The New Year is a time to look back to the past, but more importantly, it’s a time to reflect on the changes we want to make to improve the quality of our lives. One proactive step you can take this year is to improve the safety and security of your social networking identity. And the social network that we chose to discuss first is Facebook: the most widely-used social media platform around the world.
The first thing you can do to protect your online identity is to control how your share your information. Facebook is about sharing and being connected, but it is important to learn how to manage who can see your information both on and off Facebook.
The settings you choose determine which people and applications can see your information. Your profile includes the content you post on a day-to-day basis (such as status updates, videos, photos) as well as the things you choose to share about yourself (such as your birthday and contact information).
To control what information is shared, click on the “Profile” link on the top right of the screen. Next, customize your info-sharing by clicking on each section in order to make the necessary adjustments to achieve your desired level of privacy.
The Basic Information section (listed first) features content that helps your real-world friends find you. Your name, profile picture, gender, username and networks are always open to “everyone.” In addition, any information you choose to share using an “Everyone” control setting will be considered public information. Also, you can fill out your current city and hometown. As for the birthday, we recommend that you choose the ‘don’t show my birthday in my profile’ option as this piece of information can be used to verify your identity for bank accounts, national insurance, social security, and can also be used to collect the type of information that could compromise password security.
Your sexual preference is also highly personal information, and unless you really want to, we recommend that you do not disclose it. Listing your sexual preference makes you an easy target for advertisers, and in some cases, it may even provoke homophobic attacks. Your political inclinations and religion fields could also pose potential difficulties; if you choose to fill them, advertisers and other parties may target you. Remember, you can always choose to leave these fields empty.
If you choose to write a bio and enter your favorite quotations, you have more freedom in writing whatever you like as it most likely will not be used against you in any way. The only exception to this is that you enter your password or something that can hint at your password or personal information. Also, remember to click ‘Save Changes’ at the bottom of the page before moving on to the next tab.
Next is your Profile Picture. When setting your profile picture make sure it is not provocative as it is something that can be seen by everyone; some advertisers may even use your profile picture without your permission (unless you specifically opt out, which we will discuss later in the article). Also, keep in mind that people may use or alter your profile picture, so it may be a good idea to have a profile image of something other than yourself. However, be careful to use an image that is not copyrighted (or ask permission), otherwise you may run into legal problems.
Featured People are up next. This is the section where you check off whether you are single or you are in a relationship and also has the option to link to your family members. One thing to remember here, is that if you choose to reveal that you are in a relationship with someone who has a Facebook account, Facebook will send a message to confirm the relationship. Once confirmed, you will see a display link to that person’s account on your profile.
However, if you want to keep your privacy, just say that you are in a relationship without linking to the person and do not enter a name when you click on “Save Changes.”
You can also add your family members to your profile, but keep in mind that they will also have to confirm your request and your profile will contain a link to their pages. If you want to keep your privacy and your family away from people that might cause trouble, it is recommended that you do not link anyone to your page.
Education and Work is something that can help you connect with your peers, but can also make it easier for people to find out a lot of personal information about you. If you don’t want to be honest about where you work, it is best to just leave these fields empty.
In part two we will discuss how to protect your likes and interests from outside marketers. We will also show you how to secure your contact information to optimize your online privacy.