Social media has changed the way we connect and interact with friends, family, old acquaintances and businesses. It allows us to share pretty much everything, including how we are feeling, what we are doing, what we are thinking, who we are with, photos, videos and even check-in at locations. 

It provides a platform where we can share our life events, and feel part of the life events of friends and family across the globe.

While this sounds fun and innocent enough, when it comes to social media, especially Facebook, it is easy to get sucked into the oversharing mode. Before you share anything on Facebook, it is important to consider who is going to see your activity.

 
 

Fortunately, Facebook provides a range of privacy and security settings that allow you to tailor your account to your comfort level when it comes to what and how people see things about you. It is important to take some time to review your settings to ensure that your exposure on the social network is safe.

Understanding Privacy Issues

While you control your privacy settings for things that you post on your page, if you comment on someone else’s post/page, the privacy is set by the page owner.

Your posts on a public page – for instance, Sixty and Me – are public. Anyone from anywhere can search for the page and read the posts and all comments. If you are my friend and post on my page, only my friends can see the post. Your friends cannot see the post.

When you create a post, there is information beneath your name that will reveal the privacy settings for the post. The info may contain the time of the post, a location (optional) and then either a globe or profile to indicate privacy.

The globe means the post is public – so anyone can see it. The two-little people mean the post is restricted to friends.

At any time after you create a post you have the option to change its privacy. However, the default setting should be the most secure: restrict anything you post on your page to friends ONLY.

Keeping Your Account Secure

It is not uncommon these days to hear stories from people who have had their account cloned, hacked or phished. If someone copies or gets access to your account, they can cause a lot of damage to your life and reputation. It is critical to do everything you can to make sure your account is secure.

If you haven’t customized your security and login settings, I recommend you take the time now, with this article as your guide. If you have never visited these settings, it is highly likely that your profile and everything you have ever posted on your timeline is public.

A little proviso here: Facebook and Instagram regularly change and update their apps. Access to features may change, be relocated or slightly renamed.

Also, if you primarily use Facebook on a computer, your access may be a little different, but you will have unlimited ability to secure your account and settings. When using mobile devices, it may be more challenging to alter some security settings.

To get to the Account settings on a mobile device, touch the icon with three lines which will either be in the lower right corner or upper right corner (Apple vs. Android devices). Touch settings and look for Account Settings.

On a computer, click the little down arrow at the top right side of the screen. Go to “Settings” in the dropdown on the top right-hand side of your account, and then click on “Security and Login.” Within this section you can change your password, see what devices have accessed your account, and ensure your account is as secure as possible.

Update to a Secure Password

As with anything online, having a strong, complex password is critical to the security of your Facebook account. Make sure you are using a password that includes letters, numbers and special characters, and avoid using common words.

Remember, it shouldn’t be the same password you use for your email, bank account and Amazon. While that might make it easier to remember, it makes you much more vulnerable to being hacked.

Alerts for Unrecognized Logins

The option to receive alerts each time an unrecognized login is detected should be turned on. This way you will be notified anytime your account is accessed through a new device, so you know right away if someone is trying to hack into your account.

Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is always a good idea to keep turned on. It gives you an added layer of protection beyond your password.

There are several authentication methods you can use with your Facebook account when logging in from a different computer or device, but the easiest one is to have a code sent via text message to your cell phone. This means that no one can log into your account unless they have the unique code.

Assign Friends to Help You Access Your Account

As a safety net, you can choose three to five friends whom you trust to be your contacts if you ever have trouble accessing your account. These friends can send a code and URL from Facebook to help you log back in. I recommend everyone set this up… just in case!

Protecting Your Privacy on Facebook

Once you have your account secure, the next important step is to make sure you are only sharing what you want with who you want. When you are under the “settings” section click on “Privacy.” In this section, Facebook lets you decide who you want to see your posts and who can find you.

Who Can See My Stuff?

You can decide who you want to see your posts and who can see your list of friends. The choices for both of these are the following:

  • Public – Anyone with a Facebook account can see your posts and/or who you are friends with. I never recommend this setting for either option as it gives you no control over who may view your information.
  • Friends – Only people you are friends with can see your posts and/or your friend list. This is the best default setting for both in most instances.
  • Friends Except – You can specifically choose friends you don’t want to see your posts.
  • Specific Friends – You can choose specific friends who will be the only ones to see your posts.
  • Only Me – No one else sees your posts.

You can set your ‘default’ within this settings section, but you can also change it directly in each individual post if you choose to do so. When you are composing a post, there is a drop-down that lets you choose who will be able to see the post.

Who Can Contact Me?

You also get to decide if you want to let just anyone send you a friend request, or if you want to limit those requests to “Friends of Friends”, which is what I always recommend.

Remember, just because someone sends you a friend request doesn’t mean you have to accept it. A good rule of thumb is to not accept a friend request from someone you don’t know.

Who Can Look Me Up?

You can also control who can look you up by searching for your email or phone number. I would keep this at “Friends of Friends” or “Friends.” Definitely make sure it isn’t set to “Everyone.” In this section, you can also disallow search engines, such as Google, to have your profile come up in the search results.

Here is a note of consideration: Facebook is the community it is because people can find and connect with each other without having the other person’s email or telephone number. Long lost classmates and family members can reignite relationships, despite the passage of time and distance.

So, this setting is one to ponder. Do you want to restrict who can look you up? It does not mean they can connect with you. No one can see what’s on your page without you accepting them as a friend if you restrict your page to “Friends only.”

Privacy Checkup

Facebook provides a quick “Privacy Checkup” that makes it easy to review and update your privacy settings. Click on the question mark in the upper right corner and go to “Privacy Checkup” in the drop down.

This will walk you through all the important privacy settings. This checkup also lets you review your “App Privacy.” Each app you installed through Facebook has permission to post to your Friends list, unless you told it otherwise when you installed it.

The App Privacy tool will provide you with a list of those apps along with each app’s visibility settings. If it is an app you aren’t using just click the “x” to delete it. The ones that you do use can have their visibility set to “only me.”

Facebook tends to make updates on a regular basis, so I would recommend reviewing your settings every few months.

Did you ever make sure your Facebook account was set up for privacy? Did you understand that some posts are public if the page you comment on is public? Have you run into security or privacy issues with Facebook? If so, tell us about it. Please share what you learned on how to avoid this type of issue in the future.

Judi JacobsJudi Jacobs is a lawyer-turned-tech nerd and the founder of The Tech Wizard. As a tech coach and consultant, Judi works with adults 50+ and small businesses to help make technology more user-friendly through small group classes and one-on-one training. Learn more at TheTechWizard.com.

Let's Have a Conversation!