Facebook Security…Should Parents Worry?

I really enjoy my Facebook time and I know it’s an application for young people…but I think the talented 23 year old that created Facebook, did it just for me!  It really helps preserve sanity for a stay home mom to feel connected to the outside world when the walls start closing in. :grin:

It’s been so cool to hook up with people I went to Elementary and High School with.  I went to great schools, met awesome people, but for whatever reason, didn’t stay in touch with many school mates.  Re-connecting with so many on Facebook has been lovely as I have nothing but great memories of those days.  Extra special with Francesco starting Kindergarten this year, as I longed for him to have the same Elementary school experience that I had. It’s been neat to walk down memory lane and remember special times.

In my life before children I had a technical background with some experience in email and Internet security.  In the back of my mind I always have a nagging concern with sticking pictures of my children on Facebook and having conversations about daily activities with my family either via the wall or status updates.  So for my own peace of mind I started testing with a friend, just to see how secure my profile was.  As it turned out, my security wasn’t locked down enough to ease my mind.  Not to sound paranoid, but I’m often shocked at the fact I have access to pictures of other people’s photos and I’m not their friend!  That means there are parents posting pictures of their children on Facebook and their security is wide open.  If this is the case, anyone with access can save a picture from your Facebook album to their hard drive.  I’m not trying to scare anyone, as I think Facebook security is ruled firstly by common sense and basic precautions, but there are some settings that need to be adjusted after first creating your account.  Isn’t it interesting that these new-age parenting questions didn’t even exist a few years ago?  Here a few tips to get you started…I will continue to post Facebook security tips in future articles, but here are the basics.

1 Remove your birthday.
In the age of identity theft, it’s just not necessary to advertise your birth date.  When you first create your Facebook account, you need to submit your birth date, but there is an option to change it from being viewed on your profile.  To remove go into: Profile, Edit (option next to Profile), under your birthday, select the drop down arrow to display “Don’t show my birthday in my profile.” Select the “Save Changes” button. 

While in your profile, under the Contact field, do I need to say more about listing your phone number, home address, etc.?  Probably best to only leave your email address and/or cell number.

2. Profile settings.  To change these controls, you need to access your Profile setting again, but through the ‘Privacy’ option, rather than following directions from point 1.  If you access your Profile though this menu option, you get a new set of important security options.  To keep things simple, I would recommend changing every option under this category to ‘Only My Friends’.  Why?  By default, Facebook allows all of your networks and friends to view your profile.  If you view the size of many networks, hundreds of thousands of people could have access to your personal information.

3. Photo Albums. Because of reasons I’ve highlighted above regarding pictures of our children being on the Internet, this is a very important option.  You should check the privacy options on each of the albums you currently have under your profile.  Funny enough, the security could be different on each album.  To check the security, go to your main profile page, scroll down to your albums and select “See All”.   Select “Album Privacy” and all of your albums will appear with an option called “who can see this?”  Each album of your children should be tagged as “Only Friends”. Make sure to select ‘Save Settings’ when you are finished.  Why?  Here is a scary example that I see over and over again with my own friends and Facebook.  If my friend ‘comments’ on a picture in one of my Facebook albums, depending on his/her Profile settings, that picture and comment are posted on his/her wall. If my security is not set properly within my album, my friend’s friends could access my picture from that profile page and then start surfing through my entire album.  Some people have hundreds of friends…do I want these people that I don’t know to have access to my pictures? 

Also, back to my point about Facebook and common sense, I would recommend that nude pictures of your children be left off Facebook. I know kids are beautiful in the buff, but there have been security hacks with Facebook and pictures in the past according to this MSNBC article.

Funny enough….as I click around the privacy settings of my Facebook account to write this article, I can see that Facebook developers have changed security options from the last time I looked at my settings.  I can’t find the option called ‘Online Status’ that I had one time disabled.  This option could be changed so that ‘No one’ had access to view if you were online.  Funny (and a little scary) that we trust our information to people we’ve never met.

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2 Responses to Facebook Security…Should Parents Worry?

  1. Yvette May 29, 2008 at 12:08 am #

    Hey… I love this article, I had no idea about the security of the albums, so thank you! Just so you know, you can change your ‘online staus’ by clicking on the privacy button, then choosing applications, click on ‘other applications’ . You’ll see two colums and on the right side you can unclick the one that says online precence. I’ve told all my mummy friends to get connected to your site….
    take care.

  2. Susan September 17, 2008 at 6:53 am #

    Blimey – I didn’t realise what I’d been sharing with the world – thanks for that.

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