Social networking is an extremely useful tool in this day and age. It’s a wonderful chance to stay connected with friends and family around the world and a great opportunity to be involved in the lives of loved ones that would have otherwise been missed. It is a great use of technology and really should be used to its fullest capacity, which is also why it’s important to protect yourself from some of the pitfalls of corporate marketing that comes with these sites.
When you sign up for a website like Facebook or even for iTunes, there’s always a lengthy description of “Terms and Conditions” that no one ever reads. A lot of the time, these agreements are a lot of arbitration and legal nonsense, but every once in a while, there’s something of importance that slips through. 9 times out of 10, that is access to your private information.
Facebook is notorious for accessing the information of its users and selling it for profit to outside marketing companies. Recently, Facebook faced a scandal for accessing the text messages of users who would log in on their smartphones and would search for keywords like, ‘Starbucks’ or ‘yoga’ or ‘hamburgers,’ etc, and fine tune their advertising to suit your interests.
While this is clearly an invasion of privacy, it’s all listed in Facebook’s Terms of Service. When you signed up for Facebook, they had you agree to these terms and any future changes they make without any proper notification of said changes.
On top of all of this, the site will actually default most of your settings to public or fairly public. For instance, strangers may be able to look at your Facebook without even being logged in or send your messages, etc.
The bright side to all of this is that it’s extremely easy to reset these privacy settings to something that you’re more comfortable with. Here are some instructions on how to do just that.
When you log on to facebook, in the upper right hand corner, you’ll see your name, ‘Home’ and a little arrow pointing down. That arrow, if you click it, will open a drop down menu. If you scroll down and click ,’Privacy Settings,’ It will take you to a new page. Here, you can see who has access to view your profile and what exactly they can see. You can change your profile to the following settings:
Anyone can see your profile. They don’t even need to be signed into Facebook to view your profile, your pictures, your contact information. Having your profile set on ‘Public’ is not ideal unless you are promoting yourself, your business or for some other specific reason.
Only the people who are friends with you on Facebook can see your information. This is perfectly fine, people have to be signed in and be your friend in order to see anything on your profile.
This means that you’ve set parameters for which of your friends can see what. What this means is that if you aren’t comfortable with one of your ‘friends’ looking at your pictures or wall, you can set the privacy to hide that from them specifically.
From here, it’s gets significantly more specific. Everything is pretty self explanatory but ‘Apps and Settings’ is the tab you want to pay most attention to. It’s where outside websites will ask for permission to use your name and information on their site. For example, if you have a Facebook and a Yelp account, they will automatically sync up and your facebook information (IE- photo and name) will appear on your Yelp account. This is automatic and will happen unless you tell Facebook not to. If you click ‘Apps and Settings,’ it will take you to another page. Under ‘Apps you use,’ you can see all of the applications on facebook that you currently have enabled (ie- any games like Mafia Wars, Farmville, etc.). Click on ‘Edit Settings.’ This will take you to yet another page where it lists each app. If you click the ‘x’ on the far right, it will delete the application. If you click ‘Edit’, it will allow you to modify the privacy and pick and choose what information you want it to have access to.
It is extremely important for your personal security to go and check this information and make sure there’s nothing out there that you don’t want. While a lot of these sites won’t use your information for anything malicious other than marketing purposes, many people are not comfortable with these companies even having that information without their knowledge or explicit permission.
This is fairly common practice for most social networking sites or generally any website that you have to log into (except for your email account). It’s very important to triple check the security settings on all of these sites.