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5 ways to secure your Facebook profile in a post-Timeline world

Logan Kugler | Feb. 8, 2012
With the ongoing rollout of Facebook's Timeline feature, security and privacy have never been more important to your digital life. The new layout presents all of your current and past activities on Facebook -- posts, photos, comments, likes and so on -- in a handy timeline format to anyone with access to your profile, which may include friends of friends, colleagues, executives at your company, a potential future boss ... well, you get the idea.

The first two settings (Timeline Review and Tag Review) are particularly useful. When you enable them, you can review posts and photos that friends tag you in, as well as the tags friends add to your own posts -- all before this information goes public. That's especially valuable if you have well-meaning friends who think tagging you in those Vegas party photos is a good idea.

The third setting, Maximum Timeline Visibility, should be set to Friends or customized for certain friend lists or networks to ensure that these tagged posts, once approved, aren't seen by everyone.

Disable the fourth setting on the list, Tag Suggestions. It makes it harder for friends to tag large quantities of photos featuring you or people that look like you. But it also takes some of your profile's privacy out of the hands of others.

The last setting on the list is seriously important: It determines whether or not friends can check you in to places. Turn it off. The only thing worse than constantly broadcasting your location is having someone else do it without your express permission.

3. Rein in app permissions

Speaking of permissions, the permission window that used to appear frequently when Facebook apps wanted to access your profile information is pretty much MIA now. Currently, apps need to ask you only once for permission. Once they do, they'll mine your profile information as often as need be, sometimes even when the app isn't being used.

Fortunately, there's a privacy fix. Unfortunately, it's not a quick one, since you'll have to tweak each app's settings individually.

In the main Privacy Settings, click on Edit Settings next to the Apps and Websites entry to bring up the Apps, Games and Websites privacy settings page. Next to "Apps you use," click on Edit Settings again to access a full list of apps running on your profile. Each app is accompanied by an Edit button, which displays the app's permissions when clicked. Each app has different permissions enabled, so you'll have to check each one individually.

Here's the bad news: Some permissions, such as sharing basic profile information with the app, cannot be altered. These are marked by the grayed-out word "Required" next to the particular permission.

Other settings, however, have the word "Remove" next to them -- click on it to remove any permission. These are the only items that can be changed, so you'll have to take a hard look at what permissions an app deems a necessity. If you don't like what you see, click "Remove app" at the top of the same page and learn to live without that app.

For the apps you do keep, it's important to control who sees the information that the apps share -- many of them are designed to broadcast your activities on your timeline and in the "ticker" on the right side of users' home pages. At the bottom of each app's permissions page is another important option entry titled "App activity privacy." Click on the drop-down menu and select Only Me to be sure your app activity isn't seen by anyone else.

 

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