“Man, I really wish I hadn’t said that!” Ever think or say a version of that sentence after an in-person interaction? You aren’t alone, by any means. In 2015’s digital landscape, shoddy security habits are curiously widespread – while over-disclosure on social media has become the norm, rather than the exception. Luckily, there are some ways to proactively limit oversharing, or retroactively control visibility of what’s already out there, with some definite caveats.
When in doubt, remember, something is a secret for as long as the information is kept in your head. Afterward, damage limitation or accepting defeat might be your only recourse. That being said, let’s discuss 12 tips to secure your Facebook information today, from photos and videos, to what you think about the new parking regulations in town and how scrumptious breakfast was.
This post is broken up into roughly two semantic halves, corresponding to measures you may take in advance of registering for an account (or when creating a new one), and reactive options to limit access to the details you’ve already shared.
I know what you’re thinking, the print’s small, I won’t be happy with what I read, so why even bother? Ignorance is bliss, right. Well, not so fast. It’s just a tad past ironic to live in the so-called Information Age and not bother with informing yourself (while said information is literally in front of your nose). Take five minutes extra, and save yourself the headache later.
2. Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two Factor Authentication (2FA) is simply ‘techie’ terminology for describing a second security check to log in to your Facebook account. This usually means identity verification is handled by the dual-pronged approach of something you know and something you have. You’ll need a smartphone, as after inputting your username/password combo, you’ll get a text with a verification code which will then allow completion of the two-tiered process.
So, even if you mis-clicked or otherwise have your login details stolen in some fashion, with 2FA active, you’re safe. Just remember to keep your smartphone nearby, as if that poses much of a problem. Keep reading to find out how to modulate your privacy settings to hide from Google.
3. Hide From Search-Engines
It’s not hard to hide from search engines, and most importantly ‘creepers‘. Navigate to Settings>Privacy>Who Can Look Me Up? Make sure the checkbox is left blank, to keep Google and other engines from finding your profile.
Do note, friends of friends will still be able to search for and find you, but better a thousand people than millions. But what about advertisers? Continue to read about how you play a role in advertising various products and how you can stop participating in that process.
4. Disable Social Ad Broadcasting
Just because Facebook wouldn’t be free without advertising, doesn’t mean the company and your greater network, not to mention seedy ad-men should have a seat inside your head. Unless you opt out of this feature, your network will randomly have ads pop up in their Timeline and News Feed showing your likes, shares, and comments. Don’t let yourself be reduced to a wallet with limbs, a pawn to make your friends buy stuff.
Turn off social ad pairing by navigating to again to Settings, then Ads, and selecting No One, in the social actions section as seen above. You may also disable internet based ads, depending on if you’d like to see personal advertising tailored to your click and search history. Don’t be the big ad-elephant in the room, inviting scorn upon yourself.
5. Reign in the Timeline
Facebook’s Timeline feature has been a source of never-ending amusement since its rollout some years back. It’s a veritable cornucopia for the bored person, everything from astutely penned think pieces, poorly photoshopped memes, and new indie tunes, all in an engaging yet usually bite-sized format. There’s more than meets the eye, though.
It’s good practice to only allow friends to post on your Timeline, provided you trust the people whom you enter into a Facebook Friendship with. However, can you really be sure your pal Amy won’t post a play-by-play of last weekend’s dancing escapades at the bar for your network to see?
The solution is simple, just enable ‘Review posts and Review Tags’ to ‘On’, to look over potential posts involving you on your page, or tags in others’ posts. This way you can head off your associate’s inebriated confession to the masses, even if you’re unplugged or asleep at that particular time. Or, you could, you know, tirelessly scroll Facebook like a paranoid person.
6. Limit Sharing
Refrain from dropping details about your real-world activities that put you at risk – whether you’re truly up to no good, or simply sharing a distasteful drunken joke – it should be common sense for all of us, on and offline. Lo and behold how people repeatedly forget this simple concept, to their own detriment or worse in many cases.
So, if you’re inclined to keep infant-sized keep piles of cash lying around the house, don’t share it online, for Pete’s sake! At the very least, and on a less facetious note, modulate who your share information with, and keep the setting to friends rather than publicly visible.
Be cognizant of the fact that criminals crawl through social media looking for potential targets just as often as law enforcement, not to mention employers and your nosy great-aunt _____.
But wait, I said that this post would tell you what to do once you’ve already spilled the beans, not just how to avoid doing so in the first place. Check out the next section to see what you can do to try and remedy what’s already out in the public sphere.
7. Control Sharing
As we left off, what’s (debatably) appropriate to discuss in a friend-to-friend context, might not be in another setting. With Facebook, you can make convenient sub-lists to group contacts so that they only see certain parts of your profile, say pictures and status updates, while keeping other parts hidden. This can even be done retroactively through the settings menu, to limit access to past posts and pictures.
The only drawback is that you’ll have to (tediously depending on how active you’ve been at disregarding step #5, though ignorance is something approaching a good excuse) manually go back if you want to control which particular friends see any given post, otherwise all past posts will be visible to friends only. Keep going to find out how to group friends and streamline the conscious sharing process.
8. Put Friends In Their Place
In my experience, many folks overlook the lists menu at the very bottom of the left-hand taskbar on the Newsfeed. Perhaps to absolve themselves of feeling discriminatory to their virtual friends, or maybe out of simple oversight due to Facebook’s placement of the feature. Regardless, putting your friends in a Restricted list (visible below) is a quick and clean way of keeping them from seeing only the information you don’t make public.
You can manage which friends are on the list in the search bar on the right-hand side of this picture, where a few profile icons are, just below the ‘See All’ heading. You may also create lists to share updates with a specific subset of people you know, such as work colleagues, or old friends from primary school, with appropriate privileges for each subset.
Keeping those metaphorical ducks in order enables you to post with your mind more at ease that the wrong updates won’t go to the rong people. Read on for how to mange external apps.
9. Lookout for Sneaky Apps
Third-party applications are appealing, who doesn’t enjoy extras. Dressing on salad, sauce with French Fries, and third party apps drive to the core of human impulses for novelty and customization. As entertaining as driving mini race cars or blowing up bedazzled jewel-esque bubbles in those popular FB apps might be, it can be very much akin to leaving a window into your account for advertisers to aggregate and sell off your data, with your implicit blessing, to boot!
Luckily, there is something you can do (besides not accepting any apps or app permissions, and consequently not using any external apps, of course).
While not using any apps would be best practice, some are quite useful, and in Tinder’s case might hold non-negotiable appeal. Thankfully, you may use the pop-up pencil next to each app (found in Settings>Apps) to modulate the information you’ve handed the app, such as friendslist or like history. Each app has different permissions, which are all frankly dubious as to their necessity.
Recapping and piggybacking off the first point in this list: remember to thoroughly read through what you’ve already agreed to or are about to sign off on. Use those observatory powers instead of falling into complacency.
10. Remote Control
Meanwhile, it’s also worth signing out when you’re done using Facebook, lest someone in close proximity play a prank and update your status saying that you love purple dolphins, or any other bit of random fun. More worrisome, however, is staying logged-in to a browser accidentally, say at the computer store, library, or another public place.
Thankfully, you can navigate to Settings>Security Settings at any time and see where you’re logged in. What’s more, you may then choose ‘End All Activity’ to sign out of Facebook on every device you’ve signed in, or sign out of each browsing session individually.
Another useful feature is found in the Login Alerts tab, at the top. Enabling login alerts by clicking on the Edit feature allows you to choose whether you’d like to recieve notification whenever your account is logged in, letting you verify that you are the only one accessing your account, in real-time.
Go ahead to the next section for some handy info about how to best manipulate the Chat function to your advantage.
11. Selectively Use Chat
Chatting online using Facebook has evolved from a leisurely, spare time activity – or substitute for real productivity, as it were – into an increasingly adopted method of business communication, both internally and externally. Sure, chatting is more efficient and less dreary than firing off voluminous emails which by nature necessitate flawless grammar, and are often rather boring. But what about when you want to chat with selective people, but you’re online so the messages come thick and fast, and you’ve got an unencouraging mess on your hands?
Just turn off chat for some friends, or for all friends with the exception of whoever you’d like to continue interacting with, using the chat settings tool denoted by the red arrow. Or, you can turn off chat altogether and appear offline, while still messaging people as you see fit. I usually take this semi-anti-social option. Everyone wants attention, but your time and brainpower is limited, so make the best use of both and chat proficiently.
Keep reading for the last tip and a short recap to tie everything we’ve covered together.
12. Blocking as a Last Resort
While FB is all about sharing and being open, this article hopefully started some internal dialogue in your head about why unfettered openness isn’t always the right course of action, be it to avoid spam or something dicier altogether. Thankfully, if any person, app, event, or page looks shady, or pisses you off for some arbitrary reason, you have recourse in the form of a block. Just add the profile/app/event/page name and that’s it, the entity in question can longer contact you.
Mercifully (for them), I’ve never had to block anyone or anything in my near-decade of using Facebook, which maybe means I’m not popular enough to warrant stalking behaviors. Regardless, it’s always nice to know the safety net feature exists, should I (or you) ever need it.
12 Tips to Secure Your Facebook Conclusion
I’ll confess, I think Facebook’s thinly veiled attempts to ensure the platform acts like the world’s most inviting
diary data-sponge are sketchy at best and one step short of Orwellian at worst, but the damn thing is fun, and can be even more addictive than alcohol or tobacco – which is saying something when we’re talking about what essentially amounts to a wide societal exercise in egregious narcissism.
But I use Facebook, and I use it quite often – multiple times a day – in fact. So I’ll leave the dissonance for another post and the comment section below, while reminding you to be conscious and conscientious when it comes to sharing anything on Facebook, your call. Just remember that your digital footprint can’t be erased like chalk from a chalkboard, and it’s exponentially harder to do so post oversharing than it is to act sensibly in the first place.