Facebook privacy — how to protect yourself

Let's face it — Facebook is becoming a significant element in many business' marketing plans.  And with good reason.  As the member mark approaches 400 million — it's hard to imagine an audience that does not have a strong presence there.

It's also a potent tool for establishing your personal brand.

But at what cost?  Facebook's most recent policy changes have people in a panic.  There's more talk about leaving Facebook than I've heard in a long time.  Most of that talk is ignorant panic.  The truth is…most people don't understand the privacy setting and the risks well enough to know if they should leave or not. 

I'm not suggesting that it's not an important issue but I'm guessing most people don't really know how to safeguard against the kinds of exposure we're talking about.  People know they share a lot of stuff but they really don't know who is or isn't able to see it.

So let's add this up.  Facebook, for most businesses and professionals, is someplace we should be.  And, we have no idea if our privacy settings are what we want them to be.  So what do we do?

You go to Reclaim Privacy.  (reclaimprivacy.org)  They've created a browser bookmarklet that will tell you exactly what's going on with your Facebook account AND help you fix it.  All for free.  (God love the internet!)

You simply drag their link to your browser's bookmark bar and then log into Facebook.  Once you're there, just click on the link in your bookmark bar and voila, a window pops up and assessed your privacy settings.  Here's what mine looked like:

Screen shot 2010-05-23 at 2.47.59 PM

It not only told me which areas were secure…but as you can see by the red and brown boxes… it told me when I should worry and when I was definitely not secure.  But the best part is — with a click on the blue boxes, it fixed (or gave me the chance to fix) the issue.

As with most things — there is a happy medium.  Thanks to the free tool from Reclaim Privacy, we can keep using Facebook without worrying about over exposure.  Or without having to be Facebook fanatics who know how to modify over 170 settings located in 50 different spots.  We just need to click the mouse!

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15 comments on “Facebook privacy — how to protect yourself

  1. Toby Getsch says:

    With this tool, many settings are marked as insecure, when they are set that way by design or by choice, either of which are valid options.

    For example, I want my status updates available publicly, to Everyone. That is NOT insecure. It is exactly what I want. So, this tool scores false positives in a number of areas.

    This was only one example. Similar examples can be made for each areas that this tool scores.

    Here is another error with this tool, or maybe a misunderstanding that many FB users have.

    When “you” set your FB privacy settings to show off all your friends to Everyone, “my” settings can block that from being viewed by Everyone, and “my” info is only shown to the people that I allow. So, even though “you” mark that as open, nobody will see “my” info, unless I want it to be shared.

    This is the basic premiss for much of the misunderstanding about FB privacy settings. The fear about “insecure” is not only wrong, it’s false information and misleading.

    FB is addressing this anyway, even though the settings were more than good enough. I’ll grant you that they may have been confusing. However, this tool spreads fear, not eduction and understanding. We need the latter, not the former.

  2. Toby Getsch says:

    To follow-up… I’m agreeing with you, Drew. The settings need better explanation. And, as you said, “Most of that talk is ignorant panic.”

    I just don’t like a tool like this that goes out to the masses and may wrongly scare people. The security messages that it should say is also like you said, “(or gave me the chance to fix)”. It should not claim “insecure”. That’s just bad.

  3. Sonia says:

    good piece of information

  4. Toby,

    I have to disagree with you. I don’t think the tool is telling you that you should or shouldn’t have your settings a certain way. It’s simply telling you which are completely secure and which ones are not. They’re not making a value judgment on if that is right or wrong. Just stating the facts.

    I chose to leave some of my settings as they are, even though it means I am “insecure” — meaning people other than my friends can see the data.

    With this tool — I get to actually make an informed, conscious choice. I think it dispels fear and helps people understand the very confusing settings.

    I’m hoping a tool like this will keep people from overreacting and canceling their accounts simply because they don’t have a clue in terms of how secure or insecure their settings are.

    Drew

  5. Excellent shout. I’ll get over to Reclaim Privacy ASAP.

  6. Drew;

    This is a very handy tool. Thanks for letting us know about it.

  7. This is a good resource to use in making sure your profile is secure. However, I think it is also important for people to remember that the best form of security is to censor what you are sharing. Hopefully soon Facebook will realize there are people concerned with what is on their page and make people opt in to services as opposed to making them opt out.

  8. That’s a very good tool ! Facebook is specially dangerous IMO because they always change their settings, and let’s face it, they are really not user friendly…

  9. Barb Niccum says:

    thanks! great info!

  10. Drew thanks for filling me in to this site. I had never heard of it, and as Facebook continues to be loose on security, I will have more and more people asking about some sort of protection.

  11. Lizzy says:

    Great post! and it’s true – there is so much panic – when really, what’s the problem? i mean, yes you should be aware of the privacy setting and also make sure you set them so it suits your privacy requirements – however, you should in any case know it is a social networking site – and you probably wouldn’t have a profile and post things on it if you wouldn’t want to network with people. and do you really have so much to hide? do you ever think about what happens with all your data that companies collect, sell and share when you use your customer loyalty cards?

  12. I’m glad that you all found this a useful tool. I think “we” need to be careful that we don’t let the hype get the best of us.

    If we practice the same common sense (like don’t share your full birthdate — just day and month)rules that we should always be employing — everything will be fine.

    And as Toby points out above — it’s an ever-changing model anyway! So just be smart, remember you are speaking in public, not your living room and you’ll be okay.

    Drew

  13. Moiz Khowaja says:

    This is a fine tool. Facebook’s privacy policies have been dull and of course, for such a big community, it’s no doubt difficult to achieve perfection in every aspects. Thanks for the share, good work for sorting it out.

  14. Tyler Luca says:

    Very good tips. I’ve been meaning to change my privacy settings for awhile and tried once but got lost. Funny how they make it so hard to change, are they gaining something from it by making our profiles less private?

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