Saturday, May 14, 2011

Facebook Privacy Settings

In my "Introduction to Sociology" class, our professor surprised us all with a mid-lecture slide featuring a mash-up photographs. Each of these were pictures of students in the class, sometimes at parties, and sometimes with controlled substances clearly visible. Her point seemed to be that you have to be careful what you put on the internet. Others have given even more drastic advise: delete your Facebook account, never allow photographs of yourself to be posted on the internet, and never give anyone your real name.

Unless you know Rumpelstiltskin, calm down. Attempting to strip the internet of all references to yourself is not only an overreaction; it is impossible. You cannot control what others put on the web, for one thing. But you can control what you put up, or rather, to what you allow others access. That slide from sociology? There were no pictures of me anywhere on it. I would advise you to ensure the same. Here's how:

Facebook Privacy Settings
Part of Click Smarter: A Series on Safer Computing

Log into Facebook. Go to Account > Privacy Settings

Set your settings to Custom and go to Customize Settings

Here you can determine who will have access to different aspects of your online profile. There are four groups of people to whom you can grant access:

  • Everyone: Anyone with internet access
  • Networks: People in your networks (e.g., your high school, college, workplace)
  • Friends of Friends: People who know someone you know (i.e., anyone any of your friends decides to friend) 
  • Friends: People you have chosen to add as friends

Facebook also offers some combinations of the above options, as well as a "Customize" setting.

Keep in mind that "Friends of Friends" can truly be anyone; you have no control over who your friends decide to befriend online. The safe option is to select "Friends Only" for the majority of your settings, especially for things like photographs and videos in which you are tagged. Change that setting, and all of the sudden no one can find pictures of you to put up on a sociology slideshow.

Consider playing with the "Customize" option, too. This lets you grant access to certain items via white-listing (only persons A, B, and C can view this) or black-listing (everyone except persons X, Y, and Z can view this).

Here are some of the most important items to focus on:

  • Photos and videos you're tagged in: Other people tag you without your permission, so be careful about who gets to see this
  • Friends can check me in to Places: The dangers of literally letting the world know where you are and when have to outweigh the benefits
  • Contact information: If people find you on Facebook, they can send you a Facebook message; there is no need to open your email up to spam and your phone up to prank calls

Beyond that, just be careful about what you put online. Everyone knows not to post their address or social security number, but you might also want to watch out for foul language, making threats, or posting offensive or illegal links and media, even when joking. Selecting better privacy options is a precaution, but the best way to keep things from going wrong is to not post them in the first place.

Looking to test out your new settings? Make some new friends, and have them try and find you on Facebook. Ask about what they can see before friending you. If they struggle to find your profile, just send them a direct link. And then pat yourself on the back; your profile is now secure.

1 comment:

  1. One of the dangerous things is that Facebook, trying to surround certain controls with information, hides the actual control from being seen with clicking "Edit settings". These are easy to gloss over without realizing that they are enabled.


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