"sensitive" facebook groups and privacy
January 5, 2017 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Can I make private that I am a member of a certain Facebook group? How?

There are some Facebook groups I am interesting in joining but that I don't necessarily want other people to know I am in them. Recently I saw several groups that friends were in, that were related to sex or other private subjects.

I "hid" the "groups" section on my page; will other people be able to know if I am a member of a certain FB group? If so, how do I make that completely private (except to others in the group, obviously).

Thanks.
posted by bearette to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I found out a friend was in these groups because they came up in the sidebar under "suggested groups", showing that she was a member. If I join certain groups, I do not want this to happen on my facebook friends' pages.
posted by bearette at 2:09 PM on January 5, 2017


I don't think you can. Facebook makes it up to the group owner, not up to members, whether the membership list is public. So making the Groups section of your page private means it won't show up on your page, but anything that is public on the group's page will still be public regardless of individual members' privacy settings. Don't join a non-secret group you don't want everyone to see, and don't comment on any public posts you don't want everyone to see.

(My personal policy is not to do anything on Facebook I would mind having public, because other people can change their privacy settings whenever they want, and Facebook changes its own policies frequently. They call it social media because they're sharing any information you give them with as many other people as they can get away with. That's not to say you have to make everything public all the time, but you have to be okay with the fact that someday, without warning, it could be made public without your consent. Don't do anything on Facebook you wouldn't want your family, friends, the cops, and your boss to see--because they might.)
posted by decathecting at 2:11 PM on January 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


So, Facebook has three settings for groups: public, closed, and secret. Your membership in a public or closed group is public. There is no way to make it private. Your membership in a secret group is visible only to members of that group.

If you want to anonymously join a public/closed group, you should create a new Facebook account just for groups.
posted by mama casserole at 2:11 PM on January 5, 2017 [11 favorites]


Even a group being secret is not necessarily enough; if the group is under 5000 people, as I understand it, the admins can change it from secret to closed or public.
posted by emilyw at 2:22 PM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


If you want to anonymously join a public/closed group, you should create a new Facebook account just for groups.

But keep in mind that Facebook frowns on non-real-name accounts and is likely to delete such an account, sooner or later.
posted by beagle at 2:23 PM on January 5, 2017


Frankly, even if you could do this, I wouldn't trust Facebook not to change it without telling you. I would advise against assuming anything you do on Facebook is private.
posted by cnc at 2:32 PM on January 5, 2017 [11 favorites]


I am a member of a secret group for a pretty sensitive subject, and despite all privacy measures the members or mods could find, people would still sometimes find their spouses being shown that "suggested groups" thing. In this case, which was like "if my spouse found out about this domestic they might physically hurt me" serious, it was generally accepted that the only way to really ensure privacy was to have a separate Facebook account with a fake name, used only for that purpose, possibly used only on a separate browser or from a separate phone. The settings might have changed since then - but could change again.

Depending how serious your need for privacy is, you may want to take similar steps. But, yes, with the realization that Facebook might shut down your fake account at any time.
posted by Stacey at 2:36 PM on January 5, 2017


Because the "privacy" of group membership is determined by the Admin of the groups, my Facebook policy is to not join groups unless:

1.) I am ok with my membership in the group being public, and/or
2.) the group is Secret and I trust the Admin to keep it secret.

I will admit to ignorance regarding the functionality of the "Suggested Groups" feature, but what Stacey describes is contrary to Facebook's current stated policy (which has been this way since at least 2013*) regarding Secret Groups: "Only members can find the group and see posts."

*Source: I am the admin of a Closed facebook group, I just reread the thread from November 2013 when we discussed the change from Secret to Closed, including what each category meant (the group was small enough that I was able to seek and receive unanimous support for the change, I hence why it's important to trust the admin)
posted by sparklemotion at 2:45 PM on January 5, 2017


I "hid" the "groups" section on my page; will other people be able to know if I am a member of a certain FB group?

And I just looked into this a little more (I didn't know it was an option).

Before "hiding" the Groups section on my profile page, using Facebook's View As feature to view the page as Public, I could see the list of the 3 Public groups that I am a member of. No Closed groups, No secret groups.

I then Viewed As a Friend who is a member of at least one Secret group that I am a member of. The Secret group did not show up on my profile, though, I can of course see that he is a member of the Secret group from the Secret Group's page.

Then I "hid" the Groups section on my profile page. Both when Viewing as Public, and when View as a Friend with whom I share groups, I could not see any of the groups that I am a member of (Public or otherwise).

Conclusion: Hiding the "Groups" section of your profile page will prevent anyone from seeing which groups you are in from your profile page. This will probably not prevent Facebook from suggesting Closed and Public groups that you are a member of to your Friends. There isn't a good way to test Facebook's Suggested Groups functionality with Secret Groups.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:58 PM on January 5, 2017


Nthing the need to accept that you can never be sure anything on FB is ever truly private. Anything can happen; people can get vengeful, circumstances can change. Recently I heard of a friend who physically took a picture of someone else's computer screen in order to send said picture to someone else for mean and nasty and petty reasons. Eyes can hit things from all sorts of places, and bite you in the ass when you least expect it.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:34 PM on January 5, 2017


Be very careful about private groups because someone can still share your post on their wall with your name attached. For example, if you post a link to Whips and Chains R Us and comment that floggers are 10% off today, someone can share it and it will look like "Jerkface shared Bearette's post from BDSM Lovers" - then your privacy depends on if any of Jerkface's friends know you.

Some of my friends have had very obviously fake names like Dirty Dudette or whatever. Facebook pays attention when someone reports you so I'd recommend picking something that looks like a name, preferably male, and not making enemies.
posted by AFABulous at 3:48 PM on January 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


This will probably not prevent Facebook from suggesting Closed and Public groups that you are a member of to your Friends.

It's true even if you're no longer friends! For at least a year after my divorce I got recommendations for groups that were geared towards my ex's hobbies, which I did not share. I am 100% sure none of my actual friends are or were members of those groups.
posted by AFABulous at 3:51 PM on January 5, 2017


Yikes. This was illuminating.

Next week's Askme: Do I tell my friend I can see that she is a member of "Kinky Singles" and several other related Facebook groups because they come up in my sidebar?
posted by bearette at 5:29 PM on January 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


No, just do a PSA status. "Hey, everyone, in case you don't know, this is how Facebook handles privacy and people can see what groups you're a member of, even if you've hidden groups on your page, because the groups get recommended to your friends, including Great-Aunt Mildred." Your kinky friend will either be horrified and take care of it, or (worse for you) decide not to care, and as she joins more groups, you'll know way more about her than you'd like.
posted by AFABulous at 8:28 PM on January 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


Frankly, even if you could do this, I wouldn't trust Facebook not to change it without telling you. I would advise against assuming anything you do on Facebook is private.

This is the only correct answer when it comes to "Is this thing on Facebook private?"
posted by Rock Steady at 5:49 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


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