Practice Tips

Facebook privacy settings every lawyer should know

by Dave Bilinsky, Practice Management Advisor

Facebook recently released a new set of revamped privacy settings in response to criticism from the Canadian Privacy Commissioner, among others, regarding the privacy, or lack thereof, on Facebook. Considering that 350 million users are on Facebook (including a sizable number of lawyers — estimated at 30 per cent by Research and Markets, an Irish firm), this is a sensitive issue. Lawyers should be using social media tools such as Facebook carefully, with one eye on best practices towards privacy and security issues.

The respected Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) states that, even though “the new changes are intended to simplify Facebook’s notoriously complex privacy settings” and give you more control of your information, it concludes: “These new ‘privacy’ changes are clearly intended to push Facebook users to publicly share even more information than before. Even worse, the changes will actually reduce the amount of control that users have over some of their personal data.”

The EFF does not endorse Facebook’s recommended privacy settings. It considers the push for users to share more of their info with everyone “a worrisome development that will likely cause a major shift in privacy level for most of Facebook’s users, whether intentionally or inadvertently.” It states that sharing everything with “everyone” could lead to a massive privacy fiasco.

So what is a reasonable lawyer or law firm to do?

The New York Times has a great article on “The 3 Facebook Settings Every User Should Check Now” at  

If you want to delve deeper, EFF recommends the webpage “What Does Facebook’s Privacy Transition Mean for You?” (, which compares Facebook’s privacy setting defaults, both old and new. This page is a great resource for navigating the byzantine privacy settings in Facebook. Word of warning: this is not a quick read or a quick fix, but it contains good recommendations as to what to share with whom on Facebook and how to do it.

For further resources in this emerging area:

  • Doug Jasinski, a former lawyer who is now the principal behind Skunkworks Creative Group Inc., a new media consulting house in Vancouver, has an excellent PowerPoint explaining social media and why it is important to lawyers:
  • Bottom Line Law Group has drafted a Social Media Policy Template with associated resources:
  • Jaffe PR has a blog post with an outline of a social media plan:

When it comes to social media, it is not a bad idea to ensure that others won’t be attacking your integrity by protecting your privacy.