Your online privacy: Facebook

So, one of the more egregious violations of your online privacy was done by Facebook.  A while back, they very quietly changed their privacy settings and, as a result, left most users wide open.  Photos, personal information, etc. was available to pretty much anyone. Users had to go and manually change the settings.  Facebook took so much flack over this (and Mark Zuckerberg’s famous quote stemmed from this) and implemented new and improved privacy settings.

Those settings are pretty straight forward and Facebook provides a public setting, a friends setting, friends of friends and a custom setting.  Choosing the custom setting gives you more flexibility. For example, I don’t care if Jane Public knows I live in Richmond, but would not want my photos made available.  You can fine tune these settings.  You  can choose who sees any of your posts, comments, likes, photos and just about anything else you post on Facebook.

Where things get dicey are with the games and applications.  Things like Farmville will ask to have access to your wall.  They also gain access to all of your contacts, so your friends now become targets for these applications and games and will get invites and other status updates from the applications.  Some people won’t mind while others will.

fbprivacy1Fortunately, you can block some or all of the applications. At the bottom of the ‘Choose Your Privacy Settings’ page is the Block Lists link.  Click on that and you will see the block settings.

This page lets you block users and application invites and events.

While Facebook says they simplified –and they have – the privacy settings, they are still pretty daunting to fumble through.  It is pretty safe, however, to select ‘Friends’ and let that be your default.

One other feature that Facebook implemented recently will let you download EVERYTHING you have done on Facebook. It will give you back your photos, all of your posts AND, more importantly, all of your mail and instant message logs.  It’s pretty scary what Facebook saves, so, the best advice I have, don’t post anything that you would be embarrassed by having Facebook save.  I would encourage you to download your stuff at least once, just to see what Facebook saved.  You can do so by going to your Account Settings, clicking the ‘learn more’ link next to ‘Download Your Information’ and follow the directions. It takes about thirty minutes for it to gather your stuff. It will email you a link to download the file.


Facebook’s privacy settings are far better now than they once were and following a few simple things will help guard your privacy:

  • Change your privacy settings to at least Friends
  • Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want family and friends to see or know
  • Download your stuff to see just what Facebook saves
  • Be careful when playing games, taking quizzes (some of them want to charge your cell phone, so read all of that small print first before accepting anything)
  • Never accept a friend that you do not know

Facebook is a great site and a good tool for re-connecting with friends and family. I have re-connected with some folks that I never thought I would see or hear from again.  A little prudence will go a long way in protecting your privacy.


Note: Facebook has a page that will explain the various settings. You find that here.

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