Facebook – What people can see is up to you. A How To.7 min read
Facebook is the number one social site on the Internet today. 500 million users strong. Chances are you are one of them. But do you truly know how your information you post is being viewed, by what, and how to restrict it? This post is to lay it out and show you how to lock it down so that drunken photo you posted that was only meant for your friends are not seen by your bosses.
Let’s dive into it.
On your Facebook page in the upper right there are 3 links, Home, Profile and Account. The Account is where you change your settings on the pages. However, Facebook scatters various settings all around so you need to go to multiple places. That’s one of the complaints people have about Facebook’s privacy controls, that it is not intuitive for the normal user. This guide will hopefully make it easier.
Click on Account and a menu will drop down that will look like the picture on the left. You have many options and we will be working in Account Settings, Privacy Settings, and Application Settings. The trick thing is that privacy settings are in all 3 not just Privacy Settings.
Select Custom and click the Customize Settings you will see a screen like the one below.
Here is the list of each section of Facebook and the option on how you want it presented to the world.
So when it comes down to it, you have the option to show as much or as little to whomever you wish. As you make your changes, in the upper right hand part of the window you will see a Preview button. You are able to see how your profile looks to the outside world. So you can know for sure what is out there and if it’s correct.
In addition to that, if you choose Customize you can go one step further. You can exclude people from a group that is allowed. For example, Your mother is on your friend list, but you don’t want her to see you laying in a pool of your own vomit, covered in magic marker. You can allows your friends and exclude her from seeing your photos.
The first one on the left, Applications and Websites, is an important one. In here you can see the list of all the applications you have authorized to access Facebook. Some you might not be aware that they were linked. Why this is important is that these apps can come and go and get information on your likes, posts, photos, and whatever else you have available to use in their applications and send that information around to other parties.
If you don’t know why it’s there, remove it.
Game and Application Activity, unless you want the world to see how much time you waste, set it to Friends Only.
Info accessible through your friends is another sneaky one. Even though you set your information settings, apps can still get at it through your friends. Slimy. Click edit and uncheck the boxes you want to stop sharing. This does not mean your friends wont be able to see that info, it means that Farmville won’t be able to see your info when your Friends are playing them.
Instant Personalization is another sneaky trick. As Facebook partners with more and more sites, they share more and more info about the users. This is an option that when you goto a partner site, that site will personalize their pages to you. I would recommend disabling this.
Public Search – This one I would disable. This allows search engines to gather your info and your Facebook page will show up in search results.
In here is the stuff Facebook got in the news for. The opt-ed in features, unless you know about them and what they do, your information is going all over the place.
Click on Account Settings and you will see something similar to this. Your username, email, password, and other account relates features are listed out.
This first tab, Settings, is where your first privacy options are. If you click on Change on the Linked Accounts option, you will see a drop down of websites that you can link to Facebook. Each time you login to, say Google, you will be logged into Facebook at the same time. I personally do not have this enabled for anything. But it’s up to you.
Staying on this page, you will see at the top several tabs.
The second tab, Networks, is where you manage any Facebook networks you are a member of. Your high school, college, city, etc…
The third tab, Notifications, is where you allow or deny various activities that Facebook does to notify you by email or text message on your phone. It’s as simple as checking a box to allow or deny. As you scroll through you can see how much or how little Facebook email you can get.
The fourth tab, Mobile, is really an obsolete tab and option. It was originally designed for mobile phones with text and Internet capability. You register your phone number and are able to send and receive information from Facebook. But, most likely you have a smart phone either iPhone, Android or Blackberry and each one of those has a specific Facebook application that allows you to do the same thing without having to register the phone in this section. I would expect this to be removed at some point as it’s not needed.
The Language tab is if you want to change the layout to a different language. The Payments tab is where you enter credit card information to buy and use Facebook credits from games.
The last tab, Facebook Ads, is the first PRIVACY section where you control who can see what information and behavior about you. By default it’s open. The ads are where most of your information goes. You have two options on this page.
The first is Allow ads on platform page to show my information to – your choices are No One and Only My Friends. Today Facebook does not allow this information out to 3rd parties… Yet. They wouldn’t have this option in here unless they were thinking about it. When in doubt, choose No One.
The second option is at the bottom of the page. Again this is showing what you do and like to your friends or no one. When in doubt, select No One.
Basically what these do, is if you click on an ad, it will show your friends that you clicked on the ad. It might be fine for food and games, but sometimes there are more personal directed ads, medical ads, that you may not want your friend base to see you Like Hemorrhoid cream or something like that. Or just do what I do and ignore all ads clicking on none of them.
I hope this post gets around and explains the core privacy settings and how to control them. Maybe you will see things you never knew to look for. I work under the practice that I trust no website or company that runs it to protect my information.
Learn what you use, control what you post, be aware that the Internet is not a nice cozy place. Your identity is your responsibility and no one else’s.
End of Line.
The items in this post are purely the thoughts and opinions of the author. All facts and data are gathered across various sources and the author’s conclusions are based that information. Techie Pro
Binary Blogger has spent 20 years in the Information Security space currently providing security solutions and evangelism to clients. From early web application programming, system administration, senior management to enterprise consulting I provide practical security analysis and solutions to help companies and individuals figure out HOW to be secure every day.
Follow Me On Twitter