The New Facebook and Ensuring the Safety of You and Your Family

The New Facebook Timeline Page

Signed up for the New Facebook last night, AKA “Timeline”. I have to admit, I like the new format. It really does make your personal history much more accessible, and it was nice to browse through some of my historical moments. Some have commented that the new format is a little “busy”, but I don’t think so. It’s a comprehensive dashboard of your life, exactly as Mark Zuckerberg promised during the f8 conference.

Unfortunately, in its default settings it’s the most unsafe thing I’ve ever seen on the internet to date. An unprecedented amount of your personal life is displayed in perfectly accessible, easily understood, graphical format. Many of us have hundreds of friends on Facebook, some are family, some close friends, some acquaintances, some are just in our profession that we wanted to keep in touch with. There are a wide variety of people in our lives and on our Facebook pages. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want every single one of these people to see the entirety of my life, including all of my comings and goings.

The new Facebook doesn’t contain any more information than the previous version of Facebook, it’s the increased organization and graphical presentation that make it dangerous. Before, if someone geotagged you in some photos, or you checked yourself into your favorite places, that information was lost in the continuous stream of information that flows along your wall. Now, that same information is pulled out and organized across a map, time stamped and with accompanying photo. It is, literally, a stalker’s dream.

The default settings, in my opinion, are not safe. If you have children, this puts them at risk. If you are a single woman living alone, it puts you at risk. This single function, Map, is exceedingly dangerous on its own. Combined with the enhanced data logging of Timeline, and it is a dark time waiting to happen.

“But I don’t use geotagging!” you say. I know, neither do I. However, others do, and they have tagged me and my family. Guess what? Their posts are now on my map. Guess what, again? If you don’t adjust your privacy settings, people YOU DON”T KNOW can tag you and track you ON THEIR OWN MAPS. Yes, that’s right. Facebook, to the unaware, has become the greatest stalking tool in the history of crime.

Facebook’s privacy controls are difficult to navigate, and they offer nowhere near the precision that Google+ offers. So, for those who were previously not that security conscious but now want to be, I’ve put together a step by step guide on how to secure your Facebook page.

FIRST, Get Off The Map

Like I said, the Map is just plain dangerous. The first, and most important, thing you should do is get off that map and protect yourself from unwanted tagging. Here’s how you do that:

1. In your Facebook Drop Down (top right corner, by your name) Select “Privacy Settings”

2. Select “Edit Settings” next to “How Tags Work”

3. Make the following adjustments:

a. “Timeline Review” – switch to ON

b. “Tag Review” – switch to ON

c. “Maximum Timeline Visibility” – switch to CUSTOM, then select “Only Me” at the follow on drop down menu.

d. “Tag Suggestions” – switch to OFF

e. “Friends Can Check You In To Places” – switch to OFF

Now that you’ve done this, I’ll tell you what each one means.

Timeline Review: You get to review and approve any post that you’ve been tagged in before it gets posted on your Timeline. The Timeline is YOUR personal history, don’t allow any unauthorized editors!

Tag Review: You get to review and approve any posts that others have tagged you in before it goes public on your Wall. Don’t want that embarrassing party picture to go live? Here’s where you stop that.

Maximum Timeline Visibility: Your life is your life, you don’t need to share it with anyone else. There is still a lot of “benign” information that you can’t hide (Likes, added friends, etc), but the important stuff – thigns actually about your real life – you can keep private. I think “Only Me” is a great place to start until you can create more Lists that narrow down the audience (more on that in a sec).

Tag Suggestions: Facebook has an automatic face recognition system, so when you want to tag pictures, if gives you a helping hand. Best to turn that off. You know who your friends are, and they know who you are. The only people who need facial recognition help are people who don’t know you – and they shouldn’t be tagging your pics.

Friends Can Check You In To Places: This means people can check you in to geographic locations – however, you might not actually be there. In addition, that’s exactly how stalkers can track you – by geotagging. If you’re happy to be at Panera, go ahead and check yourself in. In addition, if you’ve never been to Cokie’s Crack House, you don’t need anyone saying you were.

Why is all of this important? Simple: you can’t edit someone else’s posts once they’re live. You will have to ask them to remove you – that’s not a place to be, in my opinion. Your history, your life, and your comings and going are YOURS. Don’t let anyone else write your story for you.

It should be noted, that you CAN NOT eliminate the Map. But, you can make it so only you (or a tailored list of friends/family) can see your own comings and goings. The default setting is to make Maps visible to everyone. This is, as I said, exceedingly dangerous an a lot of levels. Don’t put yoruself or your family at risk! If you do anything on the new Facebook, make sure you CHANGE THESE SETTINGS!

NEXT, Fine Tune Your Protection

The next step is to fine tune who sees what and how. Again, this wasn’t a big deal under the previous Facebook set up, but with this new layout it’s really very important. The amount of information is just stunning, and you need to protect this. This is not a joke or an exaggeration. You need to do this.

Step One: Managing Interactions

This section of your Privacy governs how you interact with your friends, including who can search for you, who can send you messages, who can post on your Timeline, and who can see the entirety of your timeline.

1. Go back to Privacy Settings and select “How You Connect”

2. Review each item and select what you feel comfortable with. I highly recommend “Friends” for pretty much everything, with the exception of “Who Can Post on Your Timeline” which I recommend “Only You” (back to the “you write your own story” idea).

3. When you’re done, hit “Done”

Why this is important: These settings control much of the Timeline and Wall information about you visible to the outside world. You want your friends to see it, but I’m pretty sure you don’t want to make it fully public, nor do you want “Friends of Friends” which would make you visible to many people you don’t know.

Step Two: Apps and Websites

This section governs how third party websites and applications get your data. There is a lot from Facebook about how many “lies and misconceptions” about this service are out there trying to turn you away from it. Well, I’m not lying and I’m not ill informed. I deal with security for a living. You should be very careful about these settings. If left at their defaults, you will be handing over an awful lot of information to people you don’t know.

Facebook does not want you to change these settings, because this is how they make a lot of their money – selling your information. This information is NOT anonymous, it is referenced directly to your name. When you give this information away, you are handing large chunks of your life to corporations. I’m not alone in thinking this is a bad idea.

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

1. Go to “Privacy Settings” and select “Apps, Games, Websites.”

2. Select “Edit Settings” for “Apps You Use”

3. Review the list of Apps. These are the apps that have access to your account. Some you use to login to different services or websites, some are games, etc, etc. If you see anything you don’t recognize or no longer use, delete it (each deletion will take several clicks). If you see something you don’t think should have access to your info, delete it. There is not moderation of information – they either have access or they don’t – so be decisive.

4. Go back to the “Apps, Games, Websites” menu and select “Edit Settings” for “How People Bring Your Info Into the Apps They Use”

5. Review this information. If there is anything on that list you don’t want flying around on someone’s mobile phone, uncheck it.

6. Return to the “Apps, Games, Websites” menu and select “Edit Settings” for “Instant Personalization”

7. Turn this OFF! As soon as you uncheck this, a warning will pop up from Facebook, trying to convince you not to do this. DO IT ANYWAY. Internet security experts across the planet have filed grievances against this feature for very good reason. It has been formally protested by the US Senate, for good reason. “Instant Personalization” is a license for Facebook to sell everything scrap of info on your profile to any, or all, of their third party partners. TURN IT OFF.

8. Return to the “Apps, Games, Websites” menu and select “Edit Settings” for “Public Search”.

9. Make sure this is UNCHECKED. When enabled, this allows public access to your Timeline during internet searches. That’s just completely unnecessary.

Yeah, Still Not Done

Now, we’ve blocked a lot of external people from accessing your information, but now we have to go back and review what you’re giving away. That’s right, Facebook is kind of a double indemnity in reverse – you have to protect yourself against outsiders, but you also have to prevent yourself from giving it away.

To do that, go back to your Profile Page and select “About Me” to go to your personal info page.

Review this information! Specifically, look at your Contact Information (who can see your phone number, for example). To change who see’s what, click the little Edit symbol. From the page that pops up, you can lock down each individual item of information as you see fit. Personally, I keep most of that info at the “Family” level, which is a specific List I created. Don’t have any Lists set up? Then read on!

Dividing Lines

OK, now we get to the unpleasant part of Facebook. Chances are, you have a vast majority of your friends as “Friends”. Well, in Facebook terms “Friends” is really, really broad. You’ll probably want to break that down into smaller chunks, like “Close Friends” and “Family” and “Runner Friends” and stuff like that. The only way to do that is through Lists.

To set up a List, click on the HOME button at the top right of your Facebook page. Over to the left side, you’ll see “Lists”. Move your cursor over the word “Lists” and you’ll see the word “More” materialize just to the right of it. Click on “More” and another page will pop up that has all of your current Lists listed. Above that list is a button that says “+ Create List”. Click that button and make a new List of your choice.

You can add people to a List through the List menu or by clicking on their individual pages and changing their drop down from “Friend” to whatever List you want. This may take some time for many people – I know I have several hundred friends on Facebook. But, now you have to do that. Sorry.

Setting Post Defaults

Here is the last thing you need to do – I know, it’s been quite a list! – and you’ll be good to go. That is to set your Posting defaults.

Go to your Facebook page and click on the box to update your Status. See how, when it opens up, there are some symbols along the bottom? These are what you need to adjust.

These are the codes that govern how your information is seen and cataloged. The big concerns here are the Location (are you geotagged?) and who can see it. I recommend you not allow any geotagging – just erase any location (if you see one). That sets the default post to no location. Next, over by the actual “Post” button, there will be a view setting. I recommend limiting it to “Friends”, but you can set it how you wish. Just know, how you set it is who can see it.

You can change this any time for any post, just be mindful that it is there. Have something you want to keep more private than your larger “Friends” pool? Change the setting for that post. Get it?

Wrapping Up

OK, you are now fully aware of Facebook’s privacy plan and settings. You are now as safe as I can make you. Have fun, connect with your friends, and, most of all, STAY SAFE.

About Rob McClellan

Rob is the founder of ThirdScribe, a unique author services platform and social network. As a naval officer and diver, he spent a majority of his career doing a lot more than you would think with a lot less than you can imagine -- a skill that has proven extremely valuable in the start-up world. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

3 Responses to The New Facebook and Ensuring the Safety of You and Your Family

  1. Thanks, Rob! Yikes!! I had no idea. What a nightmare. Thanks for explaining this. I will change my settings today and encourage others to do the same.

  2. Profile Cover Art

    You’re welcome, Laura! When I first tried the new Timeline and got a look at the “Map” I knew I had to do some digging into this. I really don’t like having my comings and goings under virtual surveillance. When you look at it, Timeline is a wonderful thing, but it’s also a bit scary. SO much of our lives are online these days, seeing it all laid out really puts it into perspective. You need to protect yourself online the same way as you do in real life.

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