Whether you are a frequent Facebook user or only check into your News Feed every once in a while, you may be under the mistaken impression that only your closest friends and family members can see your personal information.
If you haven’t spent too much time looking through your Facebook profile settings, it is possible that you are broadcasting all kinds of data to people whom you have never met. Your full name, age, address, email and phone number may be visible. So might the pictures of your recent vacation, or the conversation you had with a friend about your next meetup.
Sometimes, specific apps can expose your data in ways that you might never have expected. For instance, this year more than 17 million people have used the Facebook app “Most Used Words”—which, as the name suggests, allows users to post a word collage of the words and terms they have used most frequently on social media. Though it may appear to be harmless fun at first, a recent report by tech review website Comparitech found that users of the app are required to declare their willingness to “give up almost every private detail” about themselves. This includes their name, profile picture, friend list and even their IP address. This information is then stored in servers around the world where, as Wired recently pointed out, there may or may not be adequate privacy protections in place.
If you are concerned about your digital privacy—and if the rise of identity theft and fraud is any indication, you should be—it is important to take steps to secure your Facebook profile more thoroughly.
Simple steps to protect your Facebook profile
- Don’t leave everything out in the open. Just because you post specific personal information on your Facebook profile doesn’t mean everyone has to see it. If you go to Facebook’s settings menu, there are options to limit the visibility of your profile information to your close friends. This is a great way to maintain your privacy online without limiting your use of Facebook in a meaningful way.
- Use a strong password. Everyone who spends time on the Internet needs to understand how to create a strong password, and Facebook users are no exception. Using a password that is easy to guess isn’t much more effective than going without a password at all. Remember, if you’re having trouble coming up with multiple unique passwords for all of your online accounts, you can always use a password manager, which does remembers your passwords and stores them without compromising security.
- Don’t stay logged in. Sure, it’s convenient to be able to access your Facebook profile instantly without logging in, but just think about how this affects your privacy. If you stay logged into your account on a public computer at work, school or anywhere else, there’s no telling how many people might have the opportunity to access your profile.
Online privacy issues aren’t going away any time soon. Our new service, Privacy Now, can help you assess your online risk and better guard your privacy and minimize your risks of fraud. Take our survey and see what it can do for you.