Privacy in a Click of a Button

A beginner’s guide to Facebook privacy

So you want to join the world of social media, whether this is for personal or business reasons, the promise of social media and all its benefits seem almost too good to be true. And that’s exactly so — it is too good to be true, for what exactly are we giving up in exchange to access the digital space? Therefore, it is a very good idea to educate one’s self before signing your personal information away — or in this case, before you click a button.

*Note: NOT how Facebook’s privacy works

So for the purpose of this blog I will examine Facebook as the social media platform we will sign up for and investigate their user privacy settings, but also because I haven’t been in this situation since I first created my own account in 2008…Facebook also has some of the most customizable settings, so let’s begin:

Facebook’s homepage immediately encourages you to sign up with the requirement of providing your First and Last name (which need to be your REAL identity…see why here, this policy has created tons of controversy), your email or mobile number, a password (make sure to make this as secure as possible and update it regularly!!) your birth date, gender and of course your consent to their Terms of Service.

Already you have forfeited a ton of personal information — there is no option to not state a gender or your birth date. Their Data Policy and Cookie Use in their Terms of Service also states you are okay with them:

  • Tracking you on other websites (Cookies use)
  • Sharing your personal data with other services/websites
  • Using your data for any purpose — this includes making money off your photos/property and
  • Allow them to have access to any applications you permit (this includes your location)

Your Account

After you’ve signed your digital life away, Facebook then wants you to begin building your profile including finding your friends, setting privacy settings and making a profile picture. A cool feature Facebook provides is a “privacy tour” which then poses to educate a new user on what their decisions actually mean. (But remember, this would only be after you had already provided the personal information above so Facebook already has you on record.)

Within your account, in the top right corner, there is also a convenient “privacy checkup” where key questions like “who can see your stuff?” and “who can contact me” where your options are “public, friends, only you or custom.” You can also view your profile as if you were a specific person, such as your friend, or as though you are a part of the public in order to know exactly what you are sharing.

Privacy Settings

As for the settings page, it is good to go through each index and decide what your personal preferences are but pay special attention to the security, privacy, timeline and tagging, public posts, apps, ads and even payments settings if you intend on using this feature.

Security settings — can range from helping you set alerts to track if anyone has logged into your account on an unrecognized device to generating app passwords for the external applications your use.

Privacy settings — include choosing who can see your stuff, who can contact you, and who can look you up with additional questions stemming off of these to customize to your liking

Timeline & Tagging — these ask who can add things to your timeline, who can view them etc.

Public posts — are important to pay attention to since your profile picture, about info and possibly your posts are public therefore, anyone will see these even if they aren’t your friend.

App settings — will only apply if you decide to use your Facebook profile to sign up for other apps that provide this choice. This setting ties into the policy of how other sites will be able to access your data even if you didn’t physically type out a form.

Ads — also use the Cookie policy in order to “show you ads based on your use of websites and apps that use Facebook’s technologies.” Therefore, make sure to turn these off unless you like the idea of personalized ads. And if you ever find the ads on Facebook are getting to be a bit too personal, you can visit “ad preferences” and tediously delete each of your interests, one by one, that were generated/catalogued by Facebook. (coincidence? I think not)

After you have gone through these settings your Facebook account should be good to go! Personally I like to keep my settings very private and only allow those who I really know to access ‘my bubble’ of interests and personal information for its always better to be safe than sorry. Just look how the default privacy settings have become more and more inclined to showing personal data publically in the gif below.