A lot of people forget that Facebook is a public forum, and a lot of what they do on it could create problems for them if it falls into the wrong hands. Today is Safer Internet Day, so if you have fears about your online safety, or you’ve already been harassed or exploited on social media, here are three courses of action you could take to use the social media site more responsibly.
1. Change your privacy settings
Your Facebook page might be yours, but it doesn’t mean that only you can see it, or even that only your friends can see it. In fact, unless you alter your settings, it’s likely that anybody could see it.
If you have a slightly unusual name, it could be possible for someone to pinpoint your Facebook account with a quick Google search, find out who you are, what you ‘like’, where you’ve been and what you’re up to. This information could easily be misused.
To restrict your privacy settings, click the downward-pointing arrow in the top-right of your screen (if you’re using a desktop computer), go to Settings and then choose Privacy. Here, you can limit your posts and other details to just your Facebook friends, or even just yourself if you want to use Facebook as some sort of personal journal. You can also stop search engines picking your profile up.
Go to ‘Timeline and tagging’ for more options on who and what you can restrict. This makes your Facebook page a much tougher nut to crack for the casual browser.
2. Be careful who you make friends with
If you up your privacy settings, people might still try to dig up dirt about you by tricking you into ‘friending’ them. There are two main ways they do this.
One is to simply send you a friend request, usually with a profile picture of an attractive person who looks like just the sort of cool, fun dude you’d love to be social media friends with. It’s probably a fake account though, so if you don’t know the person making the friend request, don’t accept it.
The second is even more sneaky. Have you ever had a friend request from somebody you thought you were already a Facebook friend of? If so, before you accept it, double check your friends list. If the person is already on your list, get in touch with them to find out what’s going on. It could be something harmless like the person forgetting their login details and setting up a new account, but it could also be someone cloning their account and making friends with everyone in their friend list – all the more reason to make your friend list private.
Facebook, to give it some credit, doesn’t like people behaving this way. If you see an account you think looks suspicious, report it to Facebook
3. Watch what you comment on
A lot of people like to announce their holidays and nights out on Facebook, but is this wise? You’re broadcasting where you are, or will be, at a certain time. Perhaps even worse, you’re advertising the fact that you’re not at home.
Also, be wary of commenting on memes that ask for personal details such as your favourite colour, the first band you saw or the names of your family members. Do you use these answers as security questions for banking or other online accounts? If so, think of the forest of fraudulent potential an on online ne’er-do-well could harvest from these memes.
Facebook mischief can be very harmful and upsetting, but can be reduced massively by exercising some small, cautionary steps. If you’ve already found that a fake account is making your life a misery, our special eBook can help you get to the bottom of the matter.