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Facebook privacy settings: Most important security checks to do now

Between security and revelations surrounding Facebook’s tracking policies, it’s no secret that your privacy is at risk with the social network.

Facebook has revealed a tracking technology called pixel, which website developers can add to their site’s code to track Facebook users for ad targeting. Mozilla and the Markup teamed up to get a closer look at Facebook’s pixel tracking network. Tap or click here for our report and see how you can become part of the study.

While you could quit Facebook, you may not want to leave behind your family connections, groups, friends and more. You can reduce your exposure by fiddling with some settings and still enjoy the social network. Keep reading for ways to take some of your privacy back.

How to change privacy settings on Facebook

Facebook’s new Privacy Center aims to let you know what data the social network is collecting. It’s divided into five modules: Security, Sharing, Collection, Use and Ads. Each one contains some controls and settings you can change.

To access Privacy Center, open Facebook on your computer and click the down arrow in the top-right of your screen. Then click Settings and Privacy and tap Privacy Center. Note that you may not have access to the tool yet, as it’s still being rolled out to users. Tap or click here for more details on Privacy Center.

You don’t need to wait for Privacy Center to change privacy settings on Facebook right now. The following instructions are for the desktop version unless otherwise indicated.

1. Disconnect Off-Facebook Activity and delete it

When you visit a website or use an app, it may share your data with Facebook. This is used for targeted advertising and suggestions on the Facebook platform. You can review, delete and disable this setting.

  • Click the down arrow in the top right of Facebook.
  • Select Settings & Privacy > Settings.
  • Click Your Facebook Information from the left column.
  • Click Off-Facebook Activity to review. From here, you can also click Manage Your Off-Facebook Activity for more information. You’ll be asked to re-enter your password.
  • Click Clear History in the right column to delete your history so far.
  • Click Manage Your Off-Facebook Activity, then Manage Future Activity twice. From here, you can toggle off Future Off-Facebook Activity to disable the feature.

Tap or click here for more information on Facebook’s offsite tracking.

2. Keep Facebook from listening

Facebook says it doesn’t listen to what you’re saying, but this depends on you. Your settings affect how much your devices and apps hear what you say, so it’s a good idea to check up on permissions.

To check Facebook’s mic permissions on iPhone:

  • Open Settings, scroll down to your apps and select Facebook.
  • Slide the toggle next to Microphone to the left to disable it.

To check Facebook’s permissions on Android:

  • Tap Settings, then Apps & notifications.
  • Scroll down to Facebook Permissions. You’ll see a list of all the permissions requested by Facebook here.

You can also get a microphone blocker or make one yourself. Tap or click here for tips on getting this done.

3. Change who can find or see you and your posts on Facebook

Want to keep strangers or exes from finding you? Here’s how to do it:

  • Click the down arrow in the top right of Facebook.
  • Select Settings & Privacy > Settings.
  • Click Privacy on the left. In the How People Find and Contact You section, you’ll see a setting for your email and a setting for your phone number:
    • To update your email setting, click Edit to the right of Who can look you up using the email address you provided?
    • To update your phone number setting, click Edit to the right of Who can look you up using the phone number you provided?
  • Select who can look you up using that info. Choose from Everyone, Friends of friends, Friends, Only me.

While you’re at it, clean up your friend’s list. Remove people you don’t know or have no interest in staying in contact with.

4. Make your past posts less visible

You can limit who can see your past Facebook posts. For example, keep your posts inside your friend’s list:

  • Click the down arrow in the top right of Facebook.
  • Go Settings & Privacy > Settings.
  • Click Privacy in the left column.
  • Tap Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public?
  • Click Limit Past Posts > Limit Past Posts to confirm.

5. Don’t allow search engines to link to your profile

If you don’t want people to be able to find your profile with a Google search, change this setting:

  • Click the down arrow in the top right of Facebook.
  • Select Settings & Privacy > Settings.
  • Click Privacy in the left column
  • Click the Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile? section.
  • Uncheck the box labeled Allow search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile.

6. Hide your location

Facebook uses your location to let you find places and friends nearby. It also targets you with content that’s tagged with your location, along with relevant ads. You can turn this off from your phone’s settings.

To turn off location access for Facebook from your iPhone:

  • Go to Settings and scroll down to the Facebook app.
  • Tap Location and select Never.

To turn off location access for Facebook from your Android phone:

  • Tap Settings, then tap Apps.
  • Scroll to the Facebook app and tap it.
  • Tap Permissions, then tap Location.
  • Select Don’t allow.

7. Limit ad tracking

Facebook targets you with ads based on your activity on its platform, but it goes beyond that. It tracks you across other websites, online retailers and more. These are known as partners. Here’s how to stop Facebook from using its partners’ data to show you personalized ads:

  • Click the down arrow in the top right of Facebook.
  • Click Settings & Privacy > Settings.
  • Click Ads in the left menu.
  • Click Ad Settings, then click Data about your activity from partners.
  • Toggle the switch to the left under You can choose whether we can show you personalized ads based on data about your activity from partners, and you can change your choice at any time. It should say Not Allowed after toggling the switch.

8. Enable Timeline Review

When someone tags you in a post or photo, it automatically appears on your Facebook profile. This is not always a good thing, so you may want to see what you’re tagged in before accepting it. This is where Timeline Review comes in:

  • Click the down arrow in the top right of Facebook.
  • Select Settings & Privacy > Settings.
  • Tap Profile and Tagging from the left column.
  • Toggle on the switch for Review posts you’re tagged in before the post appears on your profile? 

9. Set up trusted contacts and a legacy contact

Getting locked out of your Facebook account can be a nightmare, but you can let trusted friends help you out. They’ll be able to send you a recovery code with a URL you use to get back into your account. Best of all, you don’t need to share any private information. Choose wisely! Here’s how to set them up:

  • Click the down arrow in the top right of Facebook.
  • Select Settings & Privacy > Settings.
  • Click Security and Login from the left column.
  • Click Edit next to Choose 3 to 5 friends to contact if you get locked out.
  • Click Choose friends and follow the on-screen instructions.

We all have to go sometime, but have you thought about your affairs in relation to social media? You can leave it in the hands of someone else to manage, known as a legacy contact. Not only can they manage your friends, posts and tags, but they can close the account if they choose to.

  • Click the down arrow in the top right of Facebook.
  • Select Settings & Privacy > Settings.
  • Click Memorialization Settings
  • Click the Choose a friend field and add a friend. Facebook will let your legacy contact know that you chose them.

10. Enable 2FA

Two-factor authorization, or 2FA, adds an extra layer of security in addition to your password. If you set up 2FA on Facebook, you’ll be asked to enter a login code or confirm your login attempt each time someone tries accessing Facebook from a browser or mobile device that it doesn’t recognize. 

  • Click the down arrow in the top right of Facebook.
  • Select Settings & Privacy > Settings.
  • Click Security and Login from the left column.
  • Click Use two-factor authentication and choose a security method.
  • You can use an Authentication app to generate one-time codes, a Physical security key or Text message to receive verification codes.

Bonus

Regularly check your activity log to see if someone is snooping. It could be someone you trust, as one woman found out. It turns out her boyfriend was unfriending men on her Facebook account.

Facebook parent company Meta has a message on how Facebook says it protects its users’ privacy and security. Give it a read and see what you think.

Facebook’s Privacy Checkup Tool helps you review some of your privacy and security settings. You can also set up reminders to use it:

  • Click the down arrow in the top right of Facebook.
  • Select Settings & Privacy > Privacy Checkup.
  • Click the three dot menu on your screen, then click Set Up Reminders.
  • Click the circle next to how often you want to get reminded to do a Privacy Checkup.
  • Click Save.

Want to delete Facebook for good? Tap or click here to learn how to do it correctly.

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