This article is in response to a question raised in our Facebook group, – do come and join us there if you have any queries or would like to share ideas.  But the query that lead to this discussion has also arisen from a number of other sources, and it seems like a bit of strange design from Facebook that is leading to a lot of people’s being concerned unnecessarily.

altered facebook profile

Who’s been altering my Facebook profile?

The difficulty is with people finding their ‘About’ information in Facebook has somehow got altered.  There is a specific reason for this that I shall discuss directly, but first of all just make sure this is definitely the problem you are encountering, because there could be related factors in play.

Of course seeing rogue profile information often the first big concern is that your account has been hacked or compromised somehow – but this is usually the least likely thing to have happened, if you still have password access to the account and the only strange things are going in your ‘About’ section.  Provided you are using a unique strong password and it still works then you are not hacked.  The things that are changing in your details are actually being permitted by you, and unwittingly done by one of your friends.

What has happened is one of your friends has added you to a Smartlist – we wrote about lists back in the summer, they are a good way of organising your newsfeed into categories and keeping an eye on the people that most interest you so you can group their information together.

Now say I am your friend and I enter in my ‘About’ tab that I am a proud alumnus of Grange Hill School, Facebook might suggest others in my friends list who also went to that school and it creates a Smartlist for me.  But then perhaps you are one of my ex-school friends’ partners, or parents, or someone who lived around there or for whatever reason I think of as in my old school crowd, when I think of the good old days at Grange Hill I think of you and I want to see you in my feed whenever I look at what my school friends are up to. Simples, I just add you to my dynamic Facebook list for Grange Hill buddies.

However if you do not have your security settings in place to prevent it, this will update your information to tell the world you are or were a fellow student down at the Hill.  No, if I designed Facebook this would not happen in that way, it’s stupid and confusing and has upset a lot of people, but there it is.

So what can you do about it?  I suggest two things.

Firstly, you must enable Timeline Review.  This will send you an alert when anyone does something that would appear in your timeline, so that you can approve it first (if you choose to do so).  This protects you against getting tagged in random things, having links shared all over your space and so on, I highly recommend it whatever else you do or don’t do on Facebook

Simply click the cog icon at the top of any Facebook Page, select Account Settings, and select Timeline and Tagging, and look for ‘review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline’ and click Edit, which is over on the far right. Then select ‘Enabled’ on the dropdown menu.

That was easy and intuitive wasn’t it?  It doesn’t even tell you it will also check additions to Smartlists… Thanks for that, Facebook.  But now it is done and sorted.

Incidentally your friend will still see you in their Grange Hill interest list, they and you can organise their friends’ feeds however they like, and will not know you have opted not to display it on their behalf.

Secondly, I would suggest you review your entire ‘About’ section, and decide exactly which information you want to be sharing with the world or not.  Facebook is continually encouraging us to share, share and share some more – the richer their marketing data the greater their profits.  However it might not be in OUR best interests at all.  If you publicly display the school you went to then yes old friends can find you easily on Facebook using that information, but think about it:  At least 2 of my online banking accounts use information about schools I attended as security verification questions.

Which school did I go to? None of your business, Facebook!

Which school did I go to? None of your business, Facebook!

How many other secret question answers are you unwittingly putting into the public domain?  Could someone pretty easily piece them together, and use them to for identity theft?  Is your date of birth publicly visible? Facebook is an absolute goldmine for criminals when people leave information on display.  Hackers want access to your bank account, and this is where they start looking.

If you do have rogue things posting to your status by the way, this is usually an app you have authorised to post on your behalf – hackers want to steal your money, not flog diet drops on your timeline.  Click that cog icon again, top right of any page, and choose Account Settings, Blocking, and Block apps, to fix one that is taking the mickey, or in General Account Settings look at the list of apps from the left menu if you are not sure which one it is.

Come and join us in the discussion group or tweet me @casslar to let me know how you get on.

Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, November 29th 2013  ©Maya Middlemiss,  Casslar Consulting SL

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