Information, Technology & Consulting

Three Steps for Staying Safe on Facebook

by Samantha Oh '14 

Samantha Oh '14 is a sociology major who gave a presentation on Facebook settings during last month's cyber security awareness seminars. In this guest post on Interface, Oh shares simple steps you can take to stay safe after Facebook's latest changes.

Remember when Facebook used to let you opt out of connecting your Timeline to Facebook Search?

Well, they revoked this option last month, which means that anyone who has a Facebook account can be searched by the other 1.26 billion account holders in the world. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your co-workers or stalkers will be able to see everything that’s on your profile; there are still Privacy Settings that you can utilize to limit the information that you make available to the public.

However, there is no longer a way for you or for some of your personal information to be invisible to the rest of the Facebook world.  According to the Facebook Help Center, “Your name, gender, username, user ID, profile picture, cover photo, and networks are available to anyone since they are essential to helping you connect with your friends and family.” If this is true, it is imperative to make sure you understand the reality of the situation, the possible consequences, and the ways you can limit the information you share.

Now, I can use this time to go through each and every setting with you, but here are my three takeaways:

1. Take five minutes out of your day to sit down and actually go through your account and privacy settings, each and every single one of them. Determine whether you’re sharing posts to “Public” or “Friends.”  Understand options like that box that says, “Share photos with friends of anyone tagged” or “Let other search engines link to your timeline.”

2.  Explore tools like Activity Log and View As. Activity Monitor allows you to keep track of your personal activity like what is showing up on your Timeline and other people’s Newsfeeds.  It’ll also keep a record of things that you’ve hidden or blocked. View As is great because it shows what your profile looks like to the public and to your specific friends. I use this all the time so I’m aware of what information is shown to strangers on the web but also to my mom or my grandpa.

3. Read the fine print about Apps and Third Parties. Most people are concerned about the information that’s being shared with other Facebook users but forget to think about the private information they’re releasing to non-accounts. Facebook apps grab all the permissions they can, including access to your personal information and the ability to post photos and status updates “on your behalf.”  The best way to enhance your Facebook privacy is to delete the apps since users have no way of knowing what the information includes or how it will be used.  Lastly, make sure that you check “Apps others use” since you can unknowingly be letting your friends share your personal information with the apps that they use.

That’s just a basic overview of some changes you can make. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email at [email protected]

Want to learn more about Facebook? Watch the FREE lynda Facebook course with your Dartmouth login credentials.

Information, Technology & Consulting