Most recently, I wrote about doing a ‘Facebook Cleanse’ to refine my contacts on Facebook to a group of ‘Friends’ I felt safe ‘sharing’ with. Logically, the next step in procuring my online security was to explore all possible privacy features on Facebook. My goal was to come up with 5 easy ways to protect myself but as I dove deeper, I realized how complex and numerous the options were. In the end I was able to get it down to 15 easy tips.
The first thing to remember when trying to protect yourself and your privacy on Facebook is that Facebook wants you to post as much information as possible. This not only creates a closer connection between the user and Facebook but it also creates a wealth of information for advertisers to use. Over the years, Facebook has changed their privacy controls again and again in an attempt to trick the user. When Facebook first started information was shared solely with ‘Friends’ but over the years it has morphed into primarily a ‘News Feed’ that is shared with the world. That is ‘shared’ unless you take the necessary steps to ‘unshare’ your information’ and protect yourself. Everyone has a different level of ‘sharing’ they are comfortable with so feel free to pick and choose what resonates with you. How to Protect Yourself on Facebook — 15 Easy Tips
- 1. Maximize Privacy Settings – make sure you limit access to your account to ‘Friends’ only. On the upper-right hand corner tab – SETTINGS – PRIVACY – chose the tabs for FRIENDS ONLY. Here is a suggested screen shot of a recommended privacy profile:
- 2. Block People and Apps – Block certain people from inviting you to apps and events, or block certain apps altogether. If you know of any annoying friends or apps, you can add them to your block list. I was very excited to learn I could block ‘Candy Crush Soda Saga’ game requests. To make changes go to the upper-right hand corner tab – SETTINGS – BLOCKING.
- Limit App Access to Your Account – some apps may be accessing your personal information without your knowledge. Surprisingly I had about 12 apps I never use in this category. To adjust your apps go to the left-hand navigation bar and click APPS – SETTINGS – and make changes to LOGGED IN WITH FACEBOOK. It is important to keep this area as clean as possible as Facebook applications can be insecure, littered with spam, and annoying. Most recently Facebook was found leaking private photos by allowing third party apps to syphon personal pictures personal .
- Limit What Information is Shared with Advertisers – Facebook will sometimes try to use your information in advertisements to your friends—for example, if they see an ad for a restaurant you’ve “liked” on Facebook, then they’ll see your name under the ad. You can limit what information is being shared with advertisers. To adjust your apps go to the left-hand navigation bar and click ADS – SETTINGS and make changes to THIRD PARTY SITES and ADS AND FRIENDS click EDIT and change the setting to NO ONE. You can even go a bit deeper by blocking Facebook and/or other participating companies from collecting and using information based on your activity on websites, devices, and/or apps. You can opt out through the Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada. You only need to opt out once. If you opt out of interest-based advertising from Facebook on one phone or computer, they will apply that choice everywhere you use Facebook.
- Limit Who Can See Your ‘Friends’ — If you would like to control who can see your ‘Friends’ go to FRIENDS – MANAGE – EDIT PRIVACY and edit WHO CAN SEE MY FRIENDS LIST to ONLY ME. This removes the ‘popularity contest’ side of Facebook. Additionally, there is an option to adjust WHO CAN SEE THE PEOPLE AND LISTS YOU FOLLOW to ONLY ME.
- Change Your Name and Birthday – Another little trick that some people use on Facebook is to only use part of their name (i.e. Amy S) or another well-known nickname. Additionally, you can protect your information further by changing the year of your birthday. This way, if your personal information is ever compromised, your correct name/birthday remains unknown.
- Look at Your Profile from an Outside Perspective — An interesting little trick is to look at your Facebook page from an outside perspective by clicking on VIEW ACTIVITY LOG – VIEW AS. This is a good tool to use once you think you have made all possible privacy updates.
- Make ‘Friends Lists’ – The easiest way to protect yourself on Facebook is to organize your ‘Friends’ into ‘Lists’ (‘Close Friends’, ‘Family’, and ‘Coworkers’). This way you can pick and choose what information is shared with whom. To create your ‘Lists’, go to the left-hand navigation bar and under FRIENDS click the group(s) you would like to edit: ACQUAINTANCE, CLOSE FRIENDS, LIMITED PROFILE or FAMILY. Once these groups have been established you can post status updates to select ‘Lists’.
- Limit ‘About’ Information – If you are like me and extremely private then you want to adjust the ‘About’ settings on your Facebook page. Here information is shared about where you work, live, etc. Not only did I select the ONLY ME tab but I did not disclose the details of where I work, go to school, live etc. Since I am not interested in sharing this information with the public I don’t see the point in sharing this information with Facebook. To make changes, go to your personal Facebook page – ABOUT and change settings to ONLY ME.
- Change Past ‘Public’ Posts to ‘Private’ – Since Facebook has changed the privacy settings so much over the past few years it’s hard to know where you stand in terms of privacy. Even though you may have updated your current settings to maximize privacy, past posts may still be public. In order to update past posts as private: click on the upper-right hand corner tab – SETTINGS – PRIVACY under WHO CAN SEE MY STUFF there is the option to LIMIT OLD POSTS. This will change the content of your Timeline from being SHARED WITH PUBLIC to FRIENDS ONLY. Facebook will warn you that this change is permanent.
- Protect Your Data Plan – (I am not sure that this fits on the list)…but recently I upgraded my phone to IOS8 and downloaded the latest version of the Facebook app. With these changes I started going through data on my phone like crazy. After a few calls to Rogers, I discovered the instant ‘video play’ on my Facebook feed was eating up all my data. To adjust this feature go the left hand side navigation bar under VIDEOS – AUTO-PLAY-VIDEOS and switch it to OFF. Again, it is in Facebook’s best interest to have videos playing as it allows advertisers a stronger platform.
- Control Your ‘Status Updates’ – Every time you update your ‘Status’ on Facebook you have the option to select who the update is shared with. You have the option to share it with FRIENDS, PUBLIC, CLOSE FRIENDS or ONLY ME.
- Beef Up Security – Make sure you make the most of Facebook’s security features. To optimize security go to the upper-right hand tab and click SETTINGS and then SECRITY. Here you need to make sure the security features are enabled such as SECURE BROWSING and LOGIN NOTIFICATIONS (which lets you know if your account is accessed from a new device or browser). It is also recommended to enable approvals for logging in from an unknown browser and enabling CODE GENERATOR to add an extra layer of security.
- Keep up with The Latest Privacy Changes – Facebook is constantly changing and evolving the privacy regulations. To keep up with this flux and constant change Facebook has created a page called Facebook Security. Additionally, there are blogs that stay on-top of Facebook so you don’t have to. One that was particularly useful to me was: The Always Up-to-Date Guide to Managing Your Facebook Privacy.
- Basic Tips – Facebook’s Privacy Tips offers basic tips to keep your account safe such as: picking a strong password, making sure your e-mail account it secure, making sure to log out of Facebook when you are not using it, etc. I can’t help but feel frustrated that Facebook purposefully turns the responsibility of security back to the user but meanwhile willingly shares personal information without consent.
Keeping our Facebook information private is getting harder and harder all the time, mostly because Facebook keeps trying to make it public. Facebook adds new features to their site all the time, and many of those features share information you might not want out there. The best thing to do is to play around with Facebook and get to know it. Facebook has purposely separated all of the privacy and security features so you have to go to many different places to ensure optimal privacy. Facebook is hoping that you don’t take the time to make these adjustments and unwillingly share as much information as possible. Everyone has different levels on comfort it just depends what you want to share – either way you should be in control.