Protecting your privacy on Facebook

Facebook differs from some of the other social media platforms in that you can use it as a somewhat private medium to interact just with friends and family. However, strict privacy can be difficult to acheive as the Facebook privacy rules change frequently and tend towards transparency rather than privacy. It’s always safest to assume that everything you publish online could be permanently and publically accessable, so a good rule of thumb is to never post anything that you wouldn’t want your mum / student / future employer / neighbour / local newspaper to see. Luckily there are some things you can do to minimise the risk of privacy faux-pas.

At the the top right hand corner of your Facebook page you will see a padlock symbol to take you to privacy shortcuts, and also a cog symbol that you can click on to get access your privacy settings in more detail. Here you can chose who sees what you post in the future; public, friends, only me or custom. If you have your friends categorised into “lists” (eg groups of family, workmates, schoolfriends, close friends etc) you can use the custom option to only allow certain lists to see your post. Note: whenever you write a new status or post something to your wall, you will be able to change who can see your post and this will become the new default unless you change it back. So if you make something public once and then leave it as is, all your posts in the future will be public too. Thankfully you can change who can see your posts retrospectively using the activity log to review all the existing posts that you’re tagged in. There is also the option of chosing who can look up your facebook profile using your email address or via search engine.

The “timeline and tagging” section allows you to chose whether posts and photos that your friends tag you in can be seen on your timeline, and also who can see those items on your timeline. You can chose to review items that your friends tag you in before they are posted to your timeline so you can say yes or no. Note that if you are tagged in a particularly unflattering photo and you want to remove the tag, you will have then have to go into the photo itself and click “options” down the bottom, then “report/remove tag.” Also note that it’s generally good etiquette to not tag others in photos unless you have their permission.

There is a handy feature under the “privacy shortcuts > who can see my stuff” which allows you to view your profile as it appears to the general public. If you don’t like how much can be seen, you can tighten up the relevant privacy settings

If someone is bothering you or someone inappropriate (eg an overly friendly patient) is trying to contact you through facebook, you can block them completely by entering their name in the box under the “blocking” section. You can also hide your activity from your existing friends by placing them on a restricted list so they will only be able to see items that you make public.

A note about security: Facebook accounts do get hacked so do pay heed to your security settings and don’t click on suspicious links that might allow hackers access to your profile. In the “Security” section, it is strongly recommended that you enable secure browsing. It’s also a good idea to have your account protected by having security approval when a log in is attempted from a new browser. That way, if someone is trying to log into your account from another country you can detect it and block their access.