Updating Your Privacy on Facebook from Peering Eyes

box Updating Your Privacy on Facebook from Peering EyesNow that Facebook is being surveillance by a friend or undercover stranger who could be the FBI and the IRS preparing evidence against your for court. It would behoove Facebook users to update their privacy settings on the social networking website. Most people on Facebook opted for the recommended settings without really understanding what they were agreeing to. If you did so, you may now be surprised to find that you inadvertently gave Facebook the right to publicize your private information including status updates, photos, and shared links.You will be surprise to learn that everyone is checking you out on the cypersphere and Google if you have not updated your privacy settings. Mind you privacy on Facebook! Especially folks who are simply doing off the wall ish on the social networking website like posting naked pictures, saying stupid things about your boss or those eluding law enforcement.

1. Who Can See That Naked Photo, Status Updates and Videos that would make your momma frown, etc.

There is a button beneath the status update field that lets you select who can view any particular update, the Facebook default for this setting is “Everyone.” And by everyone, they mean everyone.

If you accepted the recommended settings then you voluntarily gave Facebook the right to share the information about the items you post with any user or application on the site. Depending on your search settings, you may have also given Facebook the right to share that information with search engines, too.

To change this setting back to something of a more private nature, do the following:

  1. From your Profile page, hover your mouse over the Settings menu at the top right and click “Privacy Settings” from the list that appears.
  2. Click “Profile Information” from the list of choices on the next page.
  3. Scroll down to the setting “Posts by Me.” This encompasses anything you post, including status updates, links, notes, photos, and videos.
  4. Change this setting using the drop-down box on the right. We recommend the “Only Friends” setting to ensure that only those people you’ve specifically added as a friend on the network can see the things you post.

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2. Who Can See Your Personal Info – this is a big one for those really concerned about privacy issues and want to keep it that way. Notice stuff like birthday, kids, education, work are only viewed by me. This is a big one for parents with children under 18 or kids living in your crib. Privacy is the big buzz these days and maintaining it from prowlers is the conversation over dinner and telephone chats.

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Facebook has a section of your profile called “personal info,” but it only includes your interests, activities, and favorites. Other information includes things like your birthday, your religious and political views, and your relationship status.

Facebook set the defaults for this other information to viewable by either “Everyone” (for family and relationships, aka relationship status) or to “Friends of Friends” (birthday, religious and political views). Depending on your own preferences, you can update each of these fields as you see fit. However, we would bet that many will want to set these to “Only Friends” as well. To do so:

  1. From your Profile page, hover your mouse over the Settings menu at the top right and click “Privacy Settings” from the list that appears.
  2. Click “Profile Information” from the list of choices on the next page.
  3. The third, fourth, and fifth item listed on this page are as follows: “birthday,” “religious and political views,” and “family and relationship.” Locking down birthday to “Only Friends” is wise here, especially considering information such as this is often used in identity theft.
  4. Depending on your own personal preferences, you may or may not feel comfortable sharing your relationship status and religious and political views with complete strangers. And keep in mind, any setting besides “Only Friends” is just that – a stranger. While “Friends of Friends” sounds innocuous enough, it refers to everyone your friends have added as friends, a large group containing hundreds if not thousands of people you don’t know. All it takes is one less-than-selective friend in your network to give an unsavory person access to this information.

3. What Google Can See – Keep Your Data Off the Search Engines

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When you visit Facebook’s Search Settings page, a warning message pops up. Apparently, Facebook wants to clear the air about what info is being indexed by Google. The message reads:

There have been misleading rumors recently about Facebook indexing all your information on Google. This is not true. Facebook created public search listings in 2007 to enable people to search for your name and see a link to your Facebook profile. They will still only see a basic set of information.

While that may be true to a point, the second setting listed on this Search Settings page refers to exactly what you’re allowing Google to index. If the box next to “Allow” is checked, you’re giving search engines the ability to access and index any information you’ve marked as visible by “Everyone.” As you can see from the settings discussed above, if you had not made some changes to certain fields, you would be sharing quite a bit with the search engines…probably more information than you were comfortable with. To keep your data private and out of the search engines, do the following:

  1. From your Profile page, hover your mouse over the Settings menu at the top right and click “Privacy Settings” from the list that appears.
  2. Click “Search” from the list of choices on the next page.
  3. Click “Close” on the pop-up message that appears.
  4. On this page, uncheck the box labeled “Allow” next to the second setting “Public Search Results.” That keeps all your publicly shared information (items set to viewable by “Everyone”) out of the search engines. If you want to see what the end result looks like, click the “see preview” link in blue underneath this setting.

4. Stop Sharing Personal Info with Unknown and Annoying Applications and Quizzes

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From the Facebook homepage, hover your mouse over the “Settings” menu and choose “Privacy Settings” from the drop-down list. On the next page, click “Applications” then click the tab that reads “Settings.” In the  Applications page, delete the apps you’re not using anymore. (Use the “X” to remove them.) Once you authorize an application, you’re telling it that it’s OK to access any information associated with your account that it requires to work. While some developers may only pull what’s actually required, many others just pull in everything they can.

The ACLU recently created their own Facebook Quiz to demonstrate how much information an app has access to. Millions of Facebook users taking quizzes are revealing far more personal information to application developers than they are aware of. This is mostly due to the fact that Facebook’s default privacy settings allow access to all your profile information whether or not your profile is set to “private.” Even worse, the ACLU reports that even if you shun quizzes yourself, your profile info is revealed when one of your friends takes a quiz. Want to see how bad the problem is? Just take the ACLU’s Facebook Quiz.

The purpose of doing some Facebook privacy housekeeping is to provide a more secure, and more private environment on the social network.

However, if you choose not to take any precautions, then you’ll only have yourself to blame when an errant wall post or a naughty photo makes its way online and straight into Grandma’s News Feed, or worse, your boss’s. These days, it’s better be safe than sorry!

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