How to Secure Privacy on Facebook
Facebook this week hinted at new simple option for Facebook privacy settings―high, medium and low―where users could opt to share everything, nothing or an arbitrary set of data with one click. This would supplement the current privacy options that have sparked criticism for being too complex.
Facebook's Public Policy Director, Tim Sparapani talked with Kojo Nnamdi on his WAMU radio program Tuesday and stated that there will be “simplistic bands of privacy that users can choose from in the next couple weeks.”
But for the more than 400 million Facebook users, an all or nothing approach may not fit everyone. The current privacy setting tool corresponds to each piece of information a user provides. The more information you add to Facebook, the more privacy settings you'll have to wade through. The good news is that most settings require just one click to choose between allowing access to everyone, friends of friends or just friends.
For those unfamiliar with the process, here is a step-by-step guide to setting privacy options on Facebook:
Click on "Account" in the upper right hand corner of the profile page. Privacy settings are divided into five sections: Profile Information, Contact information, Applications and websites, Search, and Block list.
Every element included on a user's profile is listed under this setting. Users can select from three shrinking circles of contacts that may see the selected information: Everyone, friends of friends, only friends. Each option can also be customized to allow only select people to either see or not see the information.
For instance, if you use your Facebook as a railing wall for work troubles, even though your boss is not a friend, she may be a friend of a friend, so it would be best to limit "Posts by me" to only those friends outside your work circle.
Contact information settings affect who can see your contact information — which includes your instant messaging screen name, phone numbers, and current address — as well as who can request to add you as a friend. If you want to be accessible to old acquaintances, set this to everyone, or to curtail potential friends, choose "Friends of friends."
The third privacy section determines what, if any information you allow Facebook to share with applications and other Web sites. Earlier this month, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced an update to the "Like" feature that allows other Web sites to connect with Facebook profile information when Facebook users visited partner sites.
Zuckerberg's vision was to expand the social network across the Internet, automating information that was served up, such as music preferences and restaurant favorites so visitors would first see material related to their interests and those of their Facebook friends. Initial partners included Pandora Radio, Yelp and CNN. According to Facebook, partner sites will allow visitors to opt out of the program on their Websites.
But you can also opt out on Facebook directly with the third privacy section. This section lists every application you have viewed, used, or authorized to access profile information you have designated as open to everyone. Here you may review your activity and deselect any that you no longer want active by clicking on the "x" in the far column. The permission to interact with your account will be deactivated. For example, if you caught Farmville fever, but no longer want the application to post the fact you just fertilized your farm, deactivate the feature and you and your fellow farmers will no longer receive Farmville updates on your walls.
For those concerned about privacy, the search setting is critical. Facebook user profiles can be displayed in search engines like Google and Bing . This search engine result will link to the public profile with a sample of friends with photos, along with a listing of products, services, shops and non-profits you have selected as a Facebook user. Individual sections cannot be hidden, it's an all or nothing choice. If you don't want your profile to be available to those outside of Facebook, uncheck "Allow."
Users have more flexibility in deciding what information should be included on their Facebook search result, which is usually a synopsis of their full profile. The choices made in the first section determine what is displayed when a logged-in Facebook user searches for your name. Facebook offers a preview of the search profile, so users can see the effects of any changes before posting their profiles.
The final section allows users to block specific individuals from interacting with them on Facebook. While similar to "de-friending" someone, removing a friend is reciprocal, while blocking simply prevents that user from communicating with you on Facebook. Both actions are reversible.
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