Here are five things you need to know about the new privacy and security settings on Facebook:
- Know what is now considered "publicly available information." Here's what the EFF has to say about this:
Under the new regime, Facebook treats that information — along with your name, profile picture, current city, gender, networks, and the pages that you are a "fan" of — as "publicly available information" or "PAI." Before, users were allowed to restrict access to much of that information. Now, however, those privacy options have been eliminated.
Visit all five of the privacy setting pages. There are settings buried in all of these pages, so make sure you take a few minutes to peruse all of them to make sure.
- Keep your friends close and your pages closer. You've heard of the Facebook "gaydar" project, right? People can tell a lot from who you friend. While sharing who your friends are can help you get more friends, it may reveal more information than you know. The EFF again:
[A]lthough you used to have the ability to prevent everyone but your friends from seeing your friends list, that old privacy setting ... has now been removed completely from the privacy settings page.
You can now tweak who can see your friend list by going to your profile and clicking on the pencil on the top right corner of your friends box. What you still cannot change is who can see the pages you are a fan of -- there is simply no way to remove that information from your public, searchable profile unless you make your profile not searchable by anyone, a rather harsh setting that will significantly limit your ability to grow your friends network. If you're a little embarrassed by your fan pages, delete them.
- Create a dummy test account to test all your settings. While the "Preview My Profile" button is helpful, the interaction between the various complicated settings is sometimes surprising and the best way to test all possible settings is to create a temporary fake account. This is relatively easy to do, and last I checked, doesn't even require a valid email account to accomplish. Use it to test how viewable and searchable your profile is. For instance, it's not completely obvious how to turn off your Wall to non-friends, but this can be adjusted in the "Posts by Me" section" (which I was surprised to see defaulted to "Friends and Networks" -- umm, no, thank you).
- CUCme? Remember playing that game with a child young enough not to realize that if they cannot see you, you may still be able to see them? The same holds true in Facebook -- there is no reciprocal privacy on Facebook, so just because you can't find somebody else doesn't mean that they cannot find you. If other people have their search privacy settings more constricted than you, they will be able to find you while you may not be able to find them. The most problematic effect of this could have to do with banning other profiles -- in order to find the person you want to ban, they have to be searchable by you, so banning only effectively works while you're still friends with someone. This seems strange, because -- not that I'm in the practice of banning lots of people -- banning is typically an afterthought that occurs to Facebook users after they unfriend someone.
PC World has their own "top 5" list of things to consider. In summary, to quote an old TV show, "be careful out there!"