Facebook has over 2 billion active users every month, you can find almost all of your friends from the platform. This also means that people you don’t know can find your profile and see your details, updates, and images. Most of us don’t want their profile to be publicly available. Here is a guide on changing the settings, explanations of some features, and tips to keep in mind when using Facebook.
If you would like to read a general guide on how to stay safe on social media, you can read my blog post about that here. This post is focusing primarily on Facebook and goes into greater detail on the settings and features.
I assume that the reader has an account on Facebook and is using a desktop device. The settings can be changed with a mobile device as well, but this guide only shows how to do it on a desktop computer.
Facebook and personal information
Facebook is a social networking platform, every registered user has their own profile where they can share their information. This information commonly include:
- Work and Education
- Places You've Lived
- Contact and Basic Info
- Family and Relationships
- Details About You (Nicknames, Favorite Quotes, etc.)
- Life Events
On top of those, people share status updates, images, videos, and users can list things they are like, such as companies, movies, games, books, and a lot more.
As you might have thought, that is a lot of information, basically everything to be honest. Of course, filling all of those is optional but most people have at least some of the fields filled in and listed as their likes and interest.
Risks of exposing personal details
From an attacker perspective, this is very helpful when gathering information, which is the very first step. Gathering location data, interests, friends, birthplace, and other very personal information is simple and easy.
It’s a trove of gold for someone who is harvesting your personal details to create, for example, an effective spear phishing email that you will open, believe, and take the wanted action.
Guide on Facebook settings
Here is quick guide on how to find and use he settings efficiently. There are also some tips and tricks included if you want to spend more time on understanding how much data Facebook actually has about you.
You have to be logged in to access the Facebook settings. After logging in you need to locate the down arrow in the right side of the top bar. Click on it and select “settings” on the drop-down menu.
From the settings page, you can manage everything related to your Facebook account. You should now see a navigation bar on the left side of the screen with a lot of different options.
We are mostly interested in only some of these but it is a good idea to go through all the settings and customize your account to fit your needs. The ones we are most interested in are listed below.
- Security and Login
- Your Facebook Information
- Apps and Websites
Step 2 – Security and Login
From this section of the settings, you can manage account security and login related settings. If you need help setting a new, strong password, be sure to read my blog post about passwords.
- You can see the logged in devices with their locations and force logouts on devices that don't need to be logged in
- Change password and login methods
- Enable 2-factor authentication, set special passwords for applications
- Set security alerts and add trusted contacts to help you with account recovery in case it's needed
- Add PGP key to encrypt the emails Facebook sends to you
- Recover external accounts and view latest emails sent to you by Facebook
Step 3 – Your Facebook information
This is an interesting one. From this section you can view and download all the information Facebook has about you. You can also permanently delete your account and information from this section.
Click on “Access Your Information” and you can browse the information you have uploaded and entered in Facebook by category. It is made easy to browse and is accessible any time, from here you can see things you have liked, searched, uploaded, commented, and more.
If you click the “Download Your Information”, Facebook will prepare all your data for you in a file. This will take some time but when it’s finished you are able to download it and browse offline.
“Activity Log” is a log of all your actions on Facebook on a timeline. The most recent being at the top. Good for reviewing what you have been doing on Facebook, as there are filters to find specific kinds of information.
The two sections that are left are “Managing Your Information” and “Delete Your Account and Information”. The first one is basically a way to find the resources and help on your questions and the later one deletes everything.
Step 4 – Privacy
The privacy settings are used to control who can see your posts, add you as a friend, and see your friends. You can also manage how and who are able to find you on Facebook or with search engines (Google, Bing, etc.).
Step 5 – Location
If you have location enabled on Facebook, you can view your location history from here. However, if you haven’t enabled location, there is nothing to see. The location settings can be changed from the applications that are using it.
Step 6 – Apps and Websites
Apps and Websites section allows you to view, edit, and remove application that are connected to your Facebook profile. Many games and mobile apps use Facebook logins. It simplifies login processes but the apps gain access to your profile information at the same time.
You can see active, expired and removed tabs. These contain the apps that actively have access to your data, their access has expired or you have removed from your account. By removing the access from an app, it also deletes all the posts it may have done on your behalf.
You can also change the access an application has to your data. The applications usually don’t require too much information but are automatically granted more. Change this by clicking on the active application and tap the switches off.
Step 7 – Ads
Ads are a big part of Facebook and any social media platform nowadays. From the Ads section, you are able to view and change what kind of ads are showed to you.
You can add or delete your interests, so you get more targeted ads. View and modify which advertisers you have interacted and want to interact in the future and what should the ads be related to.
You can also allow or disallow Facebook to show you ads from websites you have visited in the past that are not Facebook Company Products. Hiding ads related to a specific topic for a period of time or permanently is also an option.
Other settings and Facebook resources
It is a good practice to go through all the other settings as well as this guide is focused on helping users to use the privacy settings to be able to use Facebook comfortable. The other settings include valuable and important things such as notifications, payments and support.
Facebook also has many resource pages to help and guide its users to achieve a better user experience.