Thursday, May 2, 2013

Basic Facebook Safety & Privacy Tips

I admit it; I'm a Facebook fan. It has been a great tool for me to keep in touch with far-flung friends since I joined four years ago. Of course it's not perfect. Facebook annoys with sponsored postings and ads, but hey, this is how they keep the service free. I have a highly developed ability to ignore what doesn't interest me. On the positive side, it has helped me stay close with friends and reconnect with so many dear people, and I am thankful for what Facebook has to offer.

I'm not an expert - but there are a few really important basics users should understand before getting too involved with Facebook and it's allure:

  1. LOCK DOWN PRIVACY SETTINGS: Click on the lock icon on the blue task bar at the top of the Facebook screen. "Who can see my stuff?" should be set to "Friends". Unless you are a public figure courting a following, the Public should not be able to see your Facebook postings.
  2. SECURE BROWSING: Click on the little wheel icon on the blue task bar at the top of the Facebook screen. Select "Account Settings". Now, in the column on the left, select "Security" and activate secure browsing. You will see that your URL now begins with "https" instead of "http". Activating this feature greatly reduces the possibility that your Facebook account will be hacked.
  3. CONTROL WHO CAN CONTACT YOU: Facebook facilitates other Facebook users sending you private messages and/or inviting you to connect as a Friend. Click on the lock icon, and then "Who can contact me?" I have mine set to "Basic filtering", but you can be more restrictive by selecting "Strict filtering". Only my Friends can see my email and telephone number. "Who can send me friend requests?" can be set to "Everyone" or "Friends of Friends". I have mine set to Everyone, which has allowed some long lost friends to find and contact me. You can always ignore a Friend Request and even block an undesirable person if you receive stray, random requests from strangers. It happens; don't freak out.
BE AWARE that Facebook can be an intrusive little bugger. If you are logged into Facebook and have another window open to browse the Internet, Facebook reads your cookies (a trail of where you have been on the Internet), and will display advertising content consistent with your implied interests. This is a little creepy.

BE SELECTIVE about pages you "Like". You are opening the door to more postings and advertisements on your Wall. That's not always bad. You can be kept up to date by neighborhood organizations, your favorite band, politicians, etc. I welcome ads for golf products and travel packages that I see because I "Like" Golf. But too much can be too much. You can always "Unlike" a page if it's postings are useless and annoying.

BE CAREFUL about signing up for other applications from Facebook, including games! If you read the Terms & Conditions for use of these fun and convenient apps, you will see that most of them require you to agree to share not only your Facebook data, but your Friends as well! Sorry, Friends, that's why I don't accept your invitations to play online games through Facebook.

Enjoy Facebook with discretion. If you haven't already, go check your Privacy and Account settings. My friends are welcome to contact me for assistance if needed.

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