Making Your Public Profile a Little Less Public

While that picture from last Friday's party might bring back fond memories, chances are you may not want to share it with everyone you know. Even more dangerous, personal information such as phone numbers, home addresses, and even basic identifying data can be misused when it's displayed publicly. Whether trying to stay secure online or just reducing your "digital footprint", there is nothing better than to privatize!

General Privacy Settings

Where to Find Them

It can often be difficult to figure out exactly where the controls are to change your profile privacy settings. While we will look at Facebook and Twitter accounts more in-depth below, here are a few pointers:

Look for obvious headings, such as "Edit My Profile", "Settings", or "Account Details".

  • If nothing stands out, try checking any drop-down menus, especially those with categories such as "Profile" or "Account."
  • If this doesn't work, you can always try searching the site, or even Googling the site to see if there are more detailed instructions available online.

How Restrictive Should You Be?
There will often be different levels of security that you can customize, and while in general the most restrictive option is best, it's up to your discretion how to configure these settings. Just remember:

  • Categories such as "friends of friends" may include parents, bosses, and a whole host of people whose access you have no control over.
  • Making information available to an entire network could include teachers, administrators, or any of the people mentioned above.
  • If you leave a particular category completely open, then anyone with a computer seeking information about you will be able to access it.

Facebook Privacy Settings

If any social network comes to mind when issues of privacy are discussed, it's Facebook. With these handy tips and tricks you can ensure that your online persona stays secure, both from other users and from companies' marketing efforts.

Making Your Profile Private
To access all privacy and account settings on Facebook, simply:

  • Click the Account button on the top right of the page.
  • Scroll down and choose Privacy Settings.
  • From there you will be able to make all the major changes needed to privatize your profile. You will be directed to a page with a list of all basic Facebook features as well as who can see them. Make sure that for all settings you have "Friends Only" selected. If not, there should be a link in the bottom of the box that says Customize Settings. Click on it and you will be able to edit all your security preferences.

It is not required that you restrict every setting to "Only Friends", but it is highly recommended. At the very least, consider restricting it to "Friends of Friends" or "Friends and Networks." Note that the default settings allow everyone to see your photos, status, and posts - not very secure!

"Places" Privacy Settings
You may have noticed a feature under profile privacy settings for Facebook "places". Under the same page you use to customize your profile privacy, be sure to click "Edit Settings" under the "Things Others Share" category. This will allow you to disable the feature that allows others to "check you in" to places through Facebook without your consent- a good idea if you don't want your entire social network to know where you are at any given moment.

Photos Privacy Settings
To make sure your photo albums aren't the talk of Berkeley, be sure to edit your settings by clicking Edit Album Privacy under the "Things I Share" category.

When you create an album, be sure to change the album settings from "Everyone" to "Only Friends" before uploading.

If you want to be super-safe, you can keep all tagged photos of yourself private - even from your friends - to ensure no embarrassments the day after a big event. To do this, simply click on Photos and Videos I'm Tagged In under "Things Others Share" and select Customize. From there, a new window should pop up that allows you to change permissions to "Only Me".

Application Privacy Settings
Every time you use a Facebook application, you allow it permission to access certain information from your profile. To control what an application can or cannot view or who can view the application, including groups, videos, and notes:

  • Click the Account button in the top right of the page.
  • Choose Application Settings, the fourth option down. You should see a list of all of your applications.
  • For each application, click Edit Settings to the right of it, and you should be able to change the options to "Only Friends" - this controls who can see the information used by these applications.
  • To change the authorizations of applications, or to remove them altogether:
  • Go to the drop-down menu at the top right labeled "Show" and change it to Authorized.
  • From there, click Edit Settings to change an applications authorization, or click the X on the far right to delete the application from your profile.

Search Privacy Settings and Profile Preview
A big concern for many Facebook users is how much information people can access simply by searching for them. To change your search privacy settings:

  • Go to Account and then click Privacy Settings. At the top of the page there should be a header titled "Basic Directory Information" - click View Settings underneath it and you will be redirected to a new page.
  • Here you can control who can search for you on Facebook, send you messages, or even see where you're located. To change this, simply select the drop down menu for each category.
  • Finally, to check how your profile looks to the general public, select the Preview my Profile button at the top of the Basic Directory Information page. By viewing it, you can tweak how much or how little to keep private.

Twitter Privacy Settings

Twitter "hacks" have been all over the news, so here's how to make sure your feed stays secure:

Making Your Tweets Private
Twitter as a whole discourages you from making your tweets private, but remember that whatever shows up on your feed is visible to everyone with Internet access. To make your tweets private:

  • Click on your account picture in the top right of the page, and choose Settings from the drop down menu.
  • Scroll down the options until you reach Protect my tweets. Checking this option will make your tweets visible only to those who you approve to view them. One thing to note is that checking this option may not hide your past tweets, which can still remain public to those searching for them.
  • Another security option is the Add a Location to your Tweets setting. This adds your current location to each of your tweets and is automatically disabled, so consider the pros and cons if you wish to enable it.

Using HTTPS

The URL for a website will tell you whether you are browsing securely or not. Just check to see if it begins with http or https. Https means you are accessing the site on a secure connection, which protects your account from being accessed by another user while you are on a public network. To enable https in Twitter:

  • Click on the account picture in the top right of the page, and choose Settings from the drop down menu.
  • Scroll down to the last option on the page and check the HTTPS Only box.
  • Don't forget to save your changes!