Facebook is your own personal space on the cloud. It holds a record of your most intimate conversations, your most precious photographs, your deepest thoughts and evidence of all the wild times you’ve had. This intimate and private space would be perfect if it weren’t for one thing – the privacy is illusory. Facebook allows marketers to mine your data to give you targeted advertising. Employers and law enforcement agents can look through your Facebook account, too. Worst of all, Facebook’s new Graph Search allows anyone to search any profile for information. Facebook privacy is more tenuous a concept now than it has ever been.
Facebook defends the way it handles privacy by pointing to its highly customizable privacy settings. As powerful as those settings are, though, they don’t allow you to completely withdraw from intrusive Graph Search inquiries. The most you can do is to control who gets to see your photos or Likes. To a certain extent, you also get to keep marketers out of your account.
Facebook has been asking all its members to take the time to understand its new privacy rules. The problem is that these Facebook privacy settings are complicated and they keep changing.
There has been no better time to review those privacy settings and to lock your Facebook account down. The Graph Search system makes it far easier for anyone to find you and stalk you. For instance, if you say something in your account about the long mountain trail jogs you go on early in the morning twice a month, it may be exactly the information a stalker needs.
Since most of the wired planet is on Facebook, you can’t very well withdraw from it. Your only choice is to understand the rules and protect yourself as well as you can.
Settings for who finds you
The top right of your Facebook page has a link called Who can see my stuff. You need to go there and click on the link that gives you settings to block the search engine from seeing your Facebook page.
The Activity log on your Facebook page allows you to see everything you do on Facebook all in one place – your posts, images, status updates and the like. If you are worried about who gets to see a particular post or anything else, you just need to look at the privacy setting mentioned on it.
You have some control over what your friends do with pictures that include you. If your Facebook friends have made their photos of you public, you get to opt out. If you do that, those photos are no longer viewable by others. Opting out of each photo can take time; if you really care about not being visible on your friends’ accounts, though, you have a choice now.
Your profile only displays what you want to show
What if you don’t want your birthday, your wife’s name or even your gender to be visible on your profile page? If you fear being targeted by hackers who can use this information the option to block it can be useful. The About me section on your profile page allows you to keep all these personal details from being visible.
Software to ensure Facebook privacy
A new program called SimpleWash allows you to search for any potentially embarrassing data about you on Facebook. If you are applying for a job and you wonder if you have ever said anything embarrassing on Facebook, this software will let you look it up. SocioClean is another program to help you locate potential Facebook embarrassments.
If you don’t want Facebook to know where you go
One out of five of the top websites in the world use the Facebook widget. If you don’t like Facebook tracking you when you browse the Internet while signed into Facebook, there are many software blockers available that let you keep your anonymity. These programs – with names like Ghostery and Disconnect Me – are browser add-ons or extensions. They constantly let you know when they block Facebook or any other service tracking you.
Facebook works with website owners to show you targeted advertising. When you visit a website while signed into Facebook, the website is able to instruct Facebook to show you ads for its products. If you visit Amazon to look for winter jackets while signed into Facebook, for instance, you could find that suddenly, all the ads on Facebook are about winter jackets. Unfortunately, there is no global button to turn off these ads. They are served by the advertisers and not by Facebook. You have to opt out of advertising from each company – one by one. The X on each ad allows you to do this.
Facebook privacy from friends
Unless you take the right precautions, the Facebook apps on your friends’ accounts are able to know everything about you. A new browser add-on called PrivacyFix helps you stay clear of this. This company also has a tool to help you control your exposure on Facebook’s Graph Search.