This week I want to do something really important, and help you get your Facebook privacy settings right. If you never read another Costa Connected column, please read this one, cut it out and keep it, and make sure you are protecting your personal information adequately!
The main thing to do is go straight to your privacy settings, and see what you have got. You can access your settings from anywhere within Facebook, by going to the top right corner of your central panel and clicking the little down-arrow next to the word ‘home’.
The first thing Facebook does on this page is to remind you that you can override these settings on each and every post that you make, on your timeline or anywhere on the site. What you are setting here are the defaults, that Facebook will opt for if you don’t alter anything on a post by post basis. And the default will always be used if you post from a mobile browser without the inline selector.
A lot of people will never change settings on individual posts – why would you do this? Well, for most people the default setting you will want to go for is ‘Friends’, meaning only people you are friends with on Facebook can see your stuff. That’s what you want, if you are sharing news about your life, as a rule. But people use Facebook in lots of different ways – for example, you can sort your friends into lists, such as ‘Family’, ‘Close Friends’ and so on. So, you might want to share some sensitive and important information – good medical news perhaps, and Facebook is a great way to let everyone in the family know about that all-clear, which your colleagues in your main friends list never knew about. Or you might want to divide your friends into different areas like Spain and UK, or keep professional vs personal things separated. Your friends don’t know if you have them in lists or not, that’s just for you.
Occasionally too you might want to share a single item more publicly, perhaps with the whole world – that political rant, promotion of your cousin’s book launch, or a missing cat poster, things you really want people to share and circulate. Again, you can do that on the individual post, don’t accidentally open up your default settings.
After setting your global default, the next option to look at is how people connect to you. Facebook is a social network and it’s all about getting in touch, so think about how you make your selections here – they appear when you hit ‘edit settings’. If you don’t want to be found or contacted by anyone new lock it all right down to friends only, but if you don’t mind people searching for you and sending you messages and requests it is safe to have the first 3 set at ‘everyone’ so long as the last 2 – posting to and reading your timeline – are friends only.
The next menu is about tagging which is an area where Facebook has significantly extended its functionality recently. I prefer to review tags before other people add them to my stuff, so have the first two set to ‘on’, and for timeline visibility I have the option Friends only. I have turned off the ‘tag suggestions’, on the basis that I can see no possible use for it – if a friend uploads a picture they have taken of me then they know who I am better than Facebook does and can tag it themselves! I find most face recognition technology a bit creepy anyway. I don’t mind friends checking me in to places, for me that’s just being social and I have nothing to hide about where I am going and who I’m with – if you do, you’d better turn this off!
Opening up the Apps settings list can be a bit of an eye opener, as over time it’s easy to give a surprising amount of applications permission to post things to your timeline – go through each one, it will take a while but be time well spent. Read the individual settings and ask yourself what you really want, do you need to post details of every article you read in a newspaper app, or what games you are playing, tunes you listen to and so on? Some apps are VERY pushy and demand all sorts of permissions, to enable you to join in some fleeting thing like a competition – check this list frequently so you that you revoke any you no longer feel comfortable about. And if you have ever fallen victim to some horribleness, and people have advised that you are posting unpleasant or spammy stuff you know nothing about, the culprit may well be in here.
The option to go and limit all past posts is a quick way of dealing with anything you’re worried about resurfacing from the Timeline rollout, if you have (or may have) posted any statuses or photos more publicly than may have been wise at some time – this is an easy thing to do to immediately set the lot to Friends only. Really, you ought to do this one if nothing else, as it will take less than a second.
Blocked apps and people – pretty self-explanatory. Though, if a person is bugging you to the point that you want to block them, you might as well just unfriend them (or report them to Facebook for harassment if appropriate). And apps you might want to block are things like those games that otherwise good friends sometimes spam you to death with requests for this and that – if you are interested in the person but not the game, block that only!
Hope you are still reading, if you have made it to the end of this page you will have done a good job of securing your Facebook content from the wrong kinds of people and services. Remember not to be complacent – the people you share with can always share your information with others, and you should never regard anything you post to Facebook as other than ‘out there’ in some way, electronically, forever – just as when you write a private email you could accidentally mis-send it to the wrong person, or they could forward it to people you don’t know. Sharing on Facebook is fun, easy, often rewarding and, if approached with a healthy dose of commonsense, it’s pretty safe as a rule.
We are going to take a break from Facebook for a couple of weeks now, but we’ll be back soon to look at Facebook groups, Pages and chat, amongst other things. Remember you can read all these articles and more at http://www.costaconnected.com./
Published in Costa Blanca News, 10-2-12