It seems that the popular topic of protecting your privacy online has reared it’s head again with news programs and media warning consumers of revealing too much about themselves online. In conversation recently a few people have asked me about how to participate in social networking without giving too much away or opening yourself up for identity theft or other fraud. Here are a few tips specific to Facebook which I hope you might find helpful.
Key Rules to protect your privacy:
1. Think about what information you are making public
Due to the nature of Facebook, the site gives you the opportunity to share a lot of information about yourself online. My view is that it is fine to put a reasonable amount of information about yourself on a reputable website as long as you have adequate control over who sees your information. Many sites including Facebook have the option to hide parts of your profile from people that you don’t know. In Facebook’s case you can decide whether you want everyone to see your personal info, or you can limit it to your networks or friends only. Just go to the privacy link in the top right corner of Facebook and you can manage a whole range of these settings.
As a general rule, I try and make my overarching basic profile available for others to see, (it helps them to make sure that they are adding the right person to their friend’s lists) and then I make most of my other personal details only available to friends whom I have accepted. As well as that I don’t put certain information (like my address or full date of birth) on Facebook at all. It is possible to list your city and even day and month of birth without giving away everything at once.
Be a little careful with selecting the option to show your details to “All your networks and friends”. This might sound relatively harmless but when a network could be a country or a global group it is effectively making your information available to a large group of people whom you don’t know.
2. Be selective with your friends
If you have rule #1 in place then the main thing you need to watch is who you add and accept to your friends list. Facebook makes this fairly easy to manage allowing you to accept or ignore invitations as well as send the person a message (potentially to confirm who they are), or alternatively to report them.
I’m happy to add friends, work colleagues and relatives, but as a general rule if I haven’t met them in person I won’t add or accept a new friend.
If you are inclined to add people you haven’t met or people who are friends of friends, it is possible to show them only a limited profile and to control what is in your limited profile (see the screen below).
Whilst Facebook does provide a whole range of options to assist you in maintaining your privacy online, I feel that these two steps go a long way in protecting your information in this realm. If you do want more information you can view the Facebook safety information page which includes some further tips and FAQ’s.