If you’re on Facebook, you probably love the convenience of connecting with friends and relatives. But did you know that identity thieves also love the convenience of Facebook for finding personally identifiable information (PII) about you?
Fortunately, you can control who can find and contact you and see your posts on Facebook. That’s why it’s important that you understand your privacy options and actively manage them according to your personal preferences.
These tips will familiarize you with your privacy options and give you step-by-step instructions for enabling privacy settings that work for you.
Facebook Privacy Basics
Facebook gives you the option to choose from four different levels of privacy, which have different implications on who will be able to find you and see your PII.
Anyone can see your posts, send messages to your inbox, and send friend requests. The general public can also use search engines, such as Google, to search your profile, making you more vulnerable to identity and data thieves. And remember, if you post when you’re away from home—out to dinner, at a party, or on vacation—that information will be visible to anyone who accesses your timeline.
Only Me—High Privacy
Only you will be able to view and access information with this designation. It also ensures that search engines can’t link to your timeline.
This default setting restricts access to your posts and private information to people whom you have accepted as friends. While it makes you less vulnerable to identity and data theft, as well as other crimes, it is important that you are selective about friend requests and only accept invitations from people you know and trust. Custom
This option will let you narrow the audience who has access to your posts and timeline. In this feature, you can grant access to specific friends or lists of friends (previously created by you).
Who Can See My Stuff?
To restrict who can see your posts you have two options. You can go to Settings by clicking on the lock icon on the upper right side of your screen and select Who Can See My Stuff? Then choose Public, Friends, Only Me, or Custom.
You also can designate who can see posts by using the audience selector button next to the Post button. (Note that when you change your privacy setting using audience selector button, all of your posts that follow will use the same setting until you change the setting again.)
Who Can Contact Me?
To choose who can message you, go to Settings, then Who can contact me? For low privacy, select Basic Filtering. For high privacy, select Strict Filtering.
To choose who can send you friend requests, go to Settings, then Who can send me friend requests? Select Everyone for low privacy and Friends of Friends for high privacy.
How Do I Stop Someone From Bothering Me?
To keep someone from starting conversations with you or posting to your timeline, go to Settings, then How do I stop someone from bothering me? Then enter their name or email address.
Who Can Look Me Up?
You can manage the number and types of friend requests you receive by designating who is allowed to see the contact information you provided to Facebook. Go to Settings, then select See More Settings. From the Privacy Settings and Tools menu you can Edit who can look you up using your email address or phone number. Select Everyone for low privacy, Friends of Friends for medium privacy, and Friends for high privacy.
In the Who can look me up? settings menu, you can also control whether or not people are able to find your profile through other search engines, such as Google or Yahoo! For low privacy, leave the check in the Let other search engines link to your timeline box. For high privacy, uncheck the box.
The risk to your sensitive information is unrelenting and always changing. In addition to the steps above, be sure to use a unique and strong password for your Facebook account—and avoid sharing it.
It’s also a good idea to review things you’re tagged in and past posts for details about your life you may no longer want to share. To review everything you’ve posted and been tagged in, go to Settings, then Who Can See My Stuff? Then click on Use Activity Log in the Where do I review who can see or find things I’ve posted or been tagged in? field.
If you suspect you're a victim of identity theft or wish to proactively manage your identity, check with your insurance company, financial institution, or employee benefits provider. Many companies offer LifeStages™ Identity Management Services from CyberScout for low or no cost. To learn more, visit cyberscout.com or call 1-888-682-5911.