Facebook is the pioneer of social networking. It has changed the way we interact with each other so much that we could now call it the new schoolyard or the new office water cooler. However, despite all of its good times and easy conversation, Facebook can throw up some hurdles when it comes to user privacy and security. Facebook’s response? Enhanced privacy, user control, and safety-consciousness, plus a new, very hard line on cyber-bullying. But let’s get real: No set of code and wires can fully protect you from yourself. As with all social interactions, your own safety is up to you. Want to take control of your digital life? Read on.
1. Know the site BEFORE you use it.
First, check out how to stay safe: https://www.facebook.com/safety. THEN sign on. Post only a little at a time until you’re sure of how things work. Been awhile since you’ve seen the privacy pages? Read them again. They’ve changed.
2. Use another e-mail address.
Facebook uses your e-mail as a primary
login. Your login is 1/2 of what a hacker
needs to take over your profile. So, sign up with an address that ONLY YOU know about. This helps guard against attacks and spam.
3. Safeguard your password.
Account ==> Account Settings ==> Security. Three things about your password:
- Change it. LOTS.
- If others can see over your shoulder, try Facebook’s temporary passwords
- Consider using login approvals and tracking. This does you the favor of emailing you when an unrecognized computer accesses your account. It can also text you a login code, to be sure it’s you.
4. Turn on secure browsing.
Put an “s” on the end of your http. Go to Account ==> Account Settings ==> Privacy. Set Secure Browsing to ON. This keeps your Facebook session from being intercepted by network sniffers in a cyber-café, or other public locations.
5. Know a person before you “friend” them.
Would you get into a stranger’s car? Why, then, would you “friend” someone that you know only through an online event? Think about it: Friendship is power here. If you’ve never met, interact only in groups, games, or other public places on Facebook. You won’t miss each other.
6. Your profile privacy: “Recommended” is not recommended
“It’s MY wall!” Wanna bet? You don’t pay for that profile page, Facebook does, and they will use it to their advantage. But you’re still in charge: Account ? Privacy Settings ? Sharing on Facebook. Click “Customize settings.” Set everything to “Friends” only, not Facebook’s defaults. Hint: The “audience” tool is great for privacy, and FB lets you see who can view your stuff as you write it. You can even change your mind afterward, and update it. Think, carefully choose your audience, then post.
7. Tune up your app privacy.
Privacy settings ==> Apps and Websites ==> Info accessible through your friends. At the very least, remove your bio, status updates, and current
city. Consider removing more. Let the app ask you for something it needs.
8. Don’t broadcast your location.
“We’re all away from home, come rob the house now!” Your location is valuable information to your enemies, don’t give it away in a Status
Update. Brag about vacation after everyone’s home. And mega-important: Set your Address visibility to “Only Me.” (Account ==> Privacy Settings ==> Customize Settings ==> Contact Information ==> Address ==> Custom.)
9. Ditch the public search.
Privacy Settings ==> Public Search. This controls whether search engines find you on Facebook. If you’re under 18, it’s disabled. If you’re over 18, consider it carefully. It might help you, but it helps Facebook a lot more.
10. No, no, no negative, never, ever.
Cyber fights turn into “real” fights, and FAST. A prank or a negative post gets out of control before everyone has had a chance to cool off and think about what they’ve done. I don’t care how mad you are, DON’T turn an
off-hand remark into a snark-fest. Posting against others gets you nothing but trouble. If you already did that, delete it. Now.
Ginger Commander is a cyber security engineer and consultant whose work history includes information assurance for the financial sector and the U.S. Department of Defense.