Improve Your Facebook Security and Privacy in 7 Quick Steps
Who can see photos you post on Facebook? Just your friends? How about friends of friends? Do you know what advertisers are being told about you? What apps are hooked into your account? If you haven’t done a Facebook security check in a while, you might be surprised at what is and is not easily under your control.
In a perfect world, you’d set aside two or three hours to read about all the security and privacy features and settings in Facebook and enable the right ones for you. But in reality, you don’t have that much time.
Facebook provides Privacy Shortcuts to help you keep up to date on its privacy settings, and there’s some good information there. But you’ll also find some vague information, too. For example, “When someone who isn’t your friend searches for you, what they see depends on the audience they’re in for specific info and posts.” What the heck does that mean?
Privacy Shortcuts leave out some important settings that are not technically “privacy” but are completely relevant, such as the ability to restrict information advertisers get about you.
If you’re willing to take the time to read through all of Facebook’s security features and options and make informed decisions as to how you use them, a lot of people probably envy you. For the rest of us, here’s some guidance to help you clean up your Facebook settings in about 10 minutes.
How to Do a 10-Minute Facebook Security and Privacy Checkup
1. Go to Settings > General, and change your password, especially if you use the same password somewhere else. This step is more about security than privacy, but it’s really important. Reusing passwords is one of the most common ways people get hacked.
2. Open the dropdown menu on the top-right of Facebook.com and choose Settings. From the mobile app, tap the menu (three stacked lines, sometimes called the hamburger icon) and scroll way down to Account Settings.
3. From the menu, choose Ads. Many people don’t know it, but it’s possible to restrict the ads you see on Facebook. You’ll find three main options here, and all are worth reading to help you make an informed choice. The last one, Ads Based on My Preferences, allows you to remove topics of interest that Facebook tells advertisers apply to you.
If you’ve been seeing a million ads for kitty litter, you can take “cats” off your list of topics of interest. Bear in mind that if you like the advertisements you see for, say, Ed Hardy clothes, you might want to keep topics such as fake tattoos and hoodies in your ad list. And if you want to add advertiser topics to get more relevant ads, you certainly can do that, too. You’ll notice a link to the Digital Advertising Alliance Consumer Choice Page, where you can opt out from getting advertised to companies across all sites, not just Facebook.
4. From the vertical menu on the left, choose Privacy.
5. There are seven settings. Skip the second (which lets you review all your posts and every place you’ve ever been tagged) and third (which lets you tweak who can see your past posts), as they’ll send you down a rabbit hole (remember, these suggestions are to help you do a quick security and privacy checkup). Review the options for one and four through seven. It should take no more than two minutes. You’ll be deciding who can see your future posts, who can contact you, whether or not people can find your Facebook account by searching your phone number or email address and whether search engines can find your Facebook account or not.
6. From the left menu, go to Timeline and Tagging. Read the first section (“Who can add things to my timeline?”) and make your choices. Personally, I do allow friends to post unrestrainedly on my timeline and opt to review posts before they appear.
7. Skipping down through that left menu again, go to Apps. From Facebook.com, make sure to click Show All at the bottom of the apps list so you don’t miss any. If you see apps here that you no longer use, hover over them and click the X to remove them. From the Facebook mobile app, it’s much more difficult to clean up your apps. Click Logged In with Facebook, and look for any apps you no longer use. You’ll have to tap them one at a time, scroll down until you see Remove App, tap one more time to confirm, and then start all over again.