how to:How To Protect Your Privacy on Facebook
Facebook is a incredibly powerful tool to maximize your cause's impact. It doesn't have a good reputation, though, for securing the often private information that you share with it, and for most of us it's hard to master the site's ever evolving privacy settings on Facebook.
It's all the more pressing, however, if you think you might be using the site to organize. Here's our guide to Facebook and privacy.
Have your own tip for maintaining privacy on Facebook? Share it in the comments section!
Understand the Facebook jargon. Along with Facebook’s growth has come a whole new set of terms you need to know in order to better understand what information the website is collecting and sharing about you. Here are some common terms used by Facebook to familiarize yourself with:
Public information: Facebook uses this term to describe information shared with anybody. Your name, profile picture, gender, and networks do not have privacy settings and are visible to anyone.
Visibility: What information can be seen by others looking at your profile. Remember: Some information can be seen by others that aren’t your friends or even registered Facebook users.
Pages: Facebook pages are different from profiles. They usually are for non-user entities like companies, public figures, products, etc. The pages you are affiliated with (by “liking” a page) are available to anyone, including people you aren’t friends with, advertisers, etc.
Connections: Created by “liking” a page (clicking the “Like” button). This is considered public information.
Social plugins: Tools that are “dropped” into any website to extend the “Facebook” social experience to other sites. For example, if you are logged into Facebook and are browsing CNN.com, you may see a “Like” or “Recommend” button next to the article. If you “recommend” the CNN article, a notification will be sent to your Facebook newsfeed that includes a link back to the CNN article. If you “like” an item, the “like” appears in your newsfeed and is also added to your “Likes and Interests” section on your Facebook profile.
Instant personalization: Lets you see relevant information about your friends the moment you arrive on select partner websites. Third party sites can give you a more personalized experience, which you may like, but it also allows these sites access to your personal data. If you don't want to use Instant Personalization, visit your Facebook Privacy Settings page for Applications and Websites and uncheck the "Allow" check box next to "Instant Personalization."
Networks: You have the option of joining a school or workplace network on Facebook. One network will be your “primary” network - usually the network you feel most closely associated with. Your primary network will appear next to your name and influences which search results you see first. You can check what networks you have joined by going to the Networks tab of your Account Settings page. To join a network, you have to validate your affiliation with that particular college, high school or work network via an authenticated email address.
- Information on your activities you take while on Facebook such as creating a photo album, adding a friend, “liking” another user’s post, or sharing a video.
- Information from where you access Facebook from, whether it be from a compute or cell phone, including the browser you are using, your location and your IP address.
- Cookie information.
- Information from other Facebook users who interact with you, such as when a friend tags you in a photo of you.
Understand what information third parties collect about you and what information those third parties share with Facebook. Third parties are applications or websites that you use through Facebook such as games or utilities.
When you connect with a Facebook Platform application or website, Facebook receives information from them about your actions. Facebook also may receive information from advertising partners if you respond to ads displayed on Facebook.
If you live in a country where your online security is threatened, avoid using a picture of yourself as your profile photo, don't provide your full name, and always log out when you are not using the site.
Change your settings so you always access Facebook using HTTPS. Using HTTPS means that you are creating a more secure channel over an unsecure network, better protecting you from surveillance and from someone accessing your web accounts without permission. Without getting too technical, HTTP stands for hypertext transfer protocol. It’s a protocol that utilizes TCP to transfer hypertext requests and information between servers and browsers. HTTP is unsecure and is subject to interception, eavesdropping and surveillance. Using HTTPS, on the other hand, secures a webpage.
Right now, HTTPS is not offered by default; users must opt-in by changing their settings. To do so, go to: Account >> Account Settings >> Scroll down to Account Security >> Click change >> Check the box next to "Browse Facebook on a secure connection (https) whenever possible" >> Click Save.
The new setting is slowly being rolled out, so not all users may see the option yet. One caveat--many third-party apps on Facebook currently do not support HTTPS, so be careful if you use any of these apps.
To set your privacy controls? Log into Facebook. In the upper right-hand corner of any page, click on “Account” and then click "Privacy Settings."
Under the first heading, “Connecting on Facebook,” click the “View Settings” link.
You will then see a list of options for determining how much information you want to share on Facebook and with whom you want to share that information with. Next to each item you’ll see a brief description, and then a drop-down menu where you can select your privacy preferences.
You have four options: Friends only (only your approved Facebook friends can view this information), Friends of Friends (your Facebook friends and their friends can view this information), Friends and Networks (your approved Facebook friends and members of the Networks you have joined), and Everyone (anyone on the internet).
You also have the option of customizing each privacy setting by selecting “Customize” from the drop-down menu. This is helpful if you want to hide content from particular people. In the pop-up screen, you can customize the privacy of that particular information by making it visible to a select number of people you indicate or select networks. You can also choose to hide this information from particular Facebook users you have already added as friends.
Finally, you can choose to make the information visible to “Only Me,” meaning that no friends can see that particular piece of information. Set your preferences, then click “Save Setting” to return to the main privacy settings page.
On the main privacy settings page, click “Preview My Profile” to see what your profile looks like to your Facebook friends. This is a good way to double check that you have selected the settings you prefer. The website Reclaim Privacy provides an independent and open tool for scanning your Facebook privacy settings, but it's volunteer run and therefore not reliably up to date.
Remember, even if no one but yourself can see certain bits of information, Facebook itself still has access to it - and you should not assume that they would keep it to themselves were a government to ask them for it. Twitter was recently subpoenaed for user information, and although they not only challenged it but also told targets that their data was being requested, they didn’t have to and you can’t assume that Facebook or any other company would also do this.
Under the second heading, “Sharing on Facebook,” set your preferences for who can see what information you share on Facebook, including your status updates, photos and posts, your bio and quotations, your family and relationships, photos and videos you are tagged in by other users, religious and political views, birthday, permission to comment on posts you have made, places you check into using Facebook Places, and your contact information.
Again, you have the option of setting the sharing settings to Everyone (all registered Facebook users), Friends of Friends, or your Friends only. There are also Facebook’s Recommended settings and then the option to customize your sharing settings.
By customizing your settings, you can set who can see and comment on items you share, things on your Wall and things you're tagged in. This is a nice option because for each piece of information you share you can determine who sees what. You also have the option to set certain bits of information to “Only Me,” meaning that no one will see that information. Play around with the different settings; when you are finished click “Back to Privacy.”
Set a login alert. You will be emailed whenever a new computer or mobile device logs into your account. This way, if you get an email that your account has been accessed and it looks unfamiliar, you can find out if someone has breached your account. You might have already done this, because the checkbox for this setting is right below the box for enabling HTTPS. If you missed it, though, go to: Account >> Account Settings >> Scroll down to Account Security >> Click change >> Check the box next to "Send me an email" below "When a new computer or mobile device logs into this account" >> Click Save.
You can check this page at any time to view your recent account activity. It will tell you when the account what last accessed, the location, and the device type. If you notice an unfamiliar device or location, click "end activity."
Want to control how applications, games and websites access your information? Go to Account >> Privacy Settings >> Scroll to the bottom of the page >> Under “Applications and Websites" click “Edit your settings."
By default, applications have access to your friends list and any information you choose to share with everyone. Look through the list of settings for what information you share with applications and adjust your settings according to your preferences.
It’s also a good idea to remove any apps that you aren’t using.
Don't want your Facebook profile to be available on search engines when people search your name? Go to: Account >> Privacy Settings >> Scroll to the bottom of the page >> Under “Applications and Websites" click “Edit your settings" >> Scroll to the bottom of the page >> Next to Public Search click "Edit Settings" >> Uncheck the box next to "Enable public search."
Use this helpful webpage to search your Facebook information on Google.
Are there particular users or applications you do NOT want to have access to your page? You can block particular users or application invitations by going to: Account >> Privacy Settings >> Scroll to the bottom of the page >> Under "Block Lists" click "Edit your lists." Add user names that you wish to block or the names of friends you want to block app invites from.
Some of your information may be available to apps, games, and websites when your friends use them. To adjust these settings, go to: Account >> Privacy Settings >> Scroll to the bottom of the page >> Under “Applications and Websites" click “Edit your settings" >> Next to Info accessible through your friends click "Edit Settings." The pop-up box will ask you what information you want your friends apps and games to have access to. Uncheck the boxes next to the types of information you do not want your friends' apps to have access to.
Remember to control your privacy settings when posting content onto your Facebook page. Each time you post something, such as a status update, a photo, or a link, you have the options of controlling who sees the post. Before you post a status update, link or anything else, click the lock icon at the end of the text field box to select who can see it.
If you want to block Facebook plugins, download the Facebook Privacy List for Adblock Plus.
Facebook Places lets you check into a particular location and share where you are with friends. Your Facebook friends can also check you into a location by tagging you. If you do not want your friends to be able to check you into places, disable this feature. Go to Account >> Privacy Settings >> Sharing on Facebook >> Customize Settings >> Friends can check me in to Places. Next to “Include me in "People Here Now" after I check in” uncheck the box next to “Enable."
Protect the visibility of photo albums you upload to Facebook. Go to the Photos Privacy page and manually configure the privacy/visibility settings for each album you have uploaded.
Facebook frequently makes changes to its privacy features, especially when they release a new product or service. Make sure to stay on top of changes at Facebook and take the time to review your privacy settings regularly.
Let your supporters know about how to best protect themselves on Facebook as well. Share tips with them about how to adjust their privacy settings. Have your own tip for maintaining privacy on Facebook? Share it in the comments section!
It's a good idea to frequently back up your Facebook content and contacts so that if your account is deactivated by mistake or because you violated the company's terms of service, you at least still have a copy of your information (including photos, messages, wall postings, and friend list). To do this, go to Account >> Account Settings >> Download your information >> Learn more. Click on the Download button. A pop-up will give you additional information. Click Download again. You will receive an email when your archive is ready to be downloaded as a zip file. It usually takes at least a few hours for Facebook to prepare the download.
Are you very concerned about your privacy on Facebook, but don’t want to delete your account? Some users are now trying the “super log-off.” Each time you are finished with your Facebook session, deactivate your Facebook account. Then, when you want to log back on, just re-activate it. This does not delete your account; deactivation removes your profile and content associated with your account from Facebook. In addition, users will not be able to search for you or view any of your information.
To deactivate your account, navigate to the "Settings" tab on the Account Settings page. Reactivate your account by logging in with your email and password; your profile will be restored in its entirety.