It's been a difficult time for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. In late January, Mashable reported his Facebook page was hacked. On Tuesday February 8th, in a seemingly separate incident, TMZ reported that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was allegedly "followed, surveiled and contacted using language threatening his personal safety" ... and the safety of his girlfriend and his sister, by a member of the social networking site.
The reports also stated that the member had "gone to several Facebook offices in Palo Alto attempting to contact Mark to ask for money for his financially-strapped family."
It started with private messages to Zuckerberg through his Facebook profile page. Then moved to trying to see him at his home and then sending handwritten notes and gifts.
Scary? Of course. What does this tell us? Even the person who has been a vocal advocate of the open sharing of information, is not immune to the dangers that can come with all of that sharing.
In my book, The Parent's Guide to Facebook, I outline the top privacy concerns every user should know. Below I will give an overview of the top 5:
1. How your content is distributed on Facebook: To access the “Privacy Settings “ screen go over to the upper right hand corner of your Facebook profile on the blue navigation bar and click on the “Account” tab and choose “Privacy Settings”. For each of the privacy configurations available on the platform, you have 3 main choices: everyone, friends of friends or only friends. It is important that you understand what each of these settings mean:
- Everyone – This is not just everyone on Facebook, this is everyone on the INTERNET. This information is indexed by Google’s search engine as well other search engines. Facebook says, “the "Everyone" setting works differently for minors (under 18) than it does for adults. When minors set information like photos or status updates to be visible to "Everyone,"that information is actually only visible to their friends, friends of their friends, and people in any school or work networks they have joined. That’s still a lot of people to view their personal photos and updates.
- Friends of Friends – This means all of the people you “friended” AND all of their friends. Many people do not understand what this means so I want to be clear. Let’s say you have not “friended” your boss but you have “friended” a co-worker who HAS “friended” your boss. If you have your settings configured to ‘friends of friends’ your boss will be able to see that area of Facebook. If your “wall” settings are set to ‘friends of friends’ and you make a post about how much you hate your boss, he or she will be able to see it. Now might be a good time to remind you that what you post on Facebook should always be considered to be public, no matter what your privacy settings are set to. Use common sense and don’t post things you wouldn’t want others to see.
- Only Friends – The means that only people you “friend” can see your profile information.
2. Be alerted if someone logs into your account. I have had 2 friends in the last week alone who have had their Facebook accounts hacked. A simple setting located in the "account settings" area can alert you immediately when someone has accessed your account. Go to the navigation bar, click "account" and then "account settings." Scroll down close to the bottom and then click "Account Security." In this area make sure the boxes are checked off next to "When a new computer or mobile device logs into this account:" Send me an email, and if you have your mobile device activated in Facebook, you should have the "Send me a text message" option checked as well. Recently, Facebook added a "Secure Browsing (https)" option. This was reportedly in direct reponse to Zuckerberg's account being hacked. A Mashable post describes this: "HTTPS support makes it a lot harder for someone connected to the same network to sniff your password and other data. If the option isn’t available to you just yet, don’t worry. Facebook promised it will gradually roll out the feature in the following weeks."
3. Safeguard your personal information. There is an "info" area on Facebook where you can put in as much or as little personal informatoin as you like. We are conditioned in some ways to "fill in the blanks." This can be dangerous on a social network. If it is not necessary for your participation on the platform, do not fill it in. Primarily check to make sure your home address and phone number are not visible.
4. Control how people can find you on the platform. Go back to "Privacy Settings" and then select the "View Settings" under the Connecting on Facebook option. Within this screen you can control if people can find you on the site and how they can connect with you. If you would like to keep your profile private and only allow people to friend you, take yourself out of the Facebook internal search by changing the "Search for you on Facebook" setting to "only friends." The rest of this screen should be reviewed and you can make decisions on what is right for you.
5. Sharing your location. It amazes me that people will post on Facebook or other places that they are not at home. There have been many news reports about folks being robbed after they have made a Facebook post or have "checked in" at a place. You can control what you post to your profile, simply do not post "I'm on vacation" on your profile. There is also a Facebook Places privacy setting. Go to "Privacy Settings" and then click "customize setting" toward the bottom of the sharing area. In here you can see the amount of privacy controls you have on the platform. I encourage you to go through each of these settings. The Facebook Places setting is in the middle of the screen. You can change this setting to "only me" by clicking "customize". This way, if you check yourself in, it is only visible to you. Also under that setting is an option, "Include me in "People Here Now" after I check in--this option allows others to check YOU in. Make sure the enable box is unchecked.
There are many more privacy settings to cover, but this will get you started. Facebook, like many other social networks, is a moving target and is making changes and adjustments all the time. You may want to come back to these screens on a regular basis and check your settings and how they are configured and make the changes that are comfortable for you. I hope that Mr. Zuckerberg and his family stay safe. This is a good reminder for all of us about the negative side of being too open with our information.