Skip to main content

How to secure your Facebook account

Many millions of people worldwide enjoy connecting with friends and family via Facebook. We get a kick out of sharing baby pictures, funny websites, and our latest adventures. Sometimes, though, we share more than we realise. For example, a cyber-creep with access to your profile might be able to answer the security questions associated with your online banking account. Scary stuff…

You know you ought to lock down your profile so that only the right people have access, but Facebook makes it unnecessarily complicated. So here's our step by step guide to protecting your Facebook privacy.

Privacy settings

To get started, log into Facebook, click the arrow to the right of Home, and choose Privacy Settings. You'll see three choices under Control Your Default Privacy: Public, Friends, and Custom. If yours is set to Public, you're sharing everything with anyone who cares to look. Immediately change it to Friends, so that by default only your friends can see your posts, photos, and so on.

The default settings affect your posts and photos going forward. To correct older too-public posts, you can click Manage Past Post Visibility and click the Limit Old Posts button. Any posts that were visible to everyone or to friends of friends will be changed so only friends can see them.

Now edit the settings for How You Connect. Here you'll make choices about who can find you and connect with you on Facebook. If you're a public figure, or if you use your Facebook account for business, allowing just anyone to find you and send messages or friend requests may be appropriate. For privacy, though, you're better off limiting such contact to friends of friends. It wouldn't be unreasonable to limit most of these settings to people who are already on your friends list.

Next, tighten up Timelines and Tagging. There are two settings related to reviewing posts that friends tag you in; turn both of these on. Now you won't be blindsided when a friend tags you in a rowdy party photo; you can reject the tag.

Facebook can suggest tags using facial recognition, which is a bit scary. Set it so that nobody receives those suggestions. Configure the remaining three options so that only friends can post on your timeline and view posts on your timeline. You may even want to further restrict posting to specific groups like close friends or family.

Ads, apps, and websites

Got a relative who constantly bombards you with app invitations? You can put a lid on that activity by clicking the Manage Blocking link. On the resulting page you can block app and event invitations from any of your friends, or block specific apps completely. If necessary you can put annoying friends on the Restricted list. This limits them to viewing posts you've made public, without notifying them of the change. Finally, you can ban all contact with a specific user. Let's hope that doesn't become necessary.

Facebook apps can gather all kinds of information from your profile. If you really value your privacy, you'll want to limit your use of apps to a bare minimum. Click the Edit Settings link next to Ads, Apps, and Websites, then click the Edit Settings button next to the list of apps you use. For each app, click Edit and review the permissions that app has. Consider removing any that you don't actively need and use.

You can be the most careful person in the world, but your friends can still expose tons of private information. Below the list of apps there's a section about how people bring your information to apps they use. Click the Edit Settings button to see just how much of your private information they can share. Shocked? Uncheck all the boxes, or all that you don't want your friends sharing for you.

Instant personalisation lets participating websites personalise your visit based on information in your Facebook profile. If that sounds creepy to you, make sure this feature is turned off.

Here's another creepy one. In the future, Facebook may give third party advertisers the option to use your name and picture in their ads, though they don't do so yet. If you want to prevent this, click the Edit Settings link in the Ads section, and click the Edit third party ad settings link on the resulting page. From the drop-down list, select "No one" and click Save Changes.

Back on the Facebook Ads page, click the Edit social ads setting link. Read the description carefully and decide whether you want to allow this feature. If you don't want your social actions associated with ads that your friends see, set this one to "No one" too.

Whew! As you can see, there are quite a number of settings involved in locking down your Facebook profile, but it's well worth your while to go through them all. Now you can share your life with your friends, and only your friends.