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Navigating the New Facebook Privacy Settings

Facebook is at it again! Just when you thought you had everything figured out, they’ve gone and changed things. While the most obvious change is to the news feed that appears as your homepage when you log in, there are a number of other settings that were changed behind the scenes. These changes affect your personal privacy as well as your access to the information your network puts out. Here are a few of the things to be sure that you check to guarantee your Facebook account is set up just the way you really want it.


Subscriptions Is the name given to the feature that dictates what information appears in your news feed when you log in to your account. Most people probably thought those bits of data just showed up automatically, but they are actually now governed by an application that tracks every activity in your network.

The privacy issue with subscriptions has to do with its default and optional settings. On a default level, when subscriptions were rolled out, you were automatically subscribed to all of your friends’ feeds. That seems nice, except that they were also subscribed to everything you do. The application also created the option for you to enable non-friends to see your comments and activity by opening your profile to the public. To shut down over-sharing, you need to go into the Subscriptions page and make manual changes friend by friend (at this time). You should probably also double check that you are not making your profile public if you’d rather keep your life to yourself, and un-friend anyone you really, really don’t want seeing your personal information, since accidents do happen.

Application Permissions Cut

Facebook Applications (apps) are a dominant feature of the system these days. From games to surveys to birthday calendars, most users are plugged in to multiple apps. Those apps now have greater latitude to share your personal information and activities with the world.

In the past, whenever applications wanted to share something about you, they had to ask you every time (i.e., “Tell your friends about your high score?”). Now, applications just have to ask your permission when you sign up to share information about your activities from now until the end of time. There are already customers complaining, but in the meantime, the only option you have is to manually change your application settings by disabling their permission in your account settings tab. Unsubscribing and then re-subscribing also gives you the chance to shut down permissions, though there is no doubt this is inconvenient. However, now just might be the time to take a second look at what applications you do use and which are merely being virtual spies on your life.

The “Like” Button Expands

Facebook’s “Like” button already has fierce haters. However, advertisers and marketers love the “Like” button out on the web, as it helps them track “user engagement” with their brands and products. As a result, Facebook is expanding what the “Like” button concept can do, enabling other activities with the same button click process.

Now, instead of just “liking” something, there are also Facebook Gestures to let you let your friends (and marketers) know what you’re doing everywhere on the web. You can check that you are watching a specific video on YouTube, listening to music, buying gifts, and so on. While some may think of it as simple over-sharing, for many of us it’s another stab at our privacy.

How can you avoid it? Remember to log out of Facebook every time you leave, so that you are not actively logged in as you surf the web. This prevents the application from recognizing you. When you do “Like” something, remember that this logs you in to Facebook, and you will need to manually log out again.

Love it or hate it, Facebook seems to be an ever-more-popular part of human life. More than 800 million people are members, with nearly 500 million daily visits to the site. All that traffic and all those eyes are looking to see what’s new, but with a bit of care, you can ensure that the details of your personal life and activities don’t get thrown out there for the public to see.

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