“Walls,” “notifications,” and “statuses”; Facebook is everywhere all the time. Today Facebook is practically unavoidable. As popular as Facebook is, some of the precautions concerning privacy and security aren’t as wide spread. Even the President of The United States warned to watch what you say and do on Facebook. Mass droves of people are mindlessly relinquishing their right to privacy, not only in America but internationally as well. Facebook is reaching such a status (no pun intended) that it is not only being used for personal enjoyment anymore. Businesses are actually developing ways to incorporate Facebook into their business model. For instance, insurance companies are beginning to use Facebook to gain data on the people seeking an insurance policy. They then use that data (that they gained without your direct permission) to decide what type of policy you can get and at what price. Thirty percent of employers are using Facebook. They use Facebook in order to gain data on perspective employees. What you do and what you say can be seen, even the crazy party pictures (remember that fact when tagging a friend in a compromising situation too because by tagging them you are exposing their information to an even wider audience without their consent.)
Fortunately there is hope! As well hidden as they are, Facebook has measures to protect your privacy and account. I will go through a few basic steps to securing yourself, your privacy and your Facebook account.
1. Encrypting Your Connection
One of the increasingly popular exploits currently is stealing peoples information over http. What does this mean? Http is a certain internet protocol, it works well. The problem is this: data is sent out in the open and unobscured. Anyone who has access to the network you are on has access to all of your “private” information in the same fashion you have access to it. This is where https comes in, it sends your data encrypted and only your machine has the ability to unencrypted that data. Even if your data is stolen (which is also hard to do under https) it will be unreadable and rendered useless to the thief.
To enable this feature on Facebook sign in and go to at the top right of the page and click on it. A drop down menu will appear with a bunch of options, click on “Account Settings.” On the page that brings you to scroll almost all the way down the page until you see “Account Security,” click “change” to the right. The menu should expand and look like this:
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You will notice there are two other options here; Login Notifications and Login Approvals. “Login notifications” will send an email or text to you when either you or someone else tries to get on your Facebook account from a new computer or device. The consequence of this is Facebook may ask you to name each subsequent device you sign on with. I do not recommend the third option, “Login approvals” because there is a potential of locking yourself out of your account. If used it will require your permission via text message to access your Facebook account from new devices. Once you choose the settings you want, don’t forget to click save!
2. Control Who Sees Your Profile
The benefits of this should be obvious. “If you aren’t doing anything wrong what do you have to hide, right?” Yeah, right… I am sure no one wants potential employers or insurance companies gaining information without direct personal consent.
Click on the button in the top right of your Facebook page. When the drop down menu appears click “Account Settings.” Once there, scroll down to “Privacy” and click on “Manage” to the right.
It should look something like this once the menu expands. This area is one if the most important areas to an properly informed Facebook user. In this one little area you can control exactly who has the ability to view your profile information and more importantly, who does not. You can choose whether only friends, friends of friends, or everyone has access to your information. If you find you have someone who makes you uncomfortable on Facebook you have the ability to lock them from this page too (bottom center.) When you block someone it is like you do not even have a Facebook account as far as they are concerned. It is an effective means to remove yourself from someone else’s Facebook experience.
3. Make List of your Friends
This one may take some time, especially if you have hundreds of friends. Fortunately though, once this is done you never have to do it again. This little feature may be one of the most useful and is a great way to keep your Facebook account a well oiled machine of privacy. Friend lists are a way to categorize all of your friends into customized groups. The advantage to this is you can create a group for work, associates, friends, family or whatever and then distribute or hide information to or from groups accordingly.
It takes three clicks from your wall (main Facebook page) to start creating friend lists. on the left, under your account picture is a menu with a couple options that look like this:
Click on friends.
On the next page in the top right click on Then, in the top right again, click on
Once here, name your new group in the top left and then click the “Create List” button in the bottom right to submit your new group name. once that is done just click on friends to add them to your new group.
4. Never Allow Unknown Apps To Access Your Account
Applications can be like a hackers gateway to getting all of your personal information. These popular “phishing” scams, as they are called, usually come in the form of a URL posted by a close friend. This link usually is boasting some outrageous video, picture or super juicy gossip. If it does not look right, do not click it. If you do click it do not go through the motions and allow the application access to your Facebook account when it prompts you. Other times these scams will bring you to a fake Facebook login page to make you think you somehow signed out. If this happens try and type facebook.com in the url-bar at the top of your browser. If it returns you to your wall, signed in, you successfully avoided a phishing attempt. There are also a lot of clues that give away these fake login pages such as the misspelling of words and the url-bar not displaying Facebook as the page you are currently on. If your friend posted a suspecious link and the information looks too juicy to let go try Googling it first or verify with your friend the legitimacy of the link. Awareness and caution is the key here. Sometimes it is unavoidable because of human error to dodge these type of attacks. If you become a victim of one, change your Facebook password and any password that may be in common with your Facebook password.
5. Password must be strong
I know, long complicated passwords are no fun and are hard to remember. There is a way you can have an extremely strong password and it still be human readable. The sentence “This is fun.” is a perfect example. “This is fun” has the same strength as a 24-bit encrypted password. It will most likely never be cracked by a program. Sentences, spaces and all make for great passwords. Make sure your password has no significance to you that can be gained from online. Things such as kids, spouse, address, interests or religion are bad choices for passwords. Also because of the amount of information that is stored on your Facebook it is highly advisable that your Facebook password be different from every other password.
6. Privacy Is Important
In this ever advancing world were we are constantly exploring new intellectual territories, it can be hard sometimes to remember the importance of things such as privacy. It seems more now than ever privacy is being taken for granted or thrown to the wayside. Privacy is extremely important and a lack thereof can have abundantly dire consequences. Signing in a restaurant via Facebook could send just the cue a thief needs to know you are not home for instance. Along with safe guarding our own privacy we should try to keep in mind others and be mindful when tagging photos or signing them into locations without direct permission.