How Can I Make My Facebook Account Secure?

Privacy is on people’s minds more than ever. Within the last few months, we have seen Yahoo!SnapchatTargetAdobe, and many more companies be infiltrated by hackers and the private, sensitive information of their customers be published to the internet.

There are many things you can do to keep yourself more secure online like using different passwords on different sites, creating complex passwords, never giving sensitive information via email, only buying from reputable, secure websites, etc.

Social media privacy and security settings are also very important. Just think of all the information you give out on social media: gender, age, where you work, relationship status, home address, phone number, email address, and pictures of your family and friends. The list goes on and on and on. You need to control the people that can access that type of information, and your privacy settings can achieve this.

To do this, update your settings on all of the networks you belong to, even your MySpace page you haven’t looked at in five years. Because 57% of adults and 73% of 12-17 year olds use Facebook, this post will focus on Facebook’s privacy settings.

Facebook has taken some heat about their privacy settings because they were hard to understand and hard to change. They also defaulted so your posts and pictures were public to anyone on the network. You would have to go in and change those settings if you didn’t want your information to be public. Facebook changed this option at the end of May, but that leaves roughly 1.3 billion users with a potentially revealing profile.

Disclaimer: the screenshots in this post are from my personal Facebook page and may look different than your page. I have blurred out sections to not reveal people and business names. These directions are for Facebook accessed from a desktop computer and the screenshots reflect this.

First things first, you have to find your privacy and security settings. Look to the upper right hand side of the Facebook screen. There will be a triangle pointed down. Click that and you should see options similar to the image below. Click on “Settings” and we are off!

Settings option on Facebook

You will be taken to your account settings page. The page displayed first is the General Account Settings page. You can edit your primary email address and change your password on this screen. For the sake of this post, click on “Security” (see below).

Facebook general account settings page

Security Settings

The Security Settings page has seven different settings: Login Notifications, Login Approvals, Code Generator, App Passwords, Trusted Contacts, Trusted Browsers, and Where You’re Logged In. I will go through each below.

Facebook security settings page

Login Notifications

Facebook will notify you when it believes someone is trying to access your account that isn’t you. You can receive notifications via email or text message/push notification or both. This isn’t 100% necessary, but I really can’t think of a reason to not get the notification. A text or an email never hurt anyone and then you can change your password as needed to prevent a breach.

Login Approvals

This is an extra login step if you or someone is trying to log into your account from a new or different device or computer. If you turn on login approvals, you will need to enter a security code each time you try to access your account from a new computer or mobile device. You'll have the option to save a computer or device to your account so you won’t have to input a code every time.

Code Generator

The generator is found within the Facebook app (find where to access the generator on your device) and is used to generate a code you must enter if you are trying to access your account from a new computer or device. You must be logged into your account on a mobile device that has previously been recognized as a safe device. I have Code Generator enabled. I always have my phone with me so I feel this is a sufficient way, for me, to verify my identity.

App Passwords

Many applications use or piggyback Facebook for their service. If you use Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to post to Facebook, Hootsuite and Tweetdeck use Facebook’s API to post to the network. If you use Facebook’s App Passwords, you can require each app that accesses Facebook to have its own password. That is a lot of passwords to remember!

Trusted Contacts

Have you ever gotten locked out of your Facebook account? You can designate three Facebook friends that you trust that can help you get back into your account. All you need to do is call your three Trusted Contacts and each of them can get a security code for you. Once you get the three codes, enter them into Facebook to regain access.

There seem to be a lot of “what-ifs” with this option. “What if Bill doesn’t answer his phone?” “What if Karen and I break up as BFFs?” I think I would rather regain access the old fashioned way of resetting my password via email. But that’s just me.

Trusted Browsers

Facebook remembers devices you have logged in from, and considers them a Trusted Browser. You can remove Trusted Browsers but cannot add them. I see this being helpful if you sell your phone on Craigslist and want to make sure that device cannot access your profile after you sell it.

Where You’re Logged In

This feature is cool and could be helpful. You can view where you are currently logged into Facebook. You can also view where, when, how you have logged into Facebook recently. You have the ability to “End Activity” if anything looks fishy. Take a look below.

Where you're logged in page on Facebook

This is a very cool feature that you could check every now and again just to be safe.

Privacy Settings

As you probably noticed, the Security Settings focus on keeping your account secure. Privacy settings focus on your content: who can see your content, who can contact you, who can find you, etc.

Take a look at the screenshot below. To access your Privacy Settings, look to the left of the screen under the “Security” tab is the “Privacy” tab. Click that.

Facebook privacy settings and tools page

The Privacy Settings section is broken up into three main sections: Who can see my stuff?, Who can contact me?, and Who can look me up? Let’s go over those sections now.

Who can see my stuff?

This section has three settings you can access. This first is “Who can see your future posts?” This sets the default setting of who can see your posts. Your options are public, friends, and custom. I have my setting at Friends. You can always change this setting in real-time on each post. If you want anyone on Facebook to be able to see your posts, set this to Public.

The next option is “Review all your posts and things you’re tagged in.” This will take you to your Activity Log so you can review all your activity on Facebook. It shows anything you’ve liked or commented on, it show anything you’ve posted, and it shows anything you have been tagged in. This is good to review from time to time to check if anything looks fishy.

The third option is “Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public.” Once upon a time not so long ago, Facebook defaulted to share your posts with everyone on Facebook. Even if you go in and change who can see your future posts, all your previous posts would remain public. If you want to limit all your previous posts to just your friends, change this setting to “Limit Past Posts.”

Who can contact me?

You can change who can send you friend requests in this first option. I have mine set to Everyone because I have to approve the request, but the other option is Friends of Friends. This only allows people that are Facebook friends with your Facebook friends to send you friend requests.

Facebook created an “Other” folder in your Facebook inbox. If someone that you are not friends with sends you a message, the message will likely be sent to your “Other” folder. However, currently you are not notified if there is an unread message in your “Other” folder.

The next setting sets your Inbox filtering. The options are “Basic” and “Strict.” Basic filtering is recommended by Facebook and the option I use. Someone can’t necessarily gain anything by messaging me. If I get a message from someone I don’t know, I just delete it, and that ends it.

Who can look me up?

Most people provide their email and phone number on their Facebook page. This section lets you limit who can look you up by that information. The first is your email address. The options are everyone, friends of friends, and friends. I have mine set on everyone because my email if fairly public and I don’t mind if someone contacts me via email.

The next setting is for your phone number. You have the same options as for your email: everyone, friends of friends, friends. I have mine set to just friends. For a long time I didn’t have my phone number on my Facebook profile, but to use some of the security settings, Facebook needs to associate a phone number to your profile. This is definitely up to your preference, but think about how easily accessible you want your personal phone number.

Have you Googled yourself lately? When I Google “aaron blumer sioux falls,” my Facebook profile is the fifth result. Being in the digital world, I want people to Google my name and my profiles be visible. If you don’t want to show up on search engines, you can change this last setting so your profile won’t show up if someone searches your name.

Whew! That is a lot to think about, right? If you’ve made it this far, don’t stop now. There is still one more important section to look over: Timeline and Tagging Settings.

Timeline and Tagging Settings

Same as before, look to the left and click on “Timeline and Tagging.” This section is split into three sections that answer “Who can add things to my timeline?,” “Who can see things on my timeline?,” and “How can I manage tags people add and tagging suggestions?”

Facebook timeline and tagging settings

Who can add things to my timeline?

Your Facebook timeline represents your likes and dislikes, your ideas, your personality, and more! Your timeline represents you and you need to control what goes on your timeline. The first setting lets you control who can post to your timeline. Your options are friends or only me. I have mine set to friends, but you can easily make it so you are the only one that can post to your timeline by changing this setting.

The next setting allows you to manually approve or reject a post you are tagged in before it posts to your timeline. I think this is a little deceiving. It only controls what is allowed on your timeline. Posts you are tagged in still appear in search, news feed and other places on Facebook. You get a notification when you are tagged in a post anyway, so manually approving or rejecting it before it goes on my timeline seems pointless. I can see it being an extra notification if you are tagged in a post you don’t want to be tagged in. You can then contact the poster and ask to be removed. But I leave this feature disabled.

Who can see things on my timeline?

The first option here is a really cool feature. It allows you to view your profile as someone who is not friends with you, or you can type in specific people to view how they see your profile. This is a great check to see if your security and privacy settings are set to how you would like them to be for friends and nonfriends.

Next you can limit who sees posts you are tagged in that are on your timeline. Your options are everyone, friends of friends, friends, friends except acquaintances, only me, and custom. Since only my friends can see my profile and only my friends can post on my profile, I just keep this setting at friends. One scenario I can see is if you are friends with your boss or coworkers on Facebook and you don’t want them finding out what you do with your free time (crocheting scarves, training your cat to use the toilet, etc).

The last setting in this group is very similar to the previous setting, but is for what others post on your timeline. If you have people posting weird things on your timeline that you don’t want certain people to see, you can control that with this setting. Moving on.

How can I manage tags people add and tagging suggestions?

You can review if your friends tag themselves or someone else on your content with this first setting. You will always be notified if someone you aren’t friends with tries to tag any of your posts, but I like to have this enabled so I can monitor my content closely even if it is my friend that is adding to my post.

Odds are your friends have friends that aren’t your friends. Clear as mud? When Bob posts a picture and tags me in it, Bob’s friends can see that picture of me, but I have friends that Bob is not friends with that now see that post because Bob tagged me in the image.

The next setting allows me to restrict the people who see Bob’s picture with me tagged. The options are friends, only me, and custom. If you don’t want your friends seeing what you are posted in, select “only me.” I have mine set to “friends” because thinking about this setting makes my head hurt a little and I believe Facebook is about sharing, so why not let everyone see what I’m tagged in! Right?

This last setting is a little creepy. When a friend uploads a photo you are in, Facebook can automatically recognize that you are in the image and suggest your friend tag you in the picture. Creepy, right?! The good thing is that if some weirdo takes a picture of you while you were on vacation and uploads it to Facebook you won’t be automatically suggested to tag in the image. Sorry weirdo picture taker. The setting allows the suggestions to be given to your friends or no one. Your choice. However it is defaulted to your friends so change that if you feel it’s necessary.

Uff da! That’s a lot of settings! If you made it this far, give yourself a gold star and a pat on the back. I hope this was a good review for you or maybe you even learned something. Remember, we share a ton of personal and private information online. Privacy and security settings are a step in securing your data from someone who may misuse it. Stay safe everyone!

Stay safe meme

Fun Fact: The words “friend” or “friends” was used 52 times in this post! Yay friends! (now 53)

BONUS! Blocking

Do you have an annoying aunt that always comments on your posts? Does that same aunt invite you to play Farmville and Fishville and Cityville and other dumb games? My name starts with two “A’s” that means I am at the top of everyone’s list when those annoying games tell you to “share for more coins” or whatever they say. So I have a fairly extensive block list.

To the left of the Facebook screen, under Timeline and Tagging is Blocking. This tab allows you to put people on a restricted list, block specific users from viewing your content, block app invites from specific people, block event invites from specific people, and block specific apps. The blocking section is glorious if your name is Aaron or Aaliyah, or if your mom just got Facebook and really doesn’t understand how it works yet.

Facebook conversation between Kathy and Greg.