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‘Facebook at Work’: It might be time to change your Facebook photo

Posted by Alex Perryman on 10th December 2014

I’m going to confess something: I spend an unhealthy amount of time on Facebook.

Beyond my professional duties of helping to administer or contribute to various business pages, far too much of my life is lived in The Big Blue app.

Like many, I use Facebook to scream my ill-informed (and often quite political) views at friends who, being friends, will shrug and ignore me. No damage done. And, like many, I keep my personal and professional lives separate. ‘LinkedIn is for business, Facebook is for personal use’. Frankly I’d prefer my superiors aren’t subjected to my Malaga snaps.

Hence why I’ve tracked news of Facebook’s separate Facebook at Work project with interest. I feel like the idea of being able to run two completely separate streams has merit.

However, I’ve noticed a fairly worryingly trend occurring in Facebook.

Facebook seems to have started very aggressively recommending ‘people you may know’ that I am connected to through work. And not just a little either. Overnight, every single recommendation for ‘people you may know’ now seems to have become a work connection. And not just co-workers; also journalists I work with and, more worryingly, clients.

That can’t be a coincidence, right?

It doesn’t seem like a great logical leap to imagine that Facebook is attempting to seed the way for Facebook at Work.

“Hang on,” you will say, “I don’t want these people in my newsfeed. This is my personal life.”

“Ah,” Facebook will reply, “Why don’t you install our new product, which will allow you to keep the two separate?!”  Facebook is creating the very problem it will then promise to solve.

By the way, it also doesn’t seem like a great logical leap to think that Facebook is also proactively pushing similar recommendations to your clients’ feed, suggesting that they connect to you, fronted by your profile picture

If your Facebook profile photo, (which I keep non-public) looks like this:

…no problem. While my profile pic is hardly professional, it’s no disaster, (with the obvious exception of my face). However if your Facebook profile looks like this:

…as a surprising number do, you may have a problem. Facebook, it seems, is now aggressively pushing your profile picture at clients and colleagues.

“But Facebook profile photos are searchable from within Facebook anyway.” Sure they are….

…to say nothing of the number of people who don’t know how to tweak their privacy setting so that their picture doesn’t appear on the open web. But that’s not quite the point. Now, rather than forcing a client to actively seek you out, Facebook is actively pushing your profile picture to work contacts.

It might be slightly naive, in this day and age, to call Facebook out for violation of privacy. After all, we give them vast hordes of data to mine, and the implicit agreement is that it will use it for its own ends. That’s how Facebook pays for itself; you are the product. But Facebook’s business is supposed to be about knowing how to present this information back to us in a way that people will enjoy or find useful.

Keeping your profile pictures sensible / clean will merely seem like simple common sense to most, but I can’t help but feel that, eventually, this change to the way Facebook presents our information back at us is going to land someone in hot water.

Alex Perryman

Alex joined Wildfire in 2007. He is renowned for his ability to pick up complex technologies and new industries extremely quickly.