Saturday, November 27th, 2021

How-To: Protect Yourself On Facebook

By Mhairi Petrovic on Apr 18 2011 • Filed under Outsmarting Social Media

Photo: protect yourself on Facebook

I recently noticed that my pal, who shall remain nameless, had disappeared from Facebook. Her profile was gone and I missed catching up on her news and photos. When I emailed and asked her why she had gone AWOL, she said she was taking a break because of phishing, spam and she went on to rant a little about Facebook (but I won’t share that here) and the fact that she doesn’t trust the network enough to post photos or any personal information there.

It is understandable that she feels this way  – she’s not the only one. There has been a rash of attacks on Facebook recently: everything from unwanted Facebook wall posts (like the “OMG Roller Coaster Accident!” one currently making its rounds) and surveys (like the “win an iPad” Facebook survey scam). When this happens to you and someone hijacks your wall, you might feel violated and you will probably think twice about the content you share online (which is not necessarily a bad thing) but there are some precautions you can take that can help prevent this from happening.

Facebook Privacy Tips

Here are some tips to consider that, if done right, will help make your Facebook content more secure and to limit the likelihood of attacks like this happening to you again.

1. Be very careful which third party applications you add.

When you add a third party application to your Facebook profile, whether it be a game or a widget linking to an external site, you give the company behind that site access to your general information on Facebook which includes everything from user names to user IDs.

From the Facebook blog:

Connecting with an Application or Website. When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you.  The term General Information includes your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting. We may also make information about the location of your computer or access device and your age available to applications and websites in order to help them implement appropriate security measures and control the distribution of age-appropriate content. If the application or website wants to access any other data, it will have to ask for your permission.

So be very picky about which games you add and if possible, review the privacy policies of the third parties you are adding.

To review and delete any shady applications or ones you haven’t used in ages, go to your privacy settings then click on ‘applications and websites.’ At the top you will see a list of your apps, click to edit and see the complete list, and x to delete as you see fit.  You can also turn off all applications on the ‘apps and websites’ main menu.

2. Never click on a link to a website, video or image that seems suspicious.

Even if it comes from someone you trust. If someone posts something on your page that seems iffy, delete it immediately when you notice it so as to avoid your followers clicking too.

3. Use your privacy settings to control who sees your content.

And also which content you make available. Never show your actual date of birth on your public profile: click to edit your profile and make sure that “don’t show my birthday in my profile” is checked.  Read this for more information on Facebook privacy controls.

4.  Protect your images.

Did you know that unless you change your privacy settings, the images at the top of your Facebook page may be viewed by anyone? This is the setting that Facebook actually recommends but if you are concerned about this and you want to keep your images private you can change access settings.  Again, you use privacy settings to make your content available to: friends only, friends of friends, etc.  You can do this for all of your Facebook content as well as photos you might be tagged in – it’s highly recommended.

5. Change your password.

Change it regularly, and especially after an attack, to limit the likelihood of it happening again.

6. Status Updates and Links.

Always take some time to consider what you are posting or linking to and, given your privacy settings, if you really want this information to be made available to your authorized audience. Be very, very careful about your posts and updates if your settings are set to reach everyone and think twice about posting about vacations until you return.

7. Be selective about who you follow and like.

If you are concerned about privacy, you should be very selective about who you add to your connections and which pages you follow. Only add people or like pages that you know or trust.

8. Be wary of surveys that appear when you are about to login to Facebook.

Or that appear when you're using it (other than Facebook’s own newly minted questions app).  If a survey takes you to an external website, always verify the domain URL of the site to see that it corresponds. For example, the recent Facebook survey scam took those who clicked to an URL unrelated to Facebook. To be on the safe side, just don’t participate in surveys like this as a rule.

The good news is that Facebook is cracking down on third party applications but the proliferation of Facebook means that it is only going to become a growing target for the fraudsters out there. For more tips on preventing Facebook spam, read this Mashable article.

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