It seems as though the words “Facebook” and “Privacy Concerns” have been inextricably linked over the past few years. And a simple Google search of mine this morning confirmed why I’m feeling this way...
But this time, the news around Facebook and privacy isn’t a scandal or a new issue.
It’s actually a good thing.
Two recent updates within Facebook Groups are meant to ensure that users are only connected and talking to people they know and trust.
What’s happening with Facebook Group chats?
On the same day the announcement was made (August 16th), Facebook shut off the ability for users to start a new chat in a Facebook Group.
And, if you’re interested in continuing a conversation, you had better move quickly. On Thursday, August 22nd, chats in Facebook Groups will be readable — but the ability to chat further won’t exist.
Before this update, any user was able to send a message to one or more people through a group, even if they didn’t have connections through friends.
To me, though, it didn’t seem to put users first. Connecting people is a noble goal (nobody is debating that), but it’s incredibly important to ensure safety, transparency, and clarity — especially when it comes to personal information and profiles.
Because the platform didn’t necessarily take the best steps at first to provide this insight, privacy and spamming concerns have surfaced.
Before this update, the chat functionality enabled in groups allowed users to start a chat with 250 people. They could instantly spam them with a message that had absolutely nothing to do with the shared Facebook Group’s interest.
"We’re making [a] change because we’ve heard from people that they want more clarity about the privacy settings for their groups. Having two privacy settings — public and private — will help make it clearer about who can find the group and see the members and posts that are part of it. We’ve also heard that most people prefer to use the terms 'public' and 'private' to describe the privacy settings of groups they belong to."
So, what exactly does this mean?
“Public groups allow anyone to see who’s in the group and everything that’s shared there. With private groups, only members can see who else is in the group and what they’ve posted.”
The social platform believes that by now offering two familiar options for Groups (“Public” and “Private”) the privacy model will be more intuitive, allowing users to know exactly who can see what Groups they’ve joined and what they’re posting in those groups.
While this is more of a straightforward update than a sea change, it represents another improvement in privacy control.
What do these privacy-focused updates mean for us?
Well, for those of us who enjoy joining and participating in Facebook Groups (cough cough,IMPACT Elite, cough cough), it means that we’ll have better clarity and understanding. No longer do we need to worry about people we don’t know sending messages to our private inboxes, and no longer do we need to worry about who can see what when it comes to our activity in Facebook Groups.
The guessing game that we’ve (possibly) been playing is not fun — especially when it comes to our online identity and privacy.
For those of you who manage a Facebook Group (for professional purposes or for fun), it’s up to you to educate your members. Make sure they know what changes are happening and how it affects them.
It’s your duty to make sure that everyone in your group feels comfortable to participate and engage without worrying if they’ll get spammed or who will see what.
If you don’t act as the trusted admin — educating your audience, and letting them know what updates are made — then they may ultimately decide leave your Group. For businesses, a smaller group can mean less engagement, less brand awareness, and less trust and advocacy.