With Facebook embroiled in a massive data harvesting and privacy abuse scandal, following the Cambridge Analytica revelations, now is a good time to revisit all your Facebook security settings and think about what you’re sharing on the world’s most dominant social network. Here’s our guide to Facebook security and privacy.
Name, rank and serial number
There’s no need for you to use your real name on Facebook. So, if you prefer to use a pseudonym, go for it. Many people in highly visible professions such as law enforcement and teachers want to be on Facebook but not easily found. Using a fake name is a good way to do that.
I’d also suggest that you don’t put your real date of birth and use a specific email address that’s only used for Facebook so, if your account is hacked or data is harvested, the bad guys don’t have lots of your personal information.
By the way, you can also add a “legacy contact”. This is someone who can manage your account in case of your death or if you’re incapacitated. Make sure you choose someone you can trust.
Needless to say, it is critically important to use a strong password on your Facebook account.
While the old uppercase, lowercase, number and symbol rule is popular, it can be a pain to remember a really complex password. I’m a fan of using a longer passphrase that you can remember. For example (and please don’t use this – it’s just an example), instead of using “[email protected]” use something like “alongpassphraseisbetterthanashortcomplexpassword”.
I’d also strongly advocate that you enable two-factor authentication (2FA) so any new devices you connect with will require you to provide a second authentication factor along with your password.
You’ll find the password and 2FA settings on Facebook’s Security and login page.
While you’re at that page, take a look at where you’ve been recently logged in. If something looks strange, click the icon with the three vertical dots and log that device out. Now that you’ve enabled 2FA, that device will need to use a secure log-in to use Facebook.
What you share
Everything you post on Facebook appears on your timeline. But you have control of who can see what you post. All of this is handled in Facebook’s privacy settings.
Generally, Facebook’s settings are pretty wide open by default. But, for many items you post, you can choose from several different privacy levels.
You can set your timeline so it can be seen by
- Friends of friends
- Only you
- Custom levels
Remember that whenever you create a new post, you can edit the privacy settings for that individual next to the “Post” button. This setting creates the default privacy for your posts, which is what applies when you don’t override it. Give some thought to the audience every time you make a new post – everyone doesn’t need to see everything.
Similarly, with Tagging pay close attention to who can tag you in photos and who can see photos you’re tagged in.
Facebook recently enabled a new face recognition system that can detect photos of you that have been uploaded event though you might not have been tagged in them. This feature is enabled by default. While it sounds creepy for the software to detect you automatically, it does mean if someone posts a photo of you, you’ll know about it.
I’ve left that feature switched on but you’ll need to make your own call on that one.
Under the Public posts section, you can choose who can follow your account. Followers can see what you’ve posted but only friends can interact with you. If you don’t want total strangers following your posts – set the “Who Can Follow Me” option to Friends and not Public.
With your Facebook history, you can also limit who sees your past posts. Under Privacy, in the Your activity section, you can limit past posts so that only your friends can see them. this will override any previous settings. For example, that means posts that might have been public in the past are now limited to just your friends.
Connecting On Facebook
Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. And, the occasional cull of your friend list is not a bad thing. Relationship experts will tell you that not all friends are your friends for life – some people will come and go from your life. If someone is no longer your friend, let them go!
Ads, Apps And Websites
While you’re in Facebook’s settings, click on the Apps section and take a look at the apps that have access to your Facebook account. If you don’t want an app to access your account, remove it by putting your mouse pointer over the app and clicking on the cross that appears.
In my case, there were apps that I used to use, like Fitbit, that I no longer want. So, it makes sense to remove it and any other legacy apps I no longer require. If you’ve deleted the app but need it again, it’s easy to reinstate it when the app next asks for access to your account.
With ads, it’s not possible to completely stop Facebook from serving up ads but you can manage what types of ads you see.
Click on the Ads section in settings and device whether advertisers can use elements of your profile for targeting ads. Again, this is a tricky one as by blocking access to your personal data, you’re likely to be hit with more annoying ads. on the other hand, you’re not sharing your data. I’ve opted to block advertisers from seeing my profile information and I then block ads that particularly annoy me when they appear in my feed.