applying to work at a subsidiary of Zenga, and you play Farmville, then they can access various data.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 29 '11 at 16:18
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    @Odd: I've just checked one of Zynga's games on my profile, it has access to following information: name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends, birthday. It doesn't even have access to my own photos, let alone photos of my friends. I've checked few more app and it's pretty much the same.
    – vartec
    Jun 29 '11 at 16:36
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    @Vartec, I think you've made a good point there; less than I thought. Although some people might rather keep their friend's list out of their employers hands...
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 29 '11 at 16:53

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