Just last week, data from over 500 million Facebook accounts was found online on a hacker’s site. Although the information appeared to be several years old, it included important details like phone numbers, Facebook IDs, full names, locations, birthdates, and email addresses. Finding the balance between Facebook privacy and Facebook fun can be challenging. It’s a double-edged sword that allows us to connect with friends no matter where they live, but it also publicly shares information that we’d never dream of putting online just a few years ago. You can search for people based on where they went to school, the town they live in, clubs they belong to, who they’re related to…but when is it too much?
Your birthday is the first piece of info collected when you sign up, and it’s great getting birthday wishes from friends and family when it appears in their newsfeed. But while Facebook is sending you balloons and funny memes, your birthday is now public knowledge. It seems harmless, but when you call your bank or other institution, what’s the first question they ask to verify your identity? Your birthday! Some password recovery systems even ask questions like ‘which high school did you go to?’ assuming this is the answer that only you would know. Except…you’ve just publicly shared it on Facebook. Whoops!
We’ve all heard stories of people who’ve lost their jobs after less-than-wholesome pictures or statements have gone public. If you have a reputation to keep, you definitely don’t want pictures from last weekend’s private party showing up, especially if you really let your hair down. While you can’t control what others do with photos they take of you, you can control whether or not you’re tagged in them.
Fortunately, settings on Facebook allow you to control who sees what information and what happens when you’re tagged. Despite what you may have heard or seen floating around in a Facebook share hoax, you do have complete control over your Facebook privacy, and it’s easy to adjust.
How to Check and Adjust Your Facebook Privacy Settings
1. See what your account looks like to an outsider
From your Facebook web homepage, click your name on the column on the left side of the page. Click the three dots next to ‘edit profile” on your profile page and then select ‘View as…’
2. Run a quick privacy checkup
Click the down arrow in the top right corner and choose ‘setting and privacy’ and then ‘privacy checkup.’ Think about what you really need to share – do people need to know the YEAR of your birth or just your birthday? Your friends will still get the notification, and you’ll still get the balloons.
3. Edit advanced privacy
While the checkup covers the most obvious info, you can go much deeper. Click the down arrow to open the dropdown in the top right of the page. Go to ‘settings’ and choose ‘privacy.’
4. Adjust timeline and tagging
You can explicitly control who can tag you in the privacy settings, who can see or share the tagged content, and what shows up on your newsfeed.