Do you Know What You’re Sharing on Facebook? Review Your Facebook Settings

There’s a lot of conversation lately about how Facebook is using our data. First, realize that if you’re on Facebook, you’re on a free platform that is monetized by selling your information to advertisers. The Cambridge Analytica situation is an extreme example, but as a general user, there are ways to limit what information you share. Let’s be intentional and at least know what we’re sharing. Here’s a review of basic Facebook settings:

  • From the far right of your profile menu (top right of your FB profile), pull down the menu under the triangle; choose Settings.
  • On the left side of the page, Security & Login let’s you choose some safety procedures if you get locked out of your profile. You can choose a back-up person, add 2-factor login (with your password + one other way, such as a code texted to your mobile device) if you’re worried about others logging in as you, etc.
  • Privacy is next on the list and that’s important. This is where you choose who to share information with: Friends, Friends-of-friends or Public. If you have children using FB, Friends only would be the safest setting…).  It’s recommended that you always approve a post from someone else before it’s published on your profile page (Timeline). This is where you can choose NOT to show something on your Timeline that you don’t want there, such as an inappropriate post or an unflattering photo!  Read through these settings carefully and make sure your FB profile is as private (or public) as you would like.
  • Timeline & Tagging is next. Again, this is where you choose who can tag you in a photo, and who can post on your Timeline.

Continue down the list at the left side of the page until you’ve got settings where you want them. One other critical area is Apps:

  • The Apps area is where much of our data is shared without us realizing it. Click on Apps and you may be surprised to learn how many 3rd parties have access to your data.
    • If you play games on FB, you’ve given all of those apps access to your information.
    • If you’ve signed into any other site using your FB info, you’ve given those sites access to your information. (Never sign into another site with your Google or FB login and pw. Establish an account with that site and log in that way.)
    • If you’ve taken a Personality Quiz or other app that tells your Irish name, what your favorite color means, etc., you’ve given access to your information (this is how Cambridge Analytica got the data in the first place…).
  • Ads: you may be shocked (or not) to see how much FB knows about your interests. Click on each of these areas to see how they have chosen your interests, tracked every click you’ve made, every website you’ve visited from FB, etc. Pay close attention to the Ads settings. You’ll see that you’re not going to avoid ads on FB – but you may see more relevant ads if you elect that setting. (FB is clear that if you don’t allow info collected about your interests, you will not avoid seeing ads – they just won’t be as relevant to you.
  • Likewise in the Ads section, you can visit a link to the Digital Advertising Alliance. This site explains how digital advertising works, and allows you to opt out of some or all of the companies that collect our digital preferences and share it with advertisers. Again – opting out doesn’t mean you’re going to avoid seeing ads on line – it just means they won’t be as relevant to you as they would be with your preference/interest info.

You may also find the FB Help menu useful as well. This is the question mark (?) icon at the top of your profile menu (next to the triangle pull-down menu). This offers a search field, as well as shortcuts to many of the settings that we discussed above. There are also plenty of YouTube videos or other tutorials that can help with FB settings if you need more information.

Facebook’s default settings are very generous, so it’s worth spending 20-30 minutes to review all of your Facebook settings to control who can see your information and who can share it.

Finally, know that anytime you’re sharing information on line, there is the potential that others (beyond who you expect) will see it, so use some common sense when you’re posting. Watch for potential changes to Facebook privacy settings as the Cambridge Analytica situation plays out.  Share responsibly!