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Facebook’s privacy dinosaur will check your settings for you

Facebook Photo Syncing Raises Privacy Concerns

Facebook has announced that it has started rolling out a new feature which will help you “review and control who you’re sharing with” on the world’s biggest social network.

With a little help from a blue dinosaur cartoon character, the “Privacy Checkup” will allow you quickly review your privacy settings, and see if you’re comfortable with how your account is configured.

Unless you’re a privacy ninja who feels confident that they’ve carefully locked down their Facebook account, I’d strongly recommend that you don’t dismiss the dialog if you see the little blue dinosaur pop up on your screen.

Hi <name>!

We have a new tool that helps you quickly review a few of your privacy settings to make sure they’re set up the way you want.

It should take a minute or two to use. Do you want to check it out?

If you agree to the checkup, you will be taken through a few basic steps.

Firstly, you’re asked to confirm who you wish to share status updates with when you post on the site.

The most common options are “Public” (which means everbody in the universe, whether they are on Facebook or not) or “Friends” (which means people who you have connected with on Facebook). Hopefully you can work out for yourself which of those choices is wiser for the typical user.

But even though you should probably choose “Friends”, be aware that you can narrow down your audience even further when posting on Facebook by using the “Custom” option which allows you to specify particular people, or lists of friends that you have already created.

I don’t recommend the use of “Friends of friends” for most people, as you really don’t have any control or oversight over whom your friends might (perhaps mistakenly) befriend on the social network.

Next up, you have the option of changing the audience who get to see posts made by any third-party Facebook apps you have connected to your account. What many users may not realise is that even if you have locked down your account, a third-party app might be pushing out updates which can be seen by a much larger group than you would perhaps like.

On the screen you’ll find a scrollable list of all of your apps. Not only is this your opportunity to review what audiences they are publishing to on your behalf, but it’s a good time to revoke and delete any apps which you no longer use, or don’t feel comfortable publishing to your Facebook account.

The final step of Facebook’s Privacy Checkup allows you to review who you are sharing your personal information with.

Please note: the Privacy Checkup is no substitute for a thorough check for all of your privacy settings on Facebook, but it’s a good start, and hopefully the blue cartoon dinosaur will be enough to wake some users out of their slumber when it comes to their security online.

Here is all of the above explained in an ever-so-friendly video from the social networking giant.

A natural question, of course, might be why is Facebook going to all this effort now after years of complaints about its gradual erosion of users’s privacy? Well, a cynic might say that the company is feeling the heat, with privacy groups around the world taking the site to task for its lax attitude and sometimes poor attitude towards helping its members stay safe online.

Whatever the reason for Facebook’s Privacy Checkup, it would be churlish to complain that it has taken this step – which will surely help some users.

And don’t forget. Whatever your privacy settings, there is one simple golden rule for sharing on social networks: Never post anything on the internet that you wouldn’t feel comfortable your boss, your partner or your parents-in-law seeing.

About the author

Graham CLULEY

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s, having been employed by companies such as Sophos, McAfee and Dr Solomon's. He has given talks about computer security for some of the world's largest companies, worked with law enforcement agencies on investigations into hacking groups, and regularly appears on TV and radio explaining computer security threats.

Graham Cluley was inducted into the InfoSecurity Europe Hall of Fame in 2011, and was given an honorary mention in the "10 Greatest Britons in IT History" for his contribution as a leading authority in internet security.

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