As many avid social media users are already aware, true profile privacy is difficult to attain especially when it comes to Facebook. As Facebook continues to shape-shift into an e-marketing solution for businesses, privacy settings and policies are changing along with it. This forces the privacy-concerned user to keep reasonably up-to-date on the site’s default privacy settings, or suffer the consequences of not knowing who can view and use their personal information. Below are three simple questions and answers to help the privacy-conscious best manage their Facebook settings and reach a certain level of anonymity that they are comfortable with.
1. Who Can Find My Facebook Profile?
Typically, when we search for friends we use Facebook’s search feature, which taps into their directory. Facebook used to allow users to be removed from this directory but they have since done away with this option. However, it is possible to hide your profile information and Facebook wall from other search engines such as Google and Bing.
In order to remove yourself from search engines, simply go to your Privacy Settings and Tools page. Under “Who can look me up?” you can opt in or out of other search engines being able to link to your Facebook profile. They do warn, however, that it will take some time to fully remove your profile from search engines if you decide to opt out.
2. Who is Able to See My Content?
In our basic privacy settings, and with an icon next to each post, users can control whether general and individual posts, respectively, can be seen by friends, the public, only themselves, or some sort of custom setting. This is the most basic and probably the most important privacy control available to users.
Since late 2011, Facebook has emulated Google+’s “circles,” by allowing users to create lists in which to classify their Facebook friends. Typical lists would be close friends, colleagues, family, etc. While the act of sorting your friends can prove to be extremely tedious, especially for users with a lot of friends to classify, it can make controlling what you choose to share quite a bit easier when all is said and done. Once a user’s groups have been created, defining the privacy parameters for each group is simple. For example, one might want to disallow colleagues from seeing photos or contact information and that can be done by simply blocking the posts to that group as a whole. An important side note to this too is that if a particular friend is in two groups, Facebook will automatically give that friend the settings from the more restricted group.
Another important feature applies particularly to those in the market for a new job or internship, anyone who could realistically expect their profile to be combed over. While it’s fairly easy to keep from posting anything distasteful or incriminating on your own wall, it’s much more difficult to constantly monitor what your friends post on your wall for inappropriate content. There are two options for dealing with this issue:
- Lock down your wall so that only you can post on it (This setting is located in the Timeline and Tagging section).
- Change who can see posts from others on your timeline, or posts that you’ve been tagged in (This setting is also located in the Timeline and Tagging section).
Additionally, this page of settings allows users to turn off “Tag Suggest,” the automatic facial recognition software that recommends you be tagged to friends who’ve uploaded pictures which resemble you.
3. Who Can Access My Personal Information?
One of the more controversial privacy concerns to hit Facebook users lately has been the fact that friends can share your personal information, whether or not they are aware of it. This happens when a friend uses certain social media applications. However, it is quite possible to limit or completely eliminate their ability to do so. Under the Apps page of your Settings, you can select and deselect which facets of your personal information can be shared via your friends. For example, you can deselect your Birthday, Bio, Age, or everything if you wish.
It has become more transparent in the past few years that Facebook has been using personal information to sell to marketers who want to target campaigns, especially as the social media giant becomes more focused on the profits from doing so. One of the ways Facebook profits from our personal information is by granting access to certain sites one visits while logged in, so that those websites can target their advertising more appropriately. This is called “Instant Personalization,” and one may find comfort in knowing that he/she can deactivate it on the Apps page under Settings.
While the use of Facebook certainly jeopardizes one’s personal privacy, there are steps that can counteract many of the settings that are viewed as invasive or over-the-top. Facebook also offers many benefits to users which stand as evidence to how it has remained a successful social media platform for so long. Also since the service is still essentially free, the only real cost to users lies in the lack of privacy. Until the privacy violations outweigh the benefits in the eyes of users themselves, Facebook will continue its reign as the social media giant.
Andrew works for a leading training company named Phoenix TS that specializes in cyber security training.