As you may know any digital image you upload contains a lot of metadata in addition to the image itself – depending on the device you use and the settings of that device of course. For example, the location the image was taken, the date and the time- Facebook can use this data to tag and contextualise your image if you want it.

Facebook will also encourage you to tag your friends in your photos before you publish them. What exactly is a tag? On Facebook, it is basically a link to their timeline, as well as an alert-generator. Depending on their settings it will also add the photo or post to their timeline, including your status update and any comments.  When you tag someone in this way they will be notified.

Facebook reckons I should tag this Mojito. Has it come to this, my only friend..?

Facebook reckons I should tag this Mojito. Has it come to this, my only friend..?

With photos, Facebook’s default settings suggest matches based on other photos in your existing albums – these range from scarily spot-on through to absurdly funny, but if you find it creepy you can opt out of having Facebook suggest YOUR name when someone else uploads a picture on the site.  Of course your friends still have the ability to manually tag you later, or you can tag yourself, they just won’t be prompted to mass-tag you when they upload the photos.  It’s in your privacy settings which we explore in greater detail below, but for now open your privacy settings and click ‘customise settings’. Scroll down to ’Things Others Share’  and edit the settings in ‘Suggest photos of me to my friends”, make sure it is set to ‘disabled’.  And you can easily skip auto-tagging of your friends too, when you publish your album.

This is important because tagging affects the audience and distribution of your photos.  If I have 100 friends and I share a photo with them of me and Fred Bloggs, only my 100 friends can see it – Fred too if he is amongst them.  But if I TAG Fred, all of his friends can see it too – and I don’t know those people.  You will see the audience selector for that photo change from ‘Friends’ to ‘Friends+’ to indicate a wider distribution. Same thing happens at an event, everyone invited to the event who has not declined it can theoretically see that photo. Tag a whole bunch of mates at a party, and you are effectively distributing that picture with potentially thousands of people, and if they go on to share that photo then you lose control of it altogether.  If it’s a nice picture of them and they want to share it beyond their friends all they have to do is download it anyway.

If you don’t want your photo, post or other content to be visible to the friends of the friend you tagged, you can turn this setting off for each post when you post it. To do this, click the audience selector next to the story, select Custom, and uncheck the Friends of those tagged and event guests box.  I am not suggesting you *should* do this and it rather defeats the point of the tag in the first place, but you do need to be aware that tagging alters your sharing of content beyond your defaults.

Of course this also applies to tags in status updates, comments or any other place you use it If I am in an open Facebook group and someone is offering for sale a gadget I know my mate Fred was looking for recently, I can helpfully tag Fred in the comments so he gets an alert and can come and check it out… however, if Fred’s friend who he was looking to buy the thing for is online at the same time and happens to glance at the ticker at that moment, he might see the comment even if I already checked that he was not a member of the group.

How about if someone tags YOU in a photo or status update?  If you would prefer to control this process, turn on timeline review for tags – click the cog at the top right of any Facebook page to enter your Account Settings, go to Timeline and Tagging in the left menu, then find ‘Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline?’ click edit, then enable – too many clicks, in my opinion, to set what should be the default in the first place.

Then you can at least avoid any really unflattering photos appearing on YOUR timeline… though you do need to be aware they are still visible with whomever your friend has already shared them with, and that you have no control over whatsoever.  If you really object to the tag you can also ask to have it removed, either via Facebook or maybe give your friend a nudge in a private message?  We all have our good sides and our less good sides, and particularly if you are job-hunting or feel that some things which happened on a specially wild night out ought to stay on that night out, I am sure they will oblige.

Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, August 16th 2013

©Maya Middlemiss, Casslar Consulting SL

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