Facebook privacy. How to deal with the ultimate oxymoron.

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Way back in 2010, Mark Zuckerberg declared that privacy is dead. “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people,” he said. A month before he made that declaration, Facebook made major changes to its privacy settings, making users’ name, gender, profile pics, city, networks, friend lists, and color of the underwear they have on publicly available, meaning anyone could view them. Okay, so maybe not their underwear. At least we think not.

At First Entertainment, we’re an institution obsessed with protecting our members’ privacy, so it seemed obvious to us even then, but here we are five years later and the public’s view of privacy is pretty much exactly the opposite of what Zuck said.

It’s a tough problem for Facebook. There’s a widespread perception that they are vacuuming up all kinds of information about you, and that is not good. Yet, their entire business is based on selling targeted advertising, and that requires, well, vacuuming up huge amounts of data.

To its credit, Facebook has adapted, with Zuckerberg finally acknowledging that users indeed want more privacy. They introduced new settings, features and apps focused on increasing privacy and allowing information to be shared with smaller, closed groups.

For example, Facebook introduced the “privacy dinosaur”, a cute little fellow that makes users aware that they might be sharing with more people than they originally intended. They launched the Anonymous Login feature, which allows users to sign into apps without sharing any personal information. They launched a privacy checkup tool which allows you to review and manage the content you share. And they greatly simplified their privacy policies.

All good.

But let’s remember that Facebook’s business is data collection, and it even continues when you’re not actually on the site.

As the new(ish) privacy policy states, “We receive information about you from companies that are owned or operated by Facebook, in accordance with their terms and policies.” Directly stated, it means Facebook combines data from the many services it owns, including Instagram and WhatsApp, to form a more complete and personal profile of you. They have data about how you use Facebook, what you post, you and your friend’s demographics, who you share your information with, and much more. This allows Facebook to target ads with great specificity, and as you know, that is how they make money. A lot of money.

Remember, it’s in Facebook’s best interests if everything you ever post is visible to as many people as possible, so even though they’ve renewed their focus on privacy, Facebook’s default settings are configured to allow open, wide sharing between friends.

We suggest you take a few minutes and check out your settings.

1. Opt out of Facebook ad targeting.

Do an online search for a product, and you might soon see an ad relating to it in your Facebook feed. Facebook made this type of advertising the default for all users. Good news though, it’s easy to turn off. Visit the Digital Advertising Alliance. They’ll look at your browser to see which companies have enabled customized ads, then you can look at the results, see each company’s privacy policies, and opt out of all or some of them. On your mobile device, use the setting provided by Apple or Google (Android), including private browsing, blocking cookies and enabling do-not-track.

2. Enable Facebook’s Anonymous Login.

This allows you to log into apps without sharing any personal information from Facebook. Frankly, the word ‘anonymous’ is used loosely here; Facebook will still verify that it’s you and will know what you’re doing, what app you’re logging into. Nevertheless, using this feature will allow third-party apps to post to Facebook for you.

3. Consider your use of Nearby Friends.

This location-tracking feature alerts friends when you’re in the vicinity. When you use it, it turns on your Facebook Location History setting which then builds a database of the places you’ve been, even when you’re not using Facebook. (If you ever want to check out the info, it lives in the history section of your activity log.) If you want to turn off your location history, tap the More button, then Nearby Friends, then tap the gear icon. From that list, tap Location Settings, then switch the Location History feature to off. You can also delete locations from your history. To remove places individually, visit your Activity Log from your desktop and click More, then Location History. To clear your entire location history, click Clear Location History at the top.

4. Check out what other people can see about you.

If you click on the gear icon in your cover photo, then select View As, it’ll show you the information on your profile that is visible to the public. You can even “View As A Specific Person” to see what’s visible to a particular friend.

5. Clear your search history.

Facebook keeps track of everyone and everything you’ve ever searched for. Happily it’s easy to remove. Visit your Activity Log, click More, then click Search. Lo and behold, your entire search history will appear. To remove a search, simply click the Block Icon and select Remove”. There’s even a link at the top to clear all your searches.

6. Privacy Checkup is your friend.

Use this fairly new tool from Facebook to review who you share information with. You can get to it by clicking the Privacy Shortcuts icon at the top of Facebook. Once there, it’ll be easy for you to block information as you wish.

7. Control which photos and posts you’re tagged in.

You can tell Facebook who can see posts you’ve been tagged in. Visit Settings, then Click Timeline and Tagging. You’ll see a setting named “Who can see posts you’ve been tagged in on your Timeline”. Click Edit. Then simply choose your audience. You can also see photos and posts you’re tagged in before they appear on your profile. Go to the same Timeline and Tagging mentioned above, which lives in your Settings page. Then enable “Review posts friends tag you in before they appear in your timeline”.

8. Use Facebook’s Messenger app? Turn off location.

If you’re using the app, Facebook is tracking your location. On Android devices, it tags your location in messages by default. On Apple devices, Facebook asks your permission first. To turn off this feature, tap the arrow or the small circle next to your text box, which turns it from blue (on) to gray (off). You can also turn off your location setting for Messenger in the Settings section of your device.

We’d like to credit and thank Information Week for suggesting the eight items in our list above.

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