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5 Things You Misunderstand About Facebook Privacy

Facebook's quick-look privacy settings
Facebook's quick-look privacy settings

When was the last time you checked your Facebook privacy settings? Too long ago, most likely. When the term "Facebook privacy" first started getting bandied about, most of us set our profiles to "friends only", and assumed that was that — our info was only shared with our friends, our privacy was respected, and there was nothing else to worry about. Unfortunately, that wasn’t -- and isn't -- quite true. Here's why:

Facebook is using you as an advertisement.

Say you've liked HBO's Facebook page. If they were to post about a new TV show and then promote that post, they could attach "[Your name] likes this" to the ad. Even if you've never watched the show.

And the same is true for any site with a Facebook plugin -- they can use your Like to promote their site to your friends. Keep your Facebook Likes to a minimum to avoid this kind of thing -- you might like a company's products, but you probably don't want them using your name and face to advertise with.

Under "Privacy Settings", click "Adverts" (or, alternatively, just click here). Change the settings for "Third Party Sites" and "Adverts and Friends" so they both read "No one".

You're making it easy for stalkers.

We're talking geo-locations here, guys. Open Facebook on your smartphone and click "Status". You see that little dropper-type icon with the name of your city next to it? If it's blue, you're sharing your location with everybody on your friends list. If it's grayed out, you're okay -- but be careful, because you can so easily brush it while you're typing.

You're doing damage control instead of damage prevention.

Say you're tagged in an embarrassing picture or incriminating status update. Do you quickly un-tag yourself and hope nobody saw? Chances are, people did see, because tagged photos show up in the news feed. If you change your settings, the tag won't go live until you approve it.

Go into "Settings", then "Timeline and Tagging" (or click here). Make sure "Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline?" is set to "On."

Facebook knows who you're searching for.

Okay, so nobody but Facebook can see this, but it's still creepy. You'll probably realize you're a stalker, but you'll feel better for deleting the evidence. Go into "Activity Log", click "More" under the photos, likes and comments section, and then click "Searches". At the top right of your page, there should be an option to clear these searches. Do it.

Your past is still out there.

Of course, with this being the Internet and all, there's only so much you can do about your online history. But what you can do is alter the privacy settings for everything you've posted since you joined Facebook. If your older posts are embarrassing or likely to get you in trouble with your boss, you can make sure nobody but you can see them.

Under "Privacy" and "Who can see my stuff?" click "Old posts" and then "Limit old posts". You can also go back along your timeline and delete the posts you don't want, but depending on how long you've had Facebook, that could take a while.

You can find Mary C. Long on Twitter or connect with her here.

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