Unlike making a “go to the gym” resolution which will last a couple weeks before you surrender back to the comfort of your couch, using the New Year as an opportunity to take stock of your social media settings can pay dividends later on.
Facebook announced new privacy controls in December, and gave users a reminder to check their privacy settings when they logged in after the change. It’s a safe bet many users simply clicked away the notification, but it’s always a good idea to make sure you know what your privacy settings are, and make sure you’ve thought about what’s available to people who see your social media profiles. (After all, even the founder’s sister recently had issues with a assumed-private photo getting shared publicly.)
Facebook has attempted to simplify its privacy settings page, as well as make it easier to access, with an icon in the menu bar at the top of every page. Clicking it gives you three basic headings: “Who can see my stuff,” “Who can contact me” and “How do I stop someone from bothering me?” From there, you can decide, for example, if your posts should be limited to friends only, open to anyone, or something in between. Options for who is allowed to message you and blocking users are also available in the dropdown, and more detailed settings are available.
Also available through the “See More Settings” link are a few items Facebook doesn’t highlight very much. In the “Ads” section you can determine whether or not your actions on the site – such as “liking” a page – can be used in advertisements aimed at your friends (by default, the site allows such advertising).
One of the most important settings to check is the “Apps” tab, where you can see all the applications which have access to your Facebook information. In many cases, these apps have access to your profile information and can post on your wall. It’s likely there are dozens of apps which you allowed to see one post from a friend, or which you haven’t used in months or years. If you don’t recognize an app or aren’t using it, remove access.
While you’re looking at your Facebook options, it makes sense to take a look at your other social media networks as well. Google+ allows you to choose who can see each piece of information on your profile when you edit the profile information. Twitter has only one main privacy setting – you can set your tweets to be visible to everyone, or only to your approved followers – but there are a few other items to check.
Under Twitter settings you can determine whether or not to show location information with your tweets. If you decide you’d rather not have location information stored, you can also strip it from all past tweets. Like Facebook, Twitter also has a list of all third-party applications which have access to your Twitter stream (click settings under the gear icon in the menu bar, then choose Apps on the left side).
Along with Facebook, Foursquare also recently announced a change to its privacy practices. The check-in service will now show users’ full names everywhere, where previously it sometimes showed first names with only last initials. However, you can remove your last name entirely from the profile if desired. You can also determine who sees your contact information, as well as choosing whether or not business owners see your information when you check in.
It’s likely you also use a number of other site, apps and platforms where you share social information, so it’s worth taking a look at all of them and checking that you understand the privacy settings. Your name, contact information and location are likely saved on several social sites. Everyone needs to determine how much of their information they are comfortable giving out publicly, or to contacts, or to a limited set of friends, and if you haven’t checked your settings it is likely more information than you realize is available though these networks.