We've outlined some of the most popular scams and hoaxes on Facebook, but sadly not all threats are quite so harmless. If you’re going to share intimate details of your life on Facebook, it’s important to consider who can see what you’re posting. Follow our tips to below to make sure your Facebook account is secure from threats that come in all shapes and forms.
The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal has alarmed Facebook users and is behind many choosing to cancel their account for good. But were you affected, and do you need to take action?
From around lunchtime today (9 April) those logging into Facebook from the UK will be greeted with one of two messages:
If you see the message on the left you have nothing to fear, but if you see the message on the right you will know your Facebook account was affected. Click the button to see how you were affected.
Following the scandal Facebook has said it is taking steps to make it easier for users to see what data they are sharing. However, the best way to see what you’re publicly sharing is still to put yourself in someone else's shoes.
Go to your profile page, tap the three dots icon on your cover photo and choose View as. By default you will see your Facebook profile as seen by a random member of the public, but you can also click ‘View as specific person’. If you’re not happy with what you see, follow the tips below to secure your Facebook profile.
It’s also worth checking out Facebook Privacy Basics for a real beginner’s step-by-step guide to Facebook security.
Don't accept all Facebook friend requests
If you don’t know them, don’t add them. Simple. It’s worth going through your friends list every so often and weeding out all the randoms - who knows how they got there.
Watch what your kids are doing on Facebook
Facebook has an age limit of 13 years, but it’s easy to get around and even 13-year-olds need protecting online. If you have a young child using Facebook, check that they know who they are talking to, that those people really are who they say they are, and that what they are saying is appropriate - cyberbullies, pedos and groomers are not something you want your child to experience.
Consider what you post to Facebook
Have you ever read someone’s posts every day on Facebook but walked past them in the street and not even acknowledged them? If the answer to that question is not yes then you’re in the minority.
Not everyone who views your profile is your friend, and not all can be trusted with your most intimate personal details.
One that really bugs us is the airport check-in posts. We might well be jealous that you’re off to soak up the sun for a week, but we won’t be jealous when you return to find your home ransacked and your irreplaceable personal belongings gone.
Share Facebook posts privately
Ensure your profile is locked down so that only approved friends see what you share. To do so, open Facebook and click on the downward triangle at the top right corner of the page and choose Settings. Under the privacy tab you’ll find an option for who can see your future posts. Click Edit and choose Friends, or choose More Options to select a custom list.
This is a global setting, but you can also specify who can see individual posts. Before you hit Post on a new status, click the three dots to the right of the Feeling/Activity button, then from the drop-down menu that appears select Friends or select More Options to specify a custom list.
Secure old Facebook posts
That takes care of future posts, but what about those you shared before you became concerned about Facebook privacy? Still in Settings, Privacy, Who can see my stuff is an option to ‘Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or public?’ Set this to ‘Limit Past Posts’.
Secure Facebook posts you're tagged in
Facebook is a social network, which means it’s not all about what you do but also what your friends do. And they can tag you in all sorts of stuff that will be visible to all on your profile and in the News feed - if you let them.
Open Settings, Timeline and Tagging and carefully check each option here. You can control who can post on your timeline, who can see posts you’ve been tagged in and even set Facebook to gain your approval before the tag is applied.
Hide your phone number on Facebook
Facebook mobile nags and nags until you add your phone number to the service, but you don’t necessarily want that information to be visible to all who view your profile.
Open the drop-down for 'Who can look you up using the phone number you provided' under Settings, Privacy, How can people find and contact me. You can do the same for your email address above.
Block people on Facebook
Having followed the above steps your Facebook profile will be reasonably secure from people not in your friends list. But it’s the ones you do know that could become an issue.
To block a Facebook member from being able to see your profile, go to Settings, Blocking and add their name under Block users. Click Block to save the change.
You can also block existing friends by visiting their profile, tapping the three dots icon on their cover photo and choosing Block.
Restrict what others see on your Facebook profile
There is a middle ground between your best friends or acquaintances and your enemies. For instance: your boss. You can’t reasonably reject his friend request, but you don’t want him to see what you get up to on a Friday night.
Go to Settings, Blocking and choose Edit List next to Restricted List. Add their name here and they will see only what you publicly share (which is hopefully not very much).
Hide your birthday and other personal details
If you’re using the desktop version of Facebook, click the question mark icon to the left of the downward arrow at the top right of the page. Select Privacy Check-up.
The first two steps will take you through limiting who can see your posts and which apps have access to your account. The third option lets you hide certain elements of your personal information, such as your birthday or birth year from your profile.
If there’s something here you don’t want anyone to see, tap on the drop-down and choose Only Me. You can also access these settings from the About tab on your profile page.
Stop randoms adding you as a friend
If you get a lot of randoms trying to add you on Facebook, you can set Facebook to allow only the people who may have a genuine link to you from adding you.
In Settings, Privacy, How can people find and contact you is an option for ‘Who can send you friend requests?’ By default this will be set to Everyone, but you can change this to Friends of friends only using the drop-down menu. If they don’t know any of the people you know, they won’t be able to add you.
Choose which apps can post to Facebook
Every time you like a game or service on Facebook it is added to your apps list, and some of these apps may have been unwittingly granted permission to post to your profile whenever they like without first requiring your approval. Worse, they can access your data - so you might want to stop that.
Go to Settings, Apps and have a browse through the apps listed here. Underneath each app is information about who they can share information with. I set all mine to Only Me, since I find apps and games that post your achievements an annoyance, especially when they clog up the News feed, but you can also choose Public, Friends, Friends of Friends or Custom.
In this pop-up window you can also see what information is shared with the app - if you’re not happy, hover the mouse cursor over the app and click the X to remove it.
Change your Facebook password
Forget about what people can see on your profile for a moment. Consider that with the correct knowledge they could directly access your account and make posts on your behalf, read your private messages and even lock you out of your account. Facebook has a whole section of its Settings menu devoted to this - you’ll find it in Settings, Security and login.
Here you’ll be able to do such things as approve only certain apps and browsers from accessing your profile (in other words those on your own phone or PC), get a notification when someone logs into your account, use your phone as an extra layer of security and more.
If you ever have any reason to suspect someone has access to your account, change your password. You can do this in Settings, Security and Login, Change password. Be sure to use a strong password that won’t be easily guessed.
Protect Facebook from advertisers
Facebook is a free service, but increasingly makes money from adverts displayed on the site. Targeted advertising is that which looks at your activity, likes and history in order to serve up ads most likely to appeal to you. In many ways that’s a good thing, but some people just don’t like advertisers having access to so much information about them.
Open Settings, Ads and study the options here. You can choose to allow or deny targeted advertising, and also stipulate whether your friends can see adverts about things you appear to endorse.
If you’ve done all this and still aren’t satisfied, the best way to go off the Facebook radar is to delete your account.