How to Control Facebook Privacy Settings

How to Control Facebook Privacy Settings

With the rise of online shopping and user-generated content, online privacy issues have been thrust to the forefront of any discussion about social media and information sharing available on the Internet. Naturally, Facebook lies squarely at the center of controversy of the way social networks treat users’ personal information, even though it’s the actual users themselves who have decided to share it. Happily, as Facebook usage begins to feel more and more like a right and not a privilege for many, the company has taken many steps to allow users at least some semblance of control over the information they are sharing, even though that very information is the lifeblood of the company’s astronomical value.

The trouble: Many don’t realize how to control their Facebook privacy settings. So while you may choose to share daily status updates and a constant stream of photos and check-ins to your Facebook timeline every day, it’s important to remember: There are steps you can take to keep that information as private as you’d like it.  Here’s a look at the different ways you can control your personal privacy details, and which data you’re sharing with strangers.  Some of these tools are pretty straightforward, but others contain Inception-like layers of settings within settings that can make it difficult to find the precise on/off switch you’re seeking unless you know exactly what it is you’re looking for.

To begin, access the “Privacy Settings” menu from the top right of your Timeline.

Facebook Privacy Settings: Controlling When You Post

You may not realize it, but you can control who can see your status updates, photos, check-ins and other information when you post.  There’s an option within every post to allow you to control this flow, unless you’re using certain apps like Facebook for Blackberry devices. Within the Privacy Settings menu, you can set your default settings for each of the different updates to be seen by friends, the public, or only me.  This is the most basic level of Privacy Setting available, and one to which most are already attuned to.

 Connections With Others

In the “How You Connect” section, you can control your settings for how you can be found, who is allowed to send you friend requests and who can send you messages.  Decide if you want everyone to do these actions, or just limit them to friends of friends.  In the case of receiving messages, many also limit that to just friends and direct connections as well. 

Being Tagged

In the “Profile and Tagging” section of Facebook’s privacy settings, you control information that others can post using your profile.  The first basic selection controls whether you will allow others to post on your wall or not.  Most of the time, unless you’re a public figure, it’s fine to let others post on your wall, as the friends in your network are not likely to post something inappropriate.  But if you’re nervous about that happening, simply don’t allow others to post on your wall, and the only time anyone might complain about unwanted posts is on your birthday.

Privacy Settings also provide another layer of protection against those worried about posting material to their profile that they can’t control. If you still want to allow this activity, you can select to let no one see information others post except you, or you can make it visible to friends, friends of friends or everyone. You can also do the same for photos and check-ins you’re tagged in.

In this section, you also have a couple more options when it comes to how Facebook will treat and notify you when you’re tagged.  You can choose to approve any tags featuring you inserted by others, and also control whether Facebook’s facial recognition software can suggest you as a potential tag to your friends who are posting pictures.

Third Party Access – Ads, Apps and Websites

This section is at the crux of many of the privacy concerns when it comes to Facebook.  According to the company’s Privacy Settings page, “On Facebook, your name, profile picture, gender, networks, username and user id are always publicly available, including to apps.”  The reason for this, the company says, is to make this information more social.

Beyond that, you can control how all of your other information is shared with these third-party software programs, which is extremely important because they are made by separate entities that have different privacy policies than Facebook, and because it’s going to happen – these apps get access to information on users as well as information on THEIR FRIENDS whenever someone uses an app.  So it’s important you regulate what information can be shared, such as your bio, birthday, photos, status updates – pretty much anything you’ve updated on Facebook.  If you don’t want apps and websites to access these, you can uncheck them all, or even better turn of all games and apps.  The only drawback then is you can’t use any yourself, but surprisingly that is not that difficult for most.

In this section, you also control whether you carry your Facebook info with you when you visit other websites, and if you can see if your friends have done the same. Facebook calls this Instant Personalization.

It’s also within here that you can find a preview of your page as someone who is not friends with you who can see it.  It’s a good idea to check this out from time to time, especially if you’re trying to restrict the information you’re making publicly available.  Sometimes a tagged picture from a friend who has different privacy settings than you may make it through.

Past Posts

In this section, Facebook has made it really easy to change the privacy settings on all previous posts in one fell swoop.  If a change of heart or life event has made you suddenly become more private, this is a simple way to “lock down” everything instead of having to change the settings post by post.

Blocking

If someone is harassing you or you don’t want to be connected to them for some other reason, you can add them to your “Block” list, which prevents them from sending you Friend Requests or  app and event invites.  You can also block specific apps here, although it’s also easy to do these straight from your timeline so you know longer see invites from the latest ‘Ville game or SocialCam spam.

Social Network Basics: Facebook, Google+ and More

Social Network Basics: Facebook, Google+ and More

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Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (Plus) or another social media destination, what defines a social network is the fact that the content being shared is decided almost entirely by the users in your network.  Although the infrastructure is provided by the service (and seems to be constantly changing and updating), shared media such as status updates, tweets, photos and article links are all uploaded by people you have somehow chosen to be connected to, and you likewise can provide that same information to others who are linked to you in the right way. Here’s why understanding social network basics is important: These sites feature huge amounts of people interacting and contributing in order to function and thrive. It’s why Facebook continues to be so popular, and why services like MySpace have evolved into niche offerings.

This simple fact that kids are involved in social networks (although those under 13 technically aren’t supposed to be) isn’t necessarily anything to be concerned with. (Unless you’ve got a tinfoil hat and are determined to keep them ‘off the grid’ for overly-protective privacy reasons).  But you must consider what it is they’re doing on there, and teach safe computing habits, in order to prepare them for life in these virtual realms.

Note that the way that kids can connect is different on each social network.  Some require that actions be taken by both parties hoping to be connected before they can interact, which is one reason why many parents seem to trust Facebook – both parties must agree to be connected in order to see each others’ updates (unless the privacy settings aren’t set correctly, but we’ll get to that point in a bit). However, others like Twitter or Google Plus require only a simple “follow” action be taken to gain consistent access to all information that a party is sharing, and the action isn’t reciprocal. That’s why Twitter is a useful way to keep tabs on your favorite celebs, sports stars or other well-known individuals, but why it’s not the best platform to communicate with those you know better. And, of course, interactions are almost all visible, so parents can check and see who their kids are turned to. It certainly feels great to see that your kid follows Barack Obama, but it’s a bit less gratifying to see they also follow Snooki and J-WOWW.

Many parents may not realize that Facebook’s terms of service actually require users to be at least 13 before getting an account. The main reason for this is because of the laws in place that restrict marketing and collecting data about kids under the age of 13, largely driven by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  But still, recent estimates are that 7.5 million kids under 13 are already on the service.

Here’s a quick look at the most popular social networks:

Facebook helps people stay connected with friends and family.  Users must both agree to become “friends” in order to view each others’ updates, photos, links and more.

Twitter is a real-time information network in which users send short text messages called “Tweets” containing 140 characters or less.  Anyone can access these updates through search, and users can choose who they want to follow.

Google Plus connects you with other users and requires you to place people in circles, which allows you to share information by specific groups.  Updates or links are then filtered to the different circles, so unlike other networks, not everyone gets the same updates from everyone else.  Anyone can add you to their Google Circle, and it’s up to you to manage who you follow.

Pinterest is a hybrid photo sharing site and social network that easily lets users share and sort photos and brief captions to others.  It’s exploding in popularity, and as of early 2012, was already the third most popular social network.

Tumblr is a “short-form” blogging platform that allows for quick updates and photo sharing, and allows users to easily follow each other or discover other content that may be of interest.

Posterous is a site designed for mobile blogging, making it easy to share content from your mobile device.  As of March 2012, the company was acquired by Twitter.

And here are a few more lesser known social networks geared towards kids:

Whatswhat.me is a “kids-only” social network designed for kids ages 7 to 13 that uses a webcam to verify a kid’s identity.  It’s fully compliant with the COPPA rules about collecting data about minors.

Imbee is another social network designed for younger kids that features a profanity-free music streaming service called Imbee Radio.

YourSphere is designed for kids 18 and under and subjects its applicants to strict background checks, and features games, activities and a system for earning credits.

 

Stop Spam and Unwanted E-mail

Stop Spam and Unwanted E-mail

Experts estimate that around 90% of all e-mail is spam, with some placing the figure even higher. Now consider that statistics, extrapolations and research by the Radicati Group estimate the number of emails sent per day (in 2010) to be close to 300 billion.  If that much of these millions and trillions of message are indeed spam and viruses, this means that more than 3 million spam e-mails were sent EVERY SECOND of the day – and that was two years ago, before smartphone and tablet PC usage became meteoric. Needless to say, learning how to stop spam, phishing and unwanted emails is becoming an increasingly vital topic.

But first, a bit of background info: The goal of spammers is to get their unsolicited messages in front of as many people as possible, increasing the chances that some of them will click contained links and expose their personal information, make junk purchases or fall for whatever other scam they’re pushing.  And just as companies such as McAfee and Norton work to stop it, so too are spammers working hard to create new ways to circumvent any spam filters or other restrictions. On the bright side, a growing number of e-mail programs such as Yahoo! and Gmail are doing an increasingly good job of filtering out a lot of  junk e-mail automatically.

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, AOL and Facebook further recently announced that, despite the fact they are corporate rivals, they’re uniting to fight spam and phishing. Working together with major companies like Bank of America and PayPal the e-mail providers announced the formation of a technical working group called Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC). The idea is that these e-mail providers will work with major companies on the back-end to make sure that any e-mail that says it’s from them really is. However, for those hoping to keep their inboxes free of junk in the interim, here’s how to give spam the cold shoulder.

10 tips to help identify, control and stop spam and unwanted email

  1. When you first set up an e-mail account, protect it and use it only very selectively.  Although companies promise not to give out e-mail addresses to others, it’s amazing to see the amount of spam an e-mail address can generate once spammers know it’s active.
  2. Don’t post your e-mail address in its normal form on a publicly accessible Web page.  Instead, post something along the lines of jane (at) doe DOT com.
  3. Luckily, most major e-mail programs offer a great level of basic spam protection, so use a reputable online mail program for your workplace or home which should be able to catch most of the unwanted e-mail.  
  4. Be aware also that spam exists outside of e-mail as well.  Whether in the form of direct messages on Twitter or likejacked stories on Facebook, users need to be on guard when using social networks, as well.  If something seems fishy or weird – don’t click it!
  5. Resist the urge to attempt to “unsubscribe” to spam.  Replying to messages will often do nothing more than confirm that your e-mail address works for the sender, leading to more spam.   Instead, remember to use (and teach kids to employ) the “Report” or “Mark as Spam” button from their e-mail program.
  6. Remember that you should be leery of any e-mail or other communication received from someone that you don’t know.  If you don’t know who an email’s from, don’t click it!
  7. Check the To: and From: fields in an e-mail if you think it might be Spam.  If there are other addresses on the To: line, it’s likely spam.  Additionally, e-mails sent from addresses that contain large strings of numbers in them may be a good indicator that spam is present.
  8. Hover over links to make sure their destination leads where it says it does.  And just because links match doesn’t mean to click on them – or that you can verify if it’s a legitimate site by doing so.  If you have questions, instead of clicking the link, input the URL into Google and see what comes up, and – if supposedly contacted by a business or service provider – surf on your on to its official website (don’t click on the contained link!) and contact representatives using the number on actual corporate HQs.
  9. If friends’ e-mail addresses are suddenly sending you spam, make sure to contact your friend via a different method and let them know their account has been compromised.  This seems to especially happen with Hotmail users, and often simply changing the password puts an end to the unwanted e-mailing.
  10. To help the Federal Trade Commission control spam, forward it to spam@uce.gov.