Once upon a time, it was possible to prevent personal data from getting into the hands of the wrong person by using a paper shredder and a bit of common sense.
However, with the rise of digital culture and social sharing, information traditionally shared between friends – such as relationship status, personal photographs, birthdays and even cell phone numbers – can be inadvertently accessible to anyone with a bit of Google search know-how.
For many people, social networking has become a normalized part of social life. As the most established and widely used social networking site, Facebook contains ‘years of details’ about its users’ lives.
The consequences of this information being public can range from anything as serious as identity theft, to making those photos from your friend’s bachelorette party available to prospective employers.
Studies have shown that although 92% of internet users worry about their online privacy, only 29% have taken steps to change their privacy settings to ensure greater protection on social networking sites.
The fact that this information isn’t automatically private doesn’t mean that Facebook doesn’t offer users the option to be selective about the information they share publicly, it’s just up to the user to activate these features for themselves.
Being aware of your privacy settings is empowering in a number of ways. Firstly, you can selectively share positive information about yourself on your public profile. For example, it might be useful to share a piece of work that you’re proud of publicly, but keep controversial political opinions for friends only.
Secondly, you reduce the risk of your account being compromised and your personal information being exploited.
With this in mind, on Safer Internet Day, we show you how to customize your Facebook privacy settings.
1. Choose a secure password
A weak password can leave your account vulnerable to being improperly accessed, yet a surprising number of people choose obvious, easily guessable words or phrases.
A good password should be a random word that is at least 10 characters long, with a mixture of upper and lower case characters.
Using something random but relevant – say a word from the 10th page of your favorite book – ensures that your password is obscure without being irretrievable, should you forget it.
2. Setup login alert
Switch on login alerts on Facebook to receive a notification whenever someone logs onto your account from a new device.
If someone attempts to access your account then you will instantly receive an email notifying you of this, which gives you the option of changing your password.
3. Set up login approvals
One step further than a login alert, a login approval means that you will need to input a security code every time someone attempts to access your Facebook account from a new device.
The security code will be unique each time and sent to you via your registered cell phone number.
4. Set up your posts to be shared with ‘Friends only’
Set ‘Friends only’ as a default setting on all your posts. If you wish to share something publicly you can change the privacy on a post-by-post basis.
5. Check who can see your personal information
Such as physical address, email address or phone number. Set these to be seen by ‘Me Only’ for maximum privacy.
6. Change who can see posts from friends on your timeline
Avoid sharing your happy birthday messages with the world by limiting who can see posts from your friends in timeline and tagging settings.
7. Set up tag approvals
Review all tagged photos of yourself before they appear on your timeline. You can’t control other people’s privacy settings, but you can prevent yourself being the front cover of your own personal tabloid newspaper.
8. Customize the visibility settings for each individual post
Keep in mind which information will enhance your public profile and which could damage it.
As we mentioned at the start, whereas it may be useful to publicly share a piece of work that you’re proud of, you might prefer to keep controversial political opinions for friends only.
9. Never agree to connect with anyone who you don’t know
Agreeing to ‘Friend’ a stranger allows them access to your public profile. Also something to be kept in mind when connecting with colleagues or new acquaintances.
10. Remember, Facebook has two sides
Your public profile should be more formal with the consideration that a future employer may see it.
Your ‘friends only’ profile is for people who are interested in you and your private life.
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