More than 50% of Americans are now on Facebook. Fun, right? Not if your profile is viewed by the wrong person or your personal information falls into the wrong hands. It’s essential to protect yourself online and think about what you put online – you never know who could be looking at your Facebook profile. Here are some top tips to remember when it comes to Facebook.
First things first, the golden rule to remember is to always think twice before posting ANYTHING on Facebook. Would you want your mother to read your post? Would you want your boss to read your post? Would you walk down the street wearing a shirt with your post written on it? If the answer to any of these questions is no, don’t post it. Just don’t do it. A post you might think is funny or a good idea now could always come back to haunt you in a few years. In addition to comments and status updates, never post any information on your profile that could be used to steal your identity such as your birth date, phone number, home address, children’s names or social security number.
Just because someone sends you a friend request on Facebook, it doesn’t mean you necessarily know them or should be friends with them. It’s very easy to create Facebook layouts with false information and mask your real identity. There have been news reports of lawyers and private investigators friending defendants in cases on Facebook to gain access to evidence, police officers browsing for criminal activity online, and even sex offenders creating fake Facebook accounts to gain access to your profile.
This isn’t high school, and the person with the most Facebook friends doesn’t win any sort of prize. You don’t have to be friends with everyone. If you wouldn’t hang out with someone in real life, you might not want them looking at your vacation photos or hearing about what you did at the bar last night. Be aware of whose friend requests you accept, and remember that the pretty girl or handsome guy asking to be your friend might actually be a future boss, an ex-girlfriend, or a private investigator hired to dig up dirt on you.
Most stores, businesses, sweepstakes and quizzes on Facebook require that you use their Facebook application. But what you may not know is that using these Facebook apps can provide whoever developed them with all of your data and your friends’ information too. Only use apps on your Facebook layout from sources that you trust. Every once in a while make sure to check the list of applications you’ve given permissions to as well. You’d be surprised at the many apps you may have approved without even knowing it. To find these, look at “applications and websites” on Facebook’s Privacy Settings page. There you will have the option to remove any applications you don’t know, use or trust.
To learn more about an application before you give permissions, look at the application’s profile page by searching its name in the Facebook search box. Application Facebook layouts should look very similar to your own, and should provide information about the developer, app info, and reviews from people who have used it. You can also see which of your friends are using the application by checking out the Applications Dashboard, which is located in the left menu on your home page.
In addition to Facebook applications, there are also a wide variety of third-party plug-ins available, including applications to customize Facebook and create Facebook layouts. While Facebook works to ensure that all third-party developers are following their policies, these applications are maintained by third-party developers, and they can link to content outside of Facebook. Always beware of what you’re downloading and from whom, and keep your anti-virus software up-to-date. If you suspect your computer has been infected, run your software’s virus removal feature, and report the application to Facebook.
Facebook can be incredibly fun, and a great way to keep in touch with family and friends. Don’t let this article dissuade you from using it, just be sure to stay safe online when Facebooking.