Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Protecting your privacy on Facebook

You may have heard that Facebook is in a bit of hot water over its privacy settings. New information entered into Facebook is being defaulted to ‘public’ rather than only available to existing contacts. This means that things you thought were only available to friends may be available to their friends as well, or, perhaps, the whole internet. And means that a whole load of data is available if someone wanted to steal your identity.
Sites like Openbook give an indication of what is made available – people’s real names, their pictures and potentially embarrassing status updates. Try searching for things like ‘flunked school’, ‘control urges’ and ‘rectal exam’ to see what people are sharing with the entire internet.
By this point you may be worried how much of your own profile information is out there for everyone to see. Fear not, dear reader, for I shall be your saviour, of sorts.
Probably the simplest way to lock your profile down quickly is using ReclaimPrivacy.org’s bookmarklet. You just drag the ‘Scan for Privacy’ link to your bookmarks toolbar, log into Facebook and then click the link on your bookmarks toolbar to allow it to do its magic. It’ll then tell you what aspects of your profile are made visible and buttons to fix them.
I’d also suggest going through the list of applications that are authorised to access information in your profile and deleting any that you no longer use.
Facebook has said that it may simplify its privacy settings in future, which would be most welcome as relying on third-party tools shows that its own tools are broken. It also needs to make it more clear when any information shared on the site will be viewable by anyone.
Until then, whenever you post something on Facebook, just remember there’s a chance anyone could read it.

One Comment

  1. I deleted my account. Not because of the privacy as much as I really don’t like where FB as a company is heading. I’m a little older, we already did AOL’s walled garden back in the 90s. Didn’t like the idea then, still don’t.
    But I totally get that I’m in the minority and that FB will grow to an absolutely huge size and for many people it will become “the web”. And that’s fine, whatever floats your boat. Just doesn’t float mine. Plus Sean Bonner said it best, FB was making me a shitty friend.