A Word on Internet Privacy

Facebook Privacy Reset
Make sure you’re not welcoming everyone by default.

Internet privacy is a phenomenon that started with my generation and is here to stay. With Social Networks catering to both your personal life (Twitter, Facebook) and professional life (LinkedIn), certain caution must be taken in order to maintain that privacy.

Many folks have taken to using a combination of their first name & middle name on Facebook while others simply disable friend requests from people outside of their “network.” Heck, even I have two Facebook profiles, because quite frankly, I don’t want every single person I’ve ever encountered sharing my personal experiences along with me.

Unfortunately, with every new Facebook iteration, it seems that your privacy settings come completely undone. With Facebook’s new features, you must reset your privacy settings, again. While I feel that it’s supremely frustrating and quite frankly, unfair, I’m here to show you how to customize the most recent privacy settings, including your “Timeline,” “Subscribtions” & “Tags.”

Easy Way Out

Luckily Facebook has provided you with the ability to “easily” mange your privacy settings. By clicking on Privacy Settings, you’ll see the following prompt. If you are not interested in sharing with anyone other than your friends, click the Friends icon & you’re done. Otherwise, keep reading.

Facebook's "Easy" Privacy Settings
There is an easy way to change your privacy settings, but it’s “public” by default.

Make your Profile Private at a High Level

Settings Page for How You Connect on Facebook
It’s important to change these settings if you don’t want your profile globally viewable

The Timeline (click for a heart-warming video explanation of Timeline) is a new feature created by Facebook which will revolutionize the way people view your profile. No longer will you have a “wall” where Friends can share posts, but you’ll have an interactive, online history of your life that is as accessible to your friends as you wish it to be. Here’s how to privatize your general Facebook settings.

  • Log-in to Facebook & in the top right corner select the drop down arrow, then Privacy Settings.
  • Look for “How You Connect” & select “Edit Settings.
  • Who can look up your timeline by name or contact info? – If you want to prevent strangers from finding your Timeline by using your name or contact information, you will want to adjust this setting. I’ve selected “Friends.
  • Who Can Send you Friend Requests – Just what it says. By selecting “Friends of Friends”, you ensure that users who are requesting you are somewhat close to your network. No need to panic here with the default “Everyone” setting though.
  • Who Can Send you Facebook Messages – This setting is one that you may want to pay close attention to. Before, Facebook messaging was akin to e-mail. You had an inbox and could choose to reply-to, ignore, delete messages. Now, however, when you “message” someone, it appears in real time. I would advise that normal users keep this setting set to “Friends.
    • e.g. Let’s say you’re a college girl and a creepy guy in your class that you’ve already denied as a Facebook Friend sends you a message. By permitting “Everyone” to send you messages, now this guy can send you an IM and see when you sign online, if/when you’re typing back to him, and when you sign off. Of course you can block profiles, but why don’t you just nip it in the bud before it gets to that level?
  • Who can see posts by others on your timeline? – Again, if you want to prevent those who are not your Facebook Friend from seeing posts on your Timeline at a high-level, the best setting to select here is “Friends.”

Keep your Timeline, Tags, Photos & Posts Private:

Facebook Settings - How Tags Work
Here you can prevent yourself from ever being tagged without your permission

Tags used to be a way for friends to identify other friends in photos. They have since expanded on a large scale, so that people can tag you in photos, places you’ve been to, videos, even wall posts where they may mention your name or quote you.

One of Facebook’s most frustrating features was the ability to tag users without their approval. It was a recipe for disaster, and luckily never caused too many issues (for me at least), but finally, that policy has been changed.

  • While in Privacy Settings, select “How Tags Work” and “Edit Settings.
  • Timeline Review: Enabling this setting will prevent users’ posts where you’ve been tagged from appearing on your Timeline, without your approval.
    • e.g. Let’s say a husband tells his wife he’s working late and he actually went to watch the Phillies game at the bar with his buddies, he would probably want this “Enabled” so that it doesn’t appear in his personal Timeline.
  • Tag Review: By default, users are able to tag you in photos, posts, places & videos. By enabling Tag Review, you make it so that any such item in which your tagged, must be approved by you before your name is associated with it. It seems like a no-brainer, but has taken Facebook years to implement.
    • e.g. Imagine you’re at a bachelor party and behaving, well, like a bachelor. Then one of your idiot friends fails to use his discretion and tags you in a questionable photo. With this setting enabled you can prevent your name from ever being associated with said photo, without your approval.
  • Maximum Timeline Visibility (Important): Once a post or photo is approved and on your timeline, you will want to control who can view these posts. You can completely customize audiences here.
    • e.g. Do you want only your college friends to see your photos? Done. Want to make sure Mom & Dad don’t see your check-ins? Piece of cake. Just select “Custom” and you can permit certain “Friend Lists” and ban others from viewing posts on your timeline.
  • Tag Suggestions: Scary, but self-explanatory. Facebook has software built-in that can identify you based on other pictures you have posted and automatically suggest tags for your friends. It’s meant to make their lives easier when tagging people, but quite frankly I think it’s a bit much. I’ve set this to “Disabled” to be certain I’m not accidentally tagged in Mark-Paul Gosselaar aka Zack Morris’ photos (I’ve been told I look like him)
  • Friends Can Check You In Places Using the Mobile Places App: Again, self-explanatory. If you have Tag Review Enabled, this shouldn’t be an issue for you.

Subscriptions, What Do they Even Mean & Do You Need them?

Subscriptions are something new that Facebook is trying out. Essentially they’re allowing users who are not your friends, “follow” you, the way that they would on Twitter. This works well for celebrities who don’t want to “Friend” every fan they have, but would like to keep their updates public. So how can you manage subscriptions?

  • By default, if you allow subscriptions & defriend someone, they’re automatically subscribed to you, unless you block them. My first suggestion is that when you get a pop-up prompting you to “Allow Subscriptions,” you simply do not. If you have already, turn them off here. For average users who want to privatize their profile, allowing subscriptions is exactly what you don’t want to do.

For those of you who want Subscribers:

  • Go to your Facebook’s Subscribers Page & select “Allow.”
  • …or if you’ve already allowed Subscribers & forgot to change the settings, go to your profile page and select the “Subscribers” Tab along the top where you see Photos, info, etc. (Note: you may have to click the drop-down arrow to the right).
  • Comments – Keeping this open allows anyone to comment on your public posts. By selecting “Friends of Friends” or “Friends,” you’re limiting random readers from being able to chime in with their two sense on your posts.
  • Notifications – This will provide you notifications if someone Comments on, Subscribes or Likes your public posts. Again, it’s probably best to keep this at “Friends of Friends” or “Friends,” so that you don’t have a constant stream of notifications coming in.
  • Friend Requests – If you’ve taken careful steps to ensure that you can’t be “Friended” by just anyone, you want to check this box. By unchecking it, you allow users who have found your subscriptions the ability to Friend you.

Having poor Facebook privacy settings can cause you to lose opportunities for jobs, ruin relationships and expose you on the internet’s most popular social platform. Don’t take these changes lightly and make sure you do this now, before you put it off any longer.

Yours in technology,

Read more: The Fappening: When Sex Crimes Become Easily Consumable Entertainment