Keeping the information you post onto Facebook private is one of the most important things you have to get right about social networking.
It doesn’t matter who you are, you absolutely need to be acutely aware of who can access the information you post and share on Facebook. Not treating your privacy seriously on social networking sites like Facebook can have any number of dire consequences, as many have already discovered.
It is vital that each user takes responsibility for themselves on Facebook, and understands exactly how the privacy options work and to ensure they are applied correctly. This article explains how the Facebook’s privacy settings work and how to apply the privacy settings that we recommend so that only people you know and trust can see the information you post, helping you stay safe online.
So read on for our ultimate guide for locking down your Facebook profile for optimal privacy.
1. Setting your Privacy Level to Friends Only
The most important Facebook privacy settings can be found by clicking the little padlock icon at the top right of your Facebook screen (see image). From the drop down menu, select the See More Settings option at the bottom.
This directs you to all of your key privacy settings, the most important of which are located within the Who can see my stuff? section. The first option, Who can see your future posts? is the setting that controls who can see the information you post to the site including status updates, check-ins, photos and links. It is important that this is set to Friends meaning only friends can see the information you post.
This only effects information you post from that point onwards. To protect information you have already posted, we recommend that you select the Limit Past Posts option, in the same section. This applies the Friends option to everything that you have already posted on to the site.
In this section you can also review all the information you are tagged in using your activity log. We recommend doing this. In your activity log you can check all the public photos you are tagged in by selecting Photos from the left hand side and selecting Public using the filter at the top. Remember anyone can see public photos, so it might be preferable to untag yourself from photos you don’t want anyone seeing!
Hint… If you want to make a certain post or photo public or friends on friends, then this can be done via the inline selector located at the top of the post by the date. This allows you to alter the privacy options for that specific posts without effecting your default privacy or the privacy of other information you post, or have already posted.
2. Control Tagging
As pointed out in section 1, the Who can see my stuff? option controls who sees the information you post onto Facebook. There is one exception however, and that is when one of your friends tags either themselves or another users in a post or photo belonging to you.
If that does happen then the audience of that post/photo is extended, and is now visible to anyone who has been tagged in the photo, and probably their Facebook friends too. You can see who can see a photo by hovering your cursor over the privacy icon next to the photo. The image below shows that your friends and the friends of James (who was tagged) can see the photo.
So for example, if you upload a photo onto Facebook and your privacy settings are friends only, then only your friends can see it. However if your friend User A tags themselves and User B in the photo, then the photo is now visible to your friends, User A’s friends, User B and User B’s friends.
To have some oversight over this, we recommend turning on the Review tags people add to your own posts before the tags appear on Facebook? option under the Timeline and Tagging section on the left hand side. This gives you a chance to reject other users tagging themselves or others onto a photo or post you upload. If you decide you do not want to extend the audience of a post past your friends, you can reject the tags.
We also recommend turning on the Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline option also located under the Timeline and Tagging section. This gives you oversight as to what posts and photos you get tagged in, as many of these may be set to public or visible to strangers.
3.1. Enable Login Alerts
Facebook offers a service called Login Alerts that will alert you whenever someone logs in to your account from an unrecognised device. You can choose between alerts sent to your email or your mobile phone. Login alerts will let you know if someone has managed to gain access to your account so you can take action.
Don’t worry, you won’t get an alert every time you login to Facebook, since after the first time you login it will recognise your device. You will get an alert each time you login from a new device or browser. To enable the option, go to your Settings page and click Security and then Login Alerts (see below.)
3.2. Enable Login Approvals
For those that really want to lock down their accounts, there is the option of Login Approvals. These may not be for everyone, but they are one of the best ways to keep unauthorised people out of your Facebook account. With Login Approvals enabled, anyone logging into your Facebook account from an unrecognised device will need to enter a login PIN number that it sent to your phone at the time of the attempted login.
This means someone needs to have access to your phone to login to your account as well as your login credentials. To enable approvals, go to your Security settings and enable Login Approvals. This is strongly recommended for users who administer Facebook pages.
4. Limit your Personal Information you give to Facebook
Facebook gives you the chance to tell them all about yourself, from your location, employment history, address, relationship status and where you went to school.
As a rule of thumb, we generally do not recommend giving Facebook this information, or at least try to limit the information you give out as much as you can. If you do give Facebook this information, ensure it is set to either Friends or Only Me. NEVER give Facebook your home address, there is simply no need.
To review or edit this information, click the Update Info button on your cover photo. If you do provide your phone number to Facebook for increased account protection (i.e. Login approvals) then ensure it is set to Only Me in this section.
Remember, it is this type of information that can be used against you in cases of identity theft. Little pieces of innocuous information can be pretty useless, but when these pieces of information are accumulated it can be very dangerous indeed.
5. Prevent Friends Facebook Apps from seeing your information
Facebook Apps that friends install can access information about you. To stop this happening go to your Settings page and click Apps. Select Apps Others Use and ensure all the checkboxes are deselected.
6. Close Unrecognised Sessions
Every time you login to Facebook and don’t log out, the session remains open. Most Facebook users will have a number of sessions open at one time. For example for their mobile phone, tablet and computer and possibly after logging in from a friends or family members computer.
A session will have the approximate location recorded next to it, often in the nearest city or location of your nearest ISP point. We recommend checking your open sessions and closing any that are suspicious – i.e. nowhere near a location where you’ve logged in. This prevents that device from auto-logging you back into Facebook.
To do this, go to your Settings page and click Security and select Where You’re Logged In and review the open sessions.
7. Hide your Friends List
Hiding your friends list provides spammers targeting you and your friends for Facebook cloning attacks. To hide your friends list, go to your profile and click Friends. On the pencil icon click the Edit Privacy option and select Only Me.
8. Limit Facebook tracking
On your settings page, click Ads and where it says Ads based on my use of websites and apps, select Off. This prevents Facebook serving you ads based on websites that you have visited outside of Facebook – for example through third party tracking cookies. However you should be aware that Facebook still may track you even though this setting is off, it just prevents them from showing you adverts related to your activity.
9. Limit previous profile pictures and cover photos
Step one should sort out all your photos in terms of privacy, but old profile pictures and cover photos may remain public. Go to your Photos and then Profile Pictures and Cover Photos albums and ensure each photo has the Friends Only icon associated with it.
Important: Note that your current Profile Picture and Cover photo will be publicly visible.
– Regularly check installed application by selecting the Apps option in your privacy settings. Make sure you remove untrusted apps.
– Be aware that both your profile picture and cover photos are public and this cannot be changed. Do not make any of these photos something you don’t want people seeing.
– Regularly check your activity log for public photos that you are tagged in, and untag photos you do not wish to be tagged in.
– Suggest to your friends to tighten their privacy settings as well, especially if they regularly upload photos with you in them!
And finally, the most important part of the article, and advice we certainly recommend…
Facebook is a social networking site, designed for sharing. It can be argued that social media privacy is an oxymoron – for this reason never post or upload information onto the site that you cannot risk falling into the wrong hands.
Are you happy with Facebook’s privacy settings? Do you think privacy violations happen mostly because of Facebook or their users being too cavalier with their privacy?