It’s easy to get so involved with your friends and family on Facebook that you never spend a few minutes checking to ensure that your account is set up to maximize both your privacy and security. The time to make these changes is before something bad happens, however, not afterward.
Don’t think it’s a problem? Let me ask you a few questions…
1. When you post an update on your Wall, is that update only accessible to your friends, or to the world at large?
2. When you upload a photo or check in to a venue on your Facebook mobile app, does everyone on the Internet have access to that information?
3. When you’re using a public wi-fi network, is your connection secure or are you at risk of someone monitoring the network traffic and stealing your account password?
It’s okay if you said “I dunno” to these questions, because it’s not what’s on the mind of the average Facebook user. The good news is that regaining your privacy and security are just a few mouse clicks away.
Let’s have a look, starting with easy steps to increase your account security, then looking at both your account privacy settings and a neat trick that lets you specify on a per-Wall-posting basis exactly who you want to have access to your status updates.
PART ONE: Increase Facebook Security
To make these changes, you’ll need to log in to your Facebook account and go to Account –> Account Settings, scroll down to Account Security, then click on “Change”. You’ll see this in your browser:
I highly recommend you enable “secure browsing” because it actually enables point-to-point encryption between your Web browser and Facebook’s servers. This means that if anyone is monitoring the wi-fi network you’re using, they’ll just see jumbled (encrypted) information rather than your account data, password, status updates, photos, etc. Much, much better.
There’s another useful setting you can select while you’re on this page too, and it’s one that helps you track whether people are trying to break into your Facebook account. Scroll down just a tiny bit and you’ll see:
Well worth choosing. I suggest if you do see an email or text message that you immediately log in to Facebook yourself and change your password to something new and complex. That way even if someone has somehow obtained your password, you’ll retain access to your account.
PART TWO: Increasing Facebook Privacy
Those are the two most useful settings for your Facebook account security, so let’s now turn our attention to privacy. I know that some people believe that there’s no reason to worry about privacy since everything on the Internet is free and available anyway, but my response is that I don’t want to make it easy for people to track me and build up a dossier on where I go, who I hang out with, when I’m traveling, etc.
To see your own Facebook account privacy settings, go back to the Account menu and choose “Privacy Settings”. It’ll show you who can see what:
Think carefully about all of these settings and ask yourself who really needs to see the updates you’re disseminating, the photos, your bio, family members, etc. Remember that “Everyone” includes search engines being able to see and index the content, as well as other programs that aren’t part of Facebook but can still access some of the content from the Internet.
Keep identity theft in mind too. Do you want the world to know your birthday? Do you want everyone to know your political and religious views?
I’ll also comment that Facebook’s version of “recommended” settings are much more open than I am comfortable having for my own account. Think through exactly what you want to do and make the changes that match your own privacy desires and you’ll never have to think about it again.
PART THREE: Status Update Reach
Now that you know how to set up default privacy settings for your status updates, etc., it’s very helpful to know that you can still tweak the privacy level of an individual Wall posting (status update) as you prefer. Modify the reach of a specific status update by clicking on the padlock icon after you’ve typed it in but before you “Share” it:
You can set it to one of the usual options (and it can be a broader reach than your default too. My default is “friends only” but you can see I am able to pick “friends of friends” or “everyone” here). The most interesting option is “Customize”. Using it, you can do things like have a status update that’s visible to “everyone but this person”, as is appropriate when planning a surprise party:
When you’re done, simply “Save Setting” and for that status update, you’ve changed its reach. To change your default setting you can use “Make this my default setting” or go into your Privacy settings, as discussed earlier.
I post updates that aren’t for the world at large and it’d be a real problem if someone hacked into my Facebook account and shut me out. So the combination of a few basic changes to account security and privacy settings really makes me feel more comfortable that what I post is going to stay constrained to the people I want to share it with, and that no hackers are going to sneak my account information and steal my account.
The default settings for Facebook accounts are more public than I’m comfortable with, no question, but you’ll have your own preferences: if nothing else, go into the settings and see what you’ve chosen to make sure it matches your desire.
Then you’re good to go. See you on Facebook!
Dave Taylor writes the popular Ask Dave Taylor tech support blog and has been fiddling with computers and gadgets for more years than he’s willing to admit. You have questions? He’s happy to hear from you on his site or you can join his fan club at facebook.com/askdavetaylor
Editor note: Intel sponsored this video and guest post.