There has been much publicized regarding privacy and Facebook. A lot of that criticism stems from the fact that a good chunk of the population will share most anything with most anybody in the confines of a social networking site. Don’t get me wrong this is not going to be 1000 words on why Facebook is bad or a plea to get you to go off the grid, I love Facebook. I’ve connected with friends from all over the place and it’s allowed me to keep up with them in a very non-intrusive way. That being said you should take some steps to protect yourself and be selective about what information you publicize and to whom. I would actively discourage friending anyone who asks and definitely lock down your account.
Facebook Privacy Settings
You may not know that you can change all manner of settings controlling who sees what of your Facebook pages. Once you login in the top bar you can go: Settings and then Privacy and then Profile. Once there you have a variety of options.
You can see my sample settings here where I’ve got everything except my Basic Info locked down only to My Friends. That means that someone searching for me is only going to see my most basic of info. Also it’s going to keep you from sharing information with people other than those that you have explicitly added as your friends. You have the option for these fields to allow Friends, Friends of Friends (essentially this could be anyone), Everyone or My Networks and Friends. Your networks could be your work, your school or even as large as your city. This means that anyone else who is a member of that Network can see whatever you let them see.
Facebook Search Privacy
Also available under Settings ““> Privacy ““> Search you can control what information will be provided to search engines available to the Internet at large. From here you can check or uncheck the box to create a public search listing and if you do to view a preview of what that looks like. You click on the link on the page or go to http://www.facebook.com/username?p where username is your Facebook username. I would definitely go look and see what your profile is showing to the world. Your friends might also enjoy you not advertising them to the world so you might think about unchecking People who can see me in search can see: My friend list.
Too Much Information
Now we come to the most potentially dangerous area your Info section under your profile. This is the place where you can tell people how you enjoy snake charming, breakdancing and bedazzling. It’s a great place to tell your friends what you like. It’s also a treasure trove of Personally Identifiable Information for Identity Thieves. If you take one word of advice from all of this edit your information and change your Birthday at minimum to just show the month and day. Your birthdate coupled with a few other tidbits of information would be a great way to steal your identity. Also think about the information you put in the Personal Information category. You list all your favorite movies, TV shows, Music, Books and other things. Remember the last time you signed up for something online and they asked you to put in some personal questions in case you lose your password? Please make sure the answers aren’t right here. I know I’ve done that in the past for sure. Not that your friends are going to steal your identity but because you never know where this data may ultimately land.
Again I’m not trying to scare you away from Facebook but a little prevention is doing yourself and your friends a great service. Happy Facebooking and be sure to become a fan of FiscalGeek.
This article was included in the 215th Edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance the House of the Rose edition. There is a metric ton of great articles be sure to head on over and peruse at your earliest convenience.