Facebook has problems protecting your information. In a year full of concerning reports on how the social media platform polices — or fails to — users’ data, not only is it operating in an unflattering spotlight, but it’s also forcing some users to consider their security. To help those people, we’ve put together this guide to Facebook privacy settings.
When Facebook users answered questions about their personalities in a seemingly harmless survey in 2014, they never imagined a political firm involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was behind it. Even though only 270,000 survey takers agreed to have their data mined for “academic purposes,” Cambridge Analytica gathered and stored information from 50 million users.
Although the discovery that Facebook — which makes money off of our personal information — isn’t as squeaky clean as we’d like it to be is unsettling, it’s not new. Our monthly State of the Cloud column, where we give our two cents on industry news, has been covering Facebook’s shenanigans for a while.
To ensure your data stays private, we’re going to examine how you can make your Facebook profile’s security airtight in light of the social-media giant’s latest updates. Toward the end, we’ll also recommend other services for people who want the maximum level of privacy.
Basic Security Measures
First, we’ll cover how you can improve your privacy with Facebook through the account settings. As a side note, we’ll be accessing Facebook on a desktop computer for this article.
On your Facebook homepage, click the small arrow in the top right and click “settings” near the bottom of the drop-down menu.
Look at the tabs on the left side of the page and click “security and login.”
Logging in to Facebook is a mandatory step that feels like a formality, thanks to convenient features such as password auto-fill and the ability to stay signed in. That said, two-factor authentication may sound like a burden, but it’s crucial for users who want to protect their account.
We provide an overview of how two-factor authentication works and benefits users elsewhere. If you use Facebook with this added layer of protection, it can limit the likelihood of hackers accessing your account, even if they know your password. To turn it on, click “edit” under “use two-factor authentication.”
Check out our best 2FA apps if you’re unsure which would be best to use.
Another security option uses the thing Facebook revolves around: your friends. Called “trusted contacts,” it sends three to five Facebook friends of your choice a recovery code to help sign you back in, should Facebook lock you out. Not only does it help when you’ve forgotten your password and failed multiple login attempts, but it can also limit the threat of someone accessing your account.
Part of making your personal information safe on Facebook warrants a second look at your login credentials. It’s worth asking whether your email address is the same one you use to access sensitive financial data, such as online banking. If so, consider going with an email you can dedicate solely to Facebook or banking.
Another area that may have room for improvement is your password. Even if it meets the criteria Facebook asks for, a password should never be identical to others you use. Make your Facebook password unique in case another private account becomes compromised.
Adjusting Your Privacy Settings
Now that we’ve shown you a couple of ways to improve your Facebook account’s security, we’re going to adjust how visible your Facebook profile is to people who aren’t your Facebook friends.
There are more tabs to explore on the left side of the screen below “security and login.” To adjust your account security, click “privacy.”
At the top of the “your activity” section is “who can see your future posts?” That comes in handy if you want to limit the number of people who can see your posts. Feel free to narrow your audience by selecting a category, such as location or groups.
Below that is “limit the audience for old posts on your timeline,” which we recommend for people who want to make their account as private as possible. It will limit past posts you shared publicly so that only friends can see them. That includes past posts you would have shared with friends of friends, too.
In addition to checking out how to limit past posts, you might also want to tinker with the settings in the “how people find and contact you” section. There, you can put limits on who can send you friend requests, who is able to see your friends list and whether or not people are able to see your phone number and email address.
The next tab on the sidebar to the left is “timeline and tagging.” While the “privacy” setting tab dealt with your actions and how people find you on Facebook, the “timeline and tagging” tab concerns other users’ actions that involve your profile and news feed.
If you want to maximize your privacy, you’ll have your work cut out for you. In the “review” section at the bottom, you can enable a feature where every time someone tags you, it requires your approval to proceed. Assuming your friends tag you in everything, that might take time, but it’s another way to play it safe, rather than having something unwanted show up in your news feed.
Adding Security Outside of Facebook
If you’ve ever noticed an ad on Facebook for a product you found somewhere else on the web, it was no coincidence. The widespread practice of Facebook — other websites or search engines — tracking your activity and serving those ads is creepy and often unwanted.
While scanning the sidebar in Facebook’s privacy settings, you may have noticed an inconspicuous tab called “ads” toward the bottom. That section of the settings is where you can restrict what information Facebook uses in ads based on your internet activity.
If Facebook’s privacy settings aren’t enough to help you rest easy at night, try other options outside the platform. Disconnect Facebook is a free Google Chrome extension that prevents the company from tracking its users. You can still use your Facebook account like normal while the extension runs in the background, too.
For those who want to access Facebook apps and websites from anywhere while encrypting their traffic, it may be worth considering using a virtual private network. Check out our ExpressVPN review, NordVPN review and CyberGhost review to see which VPN best fits your privacy needs.
As tempting as it is to entrust Facebook with safeguarding your data, its recent track record fails to instill confidence. Besides, your personal information means the most to you, so it’s only fair you take extra measures to protect it by strengthening your privacy.
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Though Facebook’s suitability in handling user data is suspect, it at least has the sense to provide users with updated privacy settings. Since the path to absolute privacy on Facebook is only possible by deleting your account, we’ll go with the alternative of making ours as secure as possible (for now).
What do you think of Facebook’s security and privacy settings? Do you have any other tips for protecting your privacy while using Facebook? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.