Facebook, Your Privacy Settings and Avoiding Identity Theft
Can you go a day without checking your Facebook? Are you concerned with your privacy? Over the past 2 months, Facebook has been a hot topic in social media news regarding privacy; with the rise of Facebook phishing scams, malware and identity theft, more people are concerned with how their personal information is being used. Since Facebook was launched 6 years ago, it has become a central hub of social networking. People share more and more personal details about themselves by the second, through status updates, joining groups, personal interests, photos etc – the world has definitely become more connected. But what about privacy?
You can very well write on your status “I am on vacation in London, shopping at Oxford Street” Before you know it, your account can be compromised with hackers sending out messages to all your friends with something like … “hey, I am in London, I got robbed, I have no money, can you please Western Union me some money?” Robert McMillan for Computerworld states how Researchers at VeriSign's iDefense group found a Russian hacker by the name of Kirllos who put up “1.5M stolen Facebook ID’s up for sale”. This pertinent information could be used for all kinds of identity theft scams. Here is a helpful article that lists the 5 Facebook Scams You Should Protect Yourself From.
With countless changes, improvements and added features to the site, people are confused about their privacy settings. I came across an interesting article by Kurt Opsahl, Electronic Frontier Foundation, illustrating a timeline depicting Facebook’s shift away from privacy. When Facebook first started off, it was a private space for discussion which was soon transformed into a space that gave people a platform to communicate in many diverse ways. It opened up individual social networks but also became a tool used for advertising. The complex changes and added features on Facebook have critiques and some government regulators in countries fear that this will create a sense of confusion for users when it comes to their privacy settings. A recent article by Sophos states,
“93% of Facebook users would prefer Facebook's privacy options to be opt-in rather than opt-out. That said, a few months prior, we found that:
46% of Facebook users accepted friend requests from strangers
89% of users in their 20s divulged their full birthday
Nearly 100% of users post their email address”
Between 30-40% of users list data about their family and friends”
Here are a few measures you can take to protect your Facebook account and information:
1. Be watchful of what you post and who you accept as a friend
2. Don’t click on any suspicious or “tempting” links
3. Be mindful of Malware
4. Make your contact information private. Personal information on your profile, like email address, telephone number, home address, date of birth should be set to private/hidden on your profile. Also do not ever post your phone number, BB pin or email address on a friend’s wall
5. Protect your photo albums – there is a Facebook Privacy page where you can customize who can see your photo albums. Remember, if you select “Everyone” that means your photo albums are basically public for everyone on the internet to see
6. Keep in mind , Facebook does share information you make public to third-party applications. You can now opt out of this; follow these recommendations by Sophos for Facebook best practices: application and website settings. I encourage you to take a look at this as it gives great advice and simple instructions
7. You can also go to Account Settings and under “Account Security” you can select “Yes” to receive notifications for logins from new devices or other computers.
Lastly, educate yourself and others and be proactive when it comes to sharing and privacy.