How Much Can Knowsley Council See on Your Facebook?

By on Wednesday, May 8, 2013

kmbc_facebookYou already caught me in one rant – albeit a restrained one – about Knowsley Council today, so I decided to get all my complaints over with in one day.

My second complaint concerns Knowsley Council’s Facebook page. It’s not, in fact, a “page” as most businesses, organisations and other groups would have, but a personal “profile” of the sort designed for individual users to connect with friends and follow interests.

This means that in order to connect with Knowsley Council on Facebook, you don’t “Like.” You “Add Friend.” And this seemingly innocuous process automatically makes everything on your profile visible to your local council. Knowsley can see whatever profile info, status updates, comments, photos, conversations and other shared and uploaded items your friends can see.

I’m uncomfortable with the idea of any government, local or national, using that as its main means of communication on Facebook. I had overlooked it when I first added Knowsley to my account. When I realised the implications of having Knowsley Council as a Facebook friend, I removed them.

I added Knowsley again when I found out how to limit what they could see on my profile. In fairness, I recall the council came to Facebook when having a “page” wasn’t an option. Pages have been around for at least five years, however, and they enable non-personal users, such as groups, organisations and businesses, to maintain a Facebook presence without invading the privacy of individual users.

Prescot Online is one such page. When you “Like” Prescot Online, I can only see what any non-friend can see – your name, profile photo and whatever other information you’ve marked as public.

Why have Knowsley still not taken advantage of the Facebook page feature? Why do they still interact with residents as “friends” (3,186 at last count) when Facebook has provided pages for this? The neighbouring borough of St Helens use one. (Liverpool apparently has one but don’t use it.) It smacks of a lack of professionalism, and the potential for abuse is obvious.

If you’re a Facebook friend of Knowsley Council, are you happy that they have access to all the information your other friends do? I hope Knowsley will shut down their profile and get a professional Facebook page, but in the meantime, here’s how to limit what Knowsley Council (and any other Facebook friend) can see on your profile.

1. Go to

2. Click “Edit List” next to “Restricted List.” A popup window appears.

3. Click the drop-down menu under “Edit Restricted,” and select “Friends.”

4. Scroll down and click “Knowsley Council.” (Use the search box if you can’t find it.)

5. Click “Finish.” Knowsley Council is now on your Restricted list.

Any Facebook friend you add to the Restricted list can only see what you make public. You can still view and comment on their profile as you could before.

I’m only guessing, but my general experience of Facebook leads me to think that most of the 3,000+ people who have Knowsley Council as a friend probably haven’t considered what private information they’re giving away to their local authority. If you’re one of them, my advice to you is to restrict Knowsley’s access and ask them why they still use this outdated and invasive method of communicating of Facebook.


Update (8/5/13): Knowsley Council have responded via Facebook, saying: “Yes, we are planning to convert into a ‘page’ in the next month or so. We will be letting people know about how this will change the ways in which they can contact us via Facebook once we are at that stage.”

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