Is Setting Your Facebook Profile To Private Really Enough To Protect Your Privacy?

Cassie Phillips Guest Posts On SocMedSeanThis week we welcome guest author Cassie Phillips, a technology and internet security blogger. She loves social networking and wants to share her knowledge with other users so they can protect themselves, making the internet a safer place. Today, Cassie shares some insights about privacy issues related specifically to Facebook.

You can also check out some of Cassie’s other tips on Twitter at @SecureThoughtsC

Facebook can present some serious security issues. Do you know how to avoid scams and identity theft?

Facebook Privacy is an on-going concern. Whether you’re worrying about who your children are talking to online, hiding the less professional parts of your lifestyle from your boss or just trying to minimize the chance of your information falling into the wrong hands, there are many reasons why securing your Facebook is a crucial task. We all know that changing your settings to private is an essential step to take to protect yourself, but is it enough?

Creating optimum security for your social space is a multi-faceted activity, and unfortunately, simply pushing a few buttons will not suffice. However, alongside changing these settings, there are a few other elements, which, if considered and properly utilized, will ensure you a higher level of security and safety online.

External Apps

Most of us are guilty of seeing a fun-looking quiz on our wall, or a new game app extension, and clicking on it without much consideration. Even when it asks us for access to our photos, posts and numerous other personal details, most of us accept without question. However, by doing this we’re exposing ourselves to many kinds of privacy breaches. Most commonly, quiz websites are a catalyst for targeted advertising; by allowing them to access you data, you are permitting them collect your information and feed it along to advertising companies.

Scarier still, some sites, especially those who suddenly spring a fee on you to see your results, will even periodically access your credit card data and could even make charges without your knowledge that—according to their privacy statement—they will later refund. There’s no way to know, when you click those quiz links, what the authenticity of the site is or how it’s planning to use your data, so they’re best avoided altogether.

Facebooking On-The-Go

One of the biggest security risks of Facebook, which happens regardless of how you’ve set your privacy, is the fact that we commonly access the site on-the-go. While connected to public WiFi, we input passwords and personal data without giving it a second thought. The problem with this is that public networks are extremely insecure and leave your data flying around completely unprotected. That means that any malicious prying eyes can pick up your personal information and use it in whatever way they chose.

The best way to get around this is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Once you have installed a VPN, it connects you to the VPN server before connecting to the public network, which creates a secure and private connection. By doing this, your data is encrypted and therefore can’t be intercepted, and you can access in internet safely.

Government Surveillance

Our Facebook privacy is not just under threat from cybercriminals. Ever since Edward Snowden’s revelation about the NSA, many users have become increasingly worried about the government and police surveying their private messages and accessing their personal information. Although the statement that “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” may have some truth to it, the principle of the matter is undeniable. As citizens, we have a right to know how our information is being collected, as well as a right to maintain a level of online privacy.

Obviously, government agents can easily bypass Facebook privacy settings, so changing them goes little way to protect you from this threat. This, also, is another place where using a VPN can help. Because it assigns you an alternative IP address—the one of the VPN server it connects you to—it means that you can access the internet anonymously without having to worry about government surveillance.

Watch for Phishing Sites

Phishing is an extremely common way to suffer a cyber-attack. Phishing websites are domains where the URL looks extremely similar to that of a common site—such as Facebook. The sites replicate the look of Facebook almost identically, and because of this, users will willingly input their passwords and other personal data without question. Once this has happened, the people doing the phishing will access your account, use your posts to promote themselves or even try and collect other elements of your personal information, such as credit card information or details that could assist them with identity theft.

There have even been known cases where the phishers have blackmailed their unfortunate victims for money using sensitive information they have found inside their Facebook accounts. There is a long list of this phishing sites for Facebook, and although it is not possible to remember them all, it is important that you double check the URL is really facebook.com before entering passwords every time you log in.

Other Settings To Change

Alongside the obvious privacy section, there are other settings in your Facebook profile that also need to be changed if you want to squeeze as much security as possible out of it. Firstly, changing the initial privacy settings only applies to future posts from the moment the setting is changed. This means that you have to manually go back and set all previous posts to private, which can be done in the Activity Log tab or just by scrolling down you wall.

Another element you have to be careful of is tagging. Once people have tagged you in a post, you are subject to that person’s privacy settings. Although you can’t directly change this, you can review all tags before they are made public by changing your settings in the “Timeline and Tagging” section. In this tab you can also control which of your own friends, or members of the public, can view the tag once it’s visible on your wall. Finally, there are a few other elements that require you to privatize them individually, including friends list and photos, which has to be done by editing the settings within the corresponding section itself.

Facebook privacy is a commonly talked about and potentially controversial subject as many users feel the allotted privacy section does not do enough to protect you. However, following these five steps allows you to take our security into your own hands and protect yourself where Facebook fails. If you have any more tips that you feel should be added to the list, then be sure to comment below.

I would like to thank Sean for publishing this article. His blog is a great place for tips on using social media and computing in general. After reading this article, be sure to head over and check out this post on how passwords are another key element of your online security!

Thanks to Cassie for sharing her tips on how to avoid potential security issues within Facebook! Are there recommendations that she made that resonate with you or do you have additional tips that can help other Facebook users stay safe? Be sure to share your thoughts in a comment!
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