Now, more than ever, I am being asked how to delete a Facebook account. It’s totally understandable given the massive amount of data that has been shared by and breached from the Facebook servers about our most personal information, including our political leanings, our buying behaviors, even the contents of our phone calls and text messages. Users are finally figuring out that their private information fuels Facebook’s profit model. Your data is Facebook’s inventory, to be traded and sold as they see fit. Deleting your Facebook account should be something that you spend a few minutes thinking about before you press the button. While you are doing a great deal to protect your privacy, there are consequences that you should think about.
One billion people worldwide use Facebook to share the details of their lives with their friends and may be unaware their Facebook Privacy could be compromised. Trouble is, they also might be unintentionally divulging matters they consider private to co-workers, clients and employers.
Worse yet, they may be sharing their privacy with marketing companies and even scammers, competitors and identity thieves. Luckily, with some Facebook privacy tips, you can help protect your account online.
Here are six ways Facebook could be compromising your private information and how to protect yourself:
1. The new Timeline format brings old lapses in judgment back to light. Timeline, introduced in late 2011, makes it easy for people to search back through your old Facebook posts, something that was very difficult to do in the past. That could expose private matters and embarrassing photos that you’ve long since forgotten posting.
What to do: Review every entry on your Facebook timeline. To hide those you do not wish to be public, hold the cursor over the post, click the pencil icon that appears in the upper right corner, select “Edit or remove” then “Hide from timeline.” Being able to “revise” your history gives you a second chance to eliminate over-sharing or posts made in poor taste.
2. Facebook third-party app providers can harvest personal details about you—even those you specifically told Facebook you wished to be private. Third-party apps are software applications available through Facebook but actually created by other companies. These include games and quizzes popular on Facebook like FarmVille and Words with Friends, plus applications like Skype, TripAdvisor and Yelp. Most Facebook apps are free—the companies that produce them make their money by harvesting personal details about users from their Facebook pages, then selling that information to advertisers. In other words, you are paying for the right to use Facebook using the currency of your personal information.
Many apps collect only fairly innocuous information—things like age, hometown and gender that are probably not secret. But others dig deep into Facebook data, even accessing information specifically designated as private.
Example: A recent study found that several Facebook quiz game apps collected religious affiliations, political leanings and sexual orientations. Many Facebook apps also dig up personal info from our friends’ Facebook pages—even if those friends don’t use the apps. There’s no guarantee that the app providers will sufficiently safeguard our personal information and there are numerous instances where they have done just the opposite.
What to do: Read user agreements and privacy policies carefully to understand what information you are agreeing to share before signing up for any app. The free Internet tool Privacyscore is one way to evaluate the privacy policies of the apps you currently use (www.facebook.com/privacyscore), but remember that it is provided by the very company that is collecting all of your data. You also can tighten privacy settings. In “Facebook Privacy Settings,” scroll down to “Ads, Apps and Websites,” then click “Edit Settings.” Find “Apps You Use” and click “Edit Settings” again to see your privacy options. And be sure to delete any apps you don’t use. While you are in the privacy settings, take a spin around to find out other data you are sharing that might compromise your privacy.
3. Facebook “like” buttons are spying on you—even when you don’t click them. Each time you click a “like” button on a Web site, you broadcast your interest in a subject not just to your Facebook friends but also to Facebook and its advertising partners.
Example: Repeatedly “like” articles in a publication with a specific political viewpoint, and Facebook advertisers might figure out how you vote.
Not clicking “like” buttons won’t free you from this invasion of privacy. If you’re a Facebook user and you visit a Webpage that has a “like” button, Facebook will record that you visited even if you don’t click “like.” Facebook claims to keep Web browsing habits private, but once information is collected, there’s no guarantee that it won’t get out.
Example: If an insurance company purchases this data, it might discover that someone applying for health coverage has visited Web pages about an expensive-to-treat medical disorder. The insurer might then find an excuse to deny this person coverage, or to raise their rates substantially.
What to do: One way to prevent Facebook from knowing where you go online is to set your Web browser to block all cookies. Each browser has a different procedure for doing this, and it will mean that you will have to re-enter your user ID and password each time you visit certain Web sites.
Another option is to browse the web in “InPrivate Browsing” mode (Internet Explorer), “Incognito” mode (Google Chrome) or “Private Browsing” mode (Firefox and Safari), which seems to be a less intrusive way to raise your privacy levels.
Less conveniently, you could log out of Facebook and select “delete all cookies” from your browser’s privacy settings before visiting Web sites you don’t want Facebook to know about. There are also free plug-ins available to prevent Facebook from tracking you around the Internet, such as Facebook Blocker (webgraph.com/resources/facebookblocker).
4. “Social readers” tell your Facebook friends too much about your reading habits. Some sites, including the Washington Post and England’s The Guardian, offer “Social Reader” Facebook tools. If you sign up for one, it will tell your Facebook friends what articles you read on the site, sparking interesting discussions.
The problem: excessive sharing. The tools don’t share articles with your Facebook friends only when you click a “like” button, they share everything you read on the site. Your Facebook friends likely will feel buried under a flood of shared articles, and you might be embarrassed by what the social reader tells your friends about your reading habits.
What to do: If you’ve signed up for a social reader app, delete it. In Facebook privacy settings, choose “Apps you use,” click “Edit Settings,” locate the social reader app, then click the “X” and follow the directions to delete.
5. Photo and video tags let others see you in unflattering and unprofessional situations. If you work for a straight-laced employer, work with conservative clients or are in the job market, you may already realize that it’s unwise to post pictures of yourself in unprofessional and possibly embarrassing situations.
But you may fail to consider that pictures other people post of you can also hurt you.
A Facebook feature called photo tags has dramatically increased this risk. The tags make it easy for Facebook users to identify by name the people in photos they post—Facebook even helps make the IDs—then link these photos to the Facebook pages of all Facebook users pictured.
What to do: Untag yourself from unflattering photos by using the “remove” option on these posts. Arrange to review all future photos you’re tagged in before they appear on your Facebook Timeline by selecting “Timeline and Tagging” in Facebook’s Privacy Settings menu, clicking “Edit settings,” then enabling “Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline”. Better yet, ask your friends and family not to post pictures of you without your permission. Be sure to extend the same courtesy to them by asking whether or not they mind you tagging them in a photo.
6. Our Facebook friends—and those friends’ friends—offer clues to our own interests and activities. Even if you’re careful not to provide sensitive information about yourself on Facebook, those details could be exposed by the company you keep.
Example: A 2009 MIT study found it was possible to determine with great accuracy whether a man was gay based on factors including the percentage of his Facebook friends who were openly gay—even if this man did not disclose his sexual orientation himself.
Sexual orientation isn’t the only potential privacy issue. If several of your Facebook friends list a potentially risky or unhealthy activity, such as motorcycling, cigar smoking or bar hopping among their interests—or include posts or pictures of themselves pursuing this interest—an insurer, college admissions officer, employer or potential employer might conclude that you likely enjoy this pursuit yourself.
What to do: Take a close look at the interests and activities mentioned by your Facebook friends on their pages. If more than a few of them discuss a dangerous hobby, glory in unprofessional behavior, or are open about matters of sexual orientation or political or religious belief that you consider private, it might be wise to either remove most or all of these people from your friends list, or at least make your friends list private. Click the “Friends” unit under the cover photo on your Facebook page, click “Edit,” then select “Only Me” from the drop-down menu.
Most of all, remember that Facebook and other social networking sites are social by nature, which means that they are designed to share information with others. The responsibility to protect your personal and private information doesn’t just fall on the social networks; it is also up to you. Following these Facebook privacy tips can help you succeed in keeping your most personal information safe.
John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.
Today’s Burning Question for online privacy expert John Sileo:
“Who is the bigger spy, the NSA or Google?”
I thought that was a really fascinating question. Of course, it comes because in the last couple of months the NSA has been outed by Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee. The NSA (National Security Agency) has been spying on our phone calls- who we’re calling and when, our emails- who we’re emailing and what about, and even our social media posts.
The latest scandal is called “Muscular”. Somehow, the NSA has gotten between the transmissions of Google and Yahoo. In other words, the NSA has been “sniffing” the emails going back and forth between the two largest email providers in the US and this has angered the tech giants like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook.
Recently there was an article in the New York Times about the tech companies wanting to defend their privacy. In particular, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google, has gone on the record to the Wall Street Journal talking about how we need to do a better job defending our privacy. (Watch the video embedded in our BQ video.)
Let’s take a look at a few of Schmidt’s comments. First, he said, “You have to take a strong position in favor of privacy. Do you really want the government tracking all of your information?” I find it very ironic that this man whose company tracks all of our information is asking this question! You could substitute Google’s company name for government: “Do you really want Google tracking all of your information?” Here he is calling for privacy on one hand and violating it on the other.
The second statement that is fascinating is, “Let’s start with appropriate oversight and transparency. You don’t have to violate the privacy of every single citizen in America in order to find them.” You might also say you don’t have to violate the privacy of every single citizen or track the privacy of every single user of Google in order to market to them. It takes a lot of gumption for somebody who is so focused on collecting our private data to say that the NSA is collecting too much information!
So, the question again is, “Who is the bigger spy, the NSA or Google?” Well, of course, the NSA is much larger and is collecting more information, but mostly thanks to companies like Google.
John Sileo is a keynote speaker and online privacy expert, as well as the CEO of The Sileo Group, which helps organizations to protect the privacy that drives their profitability. Recent engagements include presentations at The Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security and Northrop Grumman as well as media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.
I was asked recently by someone, “How do I delete my Facebook account?” Why would anyone want to do that? Perhaps because Facebook has announced that they are making more changes to their data use policy. This time, they are trying a trick that they have tried before and simply by using their software, you are agreeing to it.
Here’s what it is. They can take any of your photos- say a profile photo or pictures of your kids, and when you “like” a product, they can advertise your photo next to that product. In essence, this means you are endorsing those things you have liked in an advertisement.
So imagine your teenage daughter has a giggly sleepover with friends. They’re on Facebook and they see a Bacardi ad and to be cool your daughter “likes” it and then she likes the movie Magic Mike (even though she hasn’t even seen it), but now her name and her photos are associated with those two likes and is shared across her entire network.
So, why do people want to delete their Facebook accounts? Maybe because they’re tired of giving their privacy away, they’re tired of the arrogance of Facebook obviously making these changes for commercial profit purposes and they try to sell it to us as if it’s for the greater good of the user.
There is so much of our information out there that is not under our control. But social networks such as Facebook are under our control, so people want to take back control of the little privacy they have.
Now, I don’t want you to go out and take an emotional response and just cancel your Facebook account. As you will see in this episode, there is a right way to delete your account, and a wrong way. Choose wisely. I want you to think about it and take four steps:
- Backup your data.
- Deactivate your account for a week or two first to see if you really want to live without it.
- Alert your friends if you do decide to permanently delete your account. The intention is to protect your privacy, not anger your friends!
- Delete your account.
(Watch the video to see exactly how to do all of these steps.)
School is out for the summer and the tasks that often fall upon the shoulders of your local schools are now sitting squarely on yours. In addition to making sure your kids practice their math facts, read regularly and get plenty of exercise, you’ll want to watch out for how they spend their free time when it comes to using Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and other sites that can expose their social media privacy.
Social Media refers to web-based and mobile applications that allow individuals and organizations to create, engage, and share new user-generated or existing content in digital environments through multi-way communication. Okay, that’s too technical. Social media is the use of Internet tools to communicate with a broader group. Some of the most common examples are listed above. If you have elementary aged children, they may use more secure, school-controlled forms such as Schoology, Edmodo or Club Penguin, but if your kids are older, I can almost guarantee they’re into Social Media sites whether you know if or not.
Statistics show that 73% of online adolescents visit social networking sites daily and two billion video clips are watched daily on YouTube. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently conducted a study that found that 22 percent of teenagers log onto their favorite social media sites more than 10 times a day, and that 75 percent own cell phones.
So, how do you battle such a time-consuming, captivating influence over your children? You don’t, because you won’t win! Instead you look at social media privacy best practices that schools implement and do the same at home.
- Expect the Internet to be used appropriately and responsibly and set agreements and consequences with your children if it is not. The Family Online Safety Institute can guide your discussion and even provide a contract.
- Expand your typical discussions about strangers to include social media
- Don’t accept unknown friend requests
- Don’t give out personal info – specifically: last name, phone number, address, birthdate, pictures, password, location
- Warn kids about the dangers of clicking on pop-up ads or links with tempting offers, fun contests, or interesting questionnaires, even if they’re sent from a friend. They may really want that free iPad being offered, but chances are it’s just a way for someone to glean their personal information.
- Monitor the information your kids give out and their use of sites; let your children know they should have no expectation of privacy. (Make that part of your contract.) You can also install filtering software to monitor their social media use and even their cell phones. A few popular ones are Net Nanny and PureSight PC to help keep your child safe online and My Mobile Watchdog to help with monitoring their cell phones.
- Check your privacy settings for all Internet sites and make sure they are set to the strictest levels.
- Remind your child that once it’s published, social media is public, permanent, and exploitable forever- even when “deleted”
- Set limits on social networking time and cell phone time, just as you would for TV hours. Many families limit total screen time, which includes everything from computers, iPads, smartphones, and video games to our old fashioned notion of television.
- Be a good example yourself. Monitor your own amount of time spent online and seek to find a balance of activities. When you are on you iPhone at dinner, you are letting your kids know that this is acceptable behavior.
- Monitor your child’s activities and try to stay educated about the latest platforms!
Social Media can be a positive way for kids to continue to develop friendships while they’re home for the summer and to feel like they’re connected to a community that matters more to them than anything. But there are risks that come with it and it’s your job as a parent to protect them from those risks just as surely as you keep them from taking candy from a stranger
Social networking has an addictive component because dopamine (a natural feel-good drug produced by the body) is released anytime we talk about ourselves. And what is social networking if not a constant exposé of what is happening in our lives? Just make sure you know what is happening in your child’s life, even in the more relaxed months of summer.
John Sileo is an online privacy expert and professional speaker on social media privacy. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, Visa, and Homeland Security. See his recent media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.
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