Facebook groups are online virtual clubs where faraway friends and family can keep in touch, share photos and status updates. Sports teammates, coworkers, hobbyists, graduates and other like-minded individuals gather to swap information and witticisms, all in the privacy of their own group -- if the privacy settings are correctly configured. Depending on your group’s privacy settings, Google and other search engines may be able to index and display the information you share on your group with the online world.
Facebook has an option to make a group Open; this means the group can be searched for and found on Facebook and on Google, whether you are a member of the group or not. Any Facebook member can join Open groups. Facebook posts, links, member’s names, pictures, and all activity in Open groups is searchable on Google and other search engines. Stories about Open groups can be seen by anyone on Facebook and on Google and other search engines.
Group moderators also have the ability to make their group Closed. If a group is Closed, a member must either be invited to the group by another Facebook member, or a request to join must be approved by the group administrator. Closed Facebook Groups are searchable on Google and other search engines; the title and group description will be displayed, as well as pictures, stories about the group, tags and names of other members of the group. However, posts to Closed groups are not searchable on Google or other search engines and are not visible to other members of Facebook that are not in the group.
Facebook members who want to join Secret groups must be invited by the group administrator or by another member of that group. Secret groups are not searchable on Google or on any search engine -- or even on Facebook itself. Only those members that are in a Secret group can see the names of the members, posts, links, photos, information about the group, or read any stories shared within the group.
Keeping Things Private
Just because someone is in the same group as you doesn’t mean he will be able to read anything on your personal Timeline. You can still adjust your privacy settings so that your own Timeline posts aren’t visible to anyone outside of your own Facebook friend list, including fellow group members. If you don’t want to share any of your personal life but still want to belong to a group, you can receive post notifications and read posts without divulging anything that you don’t want indexed on Google or any other search engine. If you post to it, though, you won't retain direct control over who can see that post.
- Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images