Thursday, July 2, 2009

Keeping an eye on your Facebook privacy settings

My friend Nathan posted a link on facebook to an article about yet another Facebook privacy policy settings change, this one being that the default setting for your posts, including statuses, photos, and videos, is now set to "everyone." This means that unless you go in and manually change your settings when you set things up, everyone on facebook will be able to see what you post.

If you're not cool with this (and I'm not), you need to make sure that you're going into the
privacy settings regularly just to check things out and make sure nothing has changed. On the top right corner of your Facebook home page, scroll over "Settings," which will display a link to "Privacy Settings." Click on that and you'll be able to access your Profile, Search, News Feed and Wall, and Applications privacy settings.

For me, the profile settings are the most important settings to keep private. Even though I removed my personal contact information from my profile long ago, people can still find out
where I work, where I went to school, and my
websites through this profile.

While I'm under no illusions that people can't find me if they want to, this does help for both safety reasons and, if you're dumb enough to post incriminating stuff on Facebook (or your friends are dumb enough to post incriminating stuff of you on Facebook), your employment. Set everything to "only friends" (and none of your networks) and you'll be able to control who has access to your profile.

Friend Lists

This brings us to friend lists. Friend lists are a great way to limit who sees what on your profile within your friends. Let's be honest, you may not want your work friends to have access to everything you post (or other people post) on your wall. Not necessarily because you're posting anything bad, but just because you want that buffer between your professional and personal life. You usually can't just reject their "friendships," because they're going to ask you about it. Friend lists to the rescue.

When you click on "Friends" on the top of your home page, it will bring you to this screen. Click on "Create New Friend" list and add the friends you want to your new list and name it something you will recognize.

Then, to keep a list of friends from seeing part of your profile, go back to that profile privacy settings screen you were at before and click on the "Only friends" drop-down menu. You will see at the bottom an option that says "Customize..." Click on that and you will see this screen, where you can add that list of people to the "Except these people" section.

You can create many different lists, and mix and match what you want certain people to see. I also keep up with my limited profile pretty vigilantly, so that people I don't know that well (or people who I think may have friends that would get into their Facebook accounts) can't see any of my contact information.

View your profile as someone else

There is also an option on the top of your Profile Privacy Settings page to view your profile as someone else views it. This way, you can type in someone's name and see what they see on your profile. This is helpful for catching any areas you missed in the privacy settings.

Photo Albums

Another thing to remember is that you have to set privacy settings for each individual photo album. This is helpful when I want some albums, like other peoples' weddings, to be viewable by friends of friends, versus when I don't want anybody except my friends to see an album, such as when there are pictures of my little neighbors. Again, the default for your new albums is everyone on Facebook seeing it, so if you don't want everyone to have access to those photos, be sure to change that setting when you create the album.

You can see what your current photo privacy settings are when you click on "Edit photo albums privacy settings" under your tagged photo section of your Profile Privacy Settings page. Each album has its own drop-down menu, where you can change who can see that particular album.

"Unfriending" your "friends"

Last item: A while ago I wrote this tongue-in-cheek post about "unfriending" quite a few of my Facebook friends. I do that every so often - basically "clean house" and get rid of the Facebook "friends" that I'm not truly friends with.

A rather surprising debate ensued following the post about whether it's unkind to do this. I have to be honest - unkind or not, I think it's safer. If you seriously haven't seen a lot of these people in a long time and your relationship was superficial to begin with, why are you still "friends" with them on Facebook? I didn't realize people actually kept track of who they were and weren't friends with (I don't spend that much time on Facebook.)

I don't unfriend people to be mean. When I really don't know who these people are, or who will have access to their accounts, it's just not worth risking safety or privacy over. Just my two cents.

Just pay attention

No matter how you decide to stay safe, whether it's unfriending people, limiting friend lists, keeping tabs on your privacy settings, or just plain getting off Facebook altogether, it's important to stay informed about the social networking privacy policies and how to keep your information secure. Learn how to change your settings, and check them often!


Courtney and the Boys said...

Sweet. Thanks for that reminder. I just updated my settings and blocked you from searching for me. :)

Shane said...

Relax. If social networking weren't safe, the internet wouldn't let it be on our computers.