Locking down your Facebook account

Online social networks were not really created to protect information.  They were built to share as much as possible.  This has become problematic for many people who find their information oozing out of their accounts in ways that they didn’t anticipate.  Most often this is a human to human problem, in other words, gossip.  This is never going to be solved by technological means.  However, the inadvertent loss of control of ones data can be managed to an extent with privacy tools provided.

First, I’ll give you advice that my father gave me long ago…”Never put it in writing” 🙂  Maybe a strange thing to say to your young son, but it’s served me well over the years.  Never record, in any way, things that you wouldn’t be ok with the world seeing.  However, I do understand that there are things that you would rather not broadcast to the world if you can help it, so modifying privacy settings in your online social network is a good way to address that.

Below is a quick and dirty text tutorial on locking down your Facebook account. If you do all of the following, your account and information will be as private as possible…..however, your Facebook experience will be quite limited too.  That’s your choice.

Regardless, good to see you’re here.

If it’s a problem of too much information available to the world, you can set your settings to essentially share nothing.  However, you would still be able to send/receive messages (internal email) and comment.  Of course, there is nothing stopping your “friends” from tagging you in pictures, notes, and such, but if that’s the problem, unfriend them (which, it seems, is what you did before).

Here’s how to go about locking down your account.

  1. Click on “Settings” in the upper, right of the page.
  2. Find “Privacy” and click on the “manage” link to the right of it.
  3. First, you can block someone from even being able to see you in searches. You can do this by Facebook account or by email.  If you’re having problems with particular people, use this.
  4. Click on the “Profile” link on the privacy page (the blue link, not the white one across the top). Next to each of the categories, there is a drop-down list. From this list, select “Custom”.  Each of the categories will give you slightly different options here.  Select the most restrictive ones.  “Only Friends” is an obvious choice, but some allow you to specify “Only Select Friends” or even “Only me”.  Additionally, you will have to select which Networks have access, choose “None of my Networks”. The networks setting is the biggest privacy hole in Facebook.  People often don’t realize that their entire network (say, Joliet) has access to their info.  Lastly, you can set exceptions for some categories.  So, you can specifically add peope who you want to, for example, see photos that are tagged with your name.  This is good for specific family and friends who you want to see these things.  When you are finished, click “Save Changes”
  5. Click on the “Contact Information” tab and make the same choices as in #4.  I’d suggest being a little freer with your email address and a little more restrictive with phone, address, and so forth.  When you’re done, click “Save Changes”
  6. Click on “Privacy” again to get back to the main privacy settings page.  Then click on “Search”.  you can restrict who can see you in a search.  In most cases, you probably want to keep this as open as possible, but you may have reasons to restrict it.  Below that, however, is a section that describes what people can see when they search for you.  I usually suggest leaving these checked: picture and a link to add me as a friend, at a minimum (otherwise people won’t be able to find you.  Lastly, there is an option to have public search.  This means that your Facebook account will show up in a search like Google.  Good if you want people to find you, bad if you don’t 🙂  When you are finished, click “Save Changes”.
  7. Click on the “Privacy” link again to get back to the privacy setting page.  Click on the “News Feed and Wall” link.  Uncheck all of these for maximum privacy.  This stops, to an extent, your activities from being posting on yours or your friends’ news feeds.  When you are finished, click “Save Changes”
  8. Click on the “Privacy” link to get back to the main privacy settings page.  Click on the “Applications” link. You can read the info on this page to get a better idea of what this is for, but to change settings, click on the “Settings” tab.  The first set of settings essentially tells you that you are sharing your name, networks, and list of friends with applications that you are using in Facebook.  The only way to turn this off is to delete those applications (I’ll tell you about this later).  Do make sure that you aren’t sharing anything extra.  Uncheck any checkbox that is checked.

    The next setting that you can change is Facebook Connect.  This is the program that lets you log into other websites with your Facebook login.  It also tracks you to a great degree.  Make sure to uncheck that box.  It doesn’t turn this off, but it does make sure that “friends” don’t know what sites you use it on.

    Finally, the next setting is about Beacon.  This is Facebook’s social advertising platform.  Definately check this box.  You do not want your network notified when you buy your wife’s Christmas present or other, more sensitive things 🙂

    When you are done, click “Save Changes”

  9. We’re done with the privacy settings, but there’s one more place to go to really lock down your account.  We need to manage applications.  Go to the settings link on the upper, right of the page.  You will see a drop-down list of options, click on “Application Settings”.  On this page, you will see another drop-down list of items that dictate what “Show” in this list.  Choose “Authorized” to see the best list of applications.  The easiest way to control these is to delete all applications that can be deleted.  These have X’s on the right side of the listed application.  By deleting the applications, then can do nothing on your behalf in Facebook.  Of course, you can no longer use them either.

    With the remaining applications, you can adjust some (not many) options by clicking on “Edit Settings”.  I’d suggest limiting who can see it as much as you see fit.  At least, “Only Friends” but even “Only Me” might be a good idea. 

That’s all.  Your account is locked down as much as possible now.  You can always go back and open settings up a little as you become more comfortable or see more of a need to do so.

Please, add your advice below.

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