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The Facebook symbol is found on most computers and phones. It’s linked to Internet logins and social media sites. It even made an appearance in the Supreme Court last week, during which Chief Justice John Roberts discussed the confusion of Facebook privacy.

Facebook is everywhere. And your profile is attached to it.

Most people don’t think twice when they log in to Facebook. They scroll through the news feed, update their status or upload pictures, and then sign off. They may sneak a look at their ex’s profile, but that seems harmless.

But what if Facebook is not as harmless as it seems?

Of course, everyone has been warned about Facebook privacy. That’s why users make their profiles private and censor the photos they post. They’re careful about the statuses they publish and the language they use. This way, they’re relatively private in an over-publicized world. At least they think they are.

However, Facebook is constantly changing and so are its settings. When the site is remodeled, the privacy controls are relocated, making them difficult to find. According to TechCrunch, a source for the latest technology news, “Facebook’s privacy team manager Mike Nowak admitted that people think Facebook changes its privacy controls too often or that the company has failed to make privacy easy to understand.”

I learned this the hard way. Even though I grew up with Facebook serving as a pillar of high school and college, I’ve realized I don’t know everything about the social media site. Before I made a frantic change to my settings, typing my cell phone number would allow everyone to find my profile.

This goes against everything parents and school counselors have told me about Facebook privacy. (If that concept exists.) And that’s just Facebook. There’s also Facebook’s frenemy, Twitter. 

Facebook does not boast a reputation of safety, so many teenagers – under their parents’ guidance – have turned to Twitter to stay connected. Twitter only allows 140 characters in each post, posing the façade of safety. Or at least a safer option than Facebook.

“One reason students are moving away from Facebook is that the other options are so fast. Using Twitter is like sending a text to their friends,” Bishop Dunne Catholic School’s Director of Curriculum and Instructional Technology Christine Voigt said. “But [using Twitter] is really like sending a text to millions of people.”

Unless you protect your tweets, anyone, even those without a Twitter account, can view them. You choose to make your Twitter profile private or public when you sign up for the platform, so this can be easily overlooked.

Also, there’s a feature called “Add my location to my Tweets.” This option attaches your location to your tweets, which also have a time stamp.

“We teach our students you don’t need to tell everyone on Twitter where you’re going after the football game,” Voigt said. “We reinforce that microblogs like Twitter are an open forum. They [students] have to be careful because anyone can see it.”

There are ways to make your Facebook and Twitter profiles private, but it requires constant awareness. “You can set up a policy on one [social media] site, and then something new will come out,” Voigt  said. “Social media is always evolving. So even if you think it’s private, you should assume it’s public because it’s online.”  

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