It's Time To Revisit Your Facebook Privacy Settings...Again!

Scott Holm's picture

By Scott Holm - Posted on 30 July 2010

Every few months or so, Facebook announces a new milestone figure regarding their user numbers. Most recently, Facebook announced that it now has more than 500 million users around the globe, and all signs point to continued growth (some predict that Facebook could hit 1 billion members within a year).

Although this is great news for Facebook, other recent news highlights a very concerning event in which user data for more than 100 million members was downloaded, packaged in a file, and made available for download to anyone who wants it. Now, before anyone jumps to conclusions, you must know that this user information was not a breach of security, but instead a mass-download of personal information that users had chosen - purposefully or ignorantly - to leave visible to the public.

ImageFacebook has been long-criticized for it's reactive, rather than proactive, approach to user security concerns. To make the site more attractive to new users, Facebook leaves it up to each user to make their profile information private - the more public information there is, the more interesting the site becomes to new users. Sure, they give you the option to make it as private as you would like, but it's not in Facebook's best interests to do this work for you.

See the ways in which privacy settings differ for adults vs. minors.

At iQ Academy, we use Facebook as one of many ways to communicate with enrolled families as well as those who might be interested in learning more about our online high school and middle school programs. But, we are strong advocates for the use of the privacy settings available to every Facebook user and would like to remind you if you use Facebook to carefully manage your information. We recommend taking the following steps to ensure that your profile data is as secure as you need or want it to be, and as always, it is better to err on the side of caution:

  1. First things first, be aware of what your current privacy settings are by logging in to Facebook and visiting the Privacy Settings under the Account menu - most people rarely if ever access these settings. Knowing is half the battle!
    • There are two parts to the Privacy Settings - Directory Information and Sharing on Facebook. Click the "View Settings" link under Directory Information to see how your personal profile information, such as your name, friends, hometown, interests and the like are displayed to the world.

    • Similar to the Directory Information, Sharing on Facebook allows you to customize several privacy settings as well. We recommend changing all settings to "Friends Only," or at most, "Friends of Friends" to guard against your information getting in the hands of strangers.
  2. Don't forget to also take a look at the Application Settings under the Account Menu. This area is, unfortunately, not as simple to control as the general privacy settings. You may need to view the application settings for each individual application installed to your profile. At the very least, this will help you be aware of which applications are accessing your data and how that data is being used. 

  3. Lastly, carefully consider the information you've added to your profile - whether it's public or not. Consider whether you want your likes/dislikes, photos, videos, contact information and the like to ever become available to the public. Although you may have your privacy settings properly configured now, there is never any guarantee that your information will remain private forever.

Do you have other tips for using (or not using) Facebook? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

CC Image provided by opensourceway on Flickr

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