Facebook Privacy: How to Protect Yourself on Facebook

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Dear Rich,

Recently someone left an inappropriate response to something I posted on my Facebook page. This person isn’t a friend of mine, but is apparently in one of my networks. I deleted it, but I didn’t even realize anyone but my friends could see what I post! I’m kind  of freaked and concerned about posting anything else.

How do I block this person from my Facebook profile, and how do I better protect myself going forward?

–Creeped Out In Cranberry Isles

Dear Creeped Out,

I know just where you’re coming from; I had a similar situation
recently.

Facebook is a powerful social networking Web site, but for
the uninitiated, the level of shared information can be scary. Also,
different generations have very different ideas of what privacy means.
While younger people may happily share every dust mote that rolls out
of their navel, people who grew up in a world without the Internet may
be concerned about even posting a photo of themselves.

First, a few definitions for the Facebook virgins:

  • Network: In Facebook parlance, networks are based around a
    workplace, region, highschool or college. Networks can be public or
    private. For example, I belong to the Portland, ME network and the
    Skidmore College network. There are currently over 37K people in the
    Portland, ME network…most of whom I don’t know. The Skidmore network
    is open only to Skidmore students and alumni.
     
  • Friends: On Facebook you can become friends with anyone,
    as long as both parties agree. Your friend’s photos often appear on
    your Facebook profile page, and you get updates of their comings and
    goings.
  • Wall: One common feature of a Facebook page is your Wall.
    (Or, the more flexible Super Wall.) It’s basically a public place on
    your page where you or others can leave comments, post photos or
    videos…basically throw it against the wall and see if it sticks.

By default, Facebook makes some decisions for you. These decisions are
in Facebook’s best interests, however, not necessarily your own. Their
network becomes more powerful the more people share and can connect, so
the focus of the site is on networking, not privacy.

That being said, you can easily manage your privacy settings by
clicking on the Privacy link near the top right of every page. From the
Privacy Overview page you have a lot of options.

Block That Creep
To completely block people, you can quickly add them to the Block
People section on the Privacy page. Assuming they are a Facebook member
and you know who they are, it’s easy to block them from searching for
you, seeing your profile or contacting you on Facebook.

Keep in mind that this may protect you on Facebook, but not in the real
world. If this person poses a serious threat you’ll need something more
for the "real world."

It’s also possible that this person could create a fake persona to keep
tabs on you. Of course, you could block this person, too, and perhaps
report them to Facebook.

Managing Your Facebook Profile
From the Privacy Settings page you can also control what people in your
networks see on your page. For example, since you don’t necessarily
know everyone in your networks, you may not want to show photos of you
making a scene at the office party. However, you might want to share
those photos with your Facebook friends.

You have a lot of line-item control of what will be shown to everyone,
to just your networks and friends, just your friends, or even just you.
Of course, if you block anyone, that will override any network settings
you may have.

It’s not a bad idea to visit your Privacy Profile page right now and
see how the world views you, and whether that’s a view you’re
comfortable with.

Rich Brooks
Brave New World

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