The most recent changes within the Facebook universe are around how Facebook Graph Search works. The Facebook Graph Search is a semantic search engine that based upon the relationships among users, locations, and activities, focuses search results on the intended meaning of the query and just not the actual terms used.
For example, a viable semantic search request might be similar to “People who live in DC, who identify themselves as libertarians, and who have attended a rally on the National Mall.” Then the results would give you information that was semantically tied to those three points. By itself semantic search is a really cool technology. But there is also a downside.
What makes Facebook Graph dangerous from a privacy perspective is that depending on the privacy settings of a user, the search can pull results from people who are not in your list of friends. For example, if another Facebook user has set their privacy setting as very open, meaning anyone can see what they post, and they meet the criteria of the search then they can show up in the in your results.
Based on this, Facebook now can further suggest new friends with similar interests, Facebook pages you might be interested in, and even bring in relevant information from the Web. If you are comfortable with everyone being able to see your data and you being able to see data from people who have no connection to you, then no worries. If you are at all concerned about your privacy then with these changes it is even more important that you understand the Facebook privacy structure and review your privacy settings.
The first step is to manage who can see what you post. Facebook has split this up into what you have previous posted and what you will post in the future. Under the Privacy Settings section under Who Can See My Stuff at minimum make sure that you set this to Friends. Depending on how you have structured your friends, you might also set this to Friends Except Acquaintances.
The second step is to review your Activity Log. The Activity Log allows you to be selective about which posts appear on your timeline. For example it allows you to examine all of the posts, images, and checkins that you are tagged in. It gives you the opportunity to remove the tag and not allow it to appear on your timeline. It also allows you to manage previous posts, images, comments, etc. You should review and determine what you want to keep on your timeline and what you want to remove. If you have been on Facebook for a while, this could be a long process.
The third step is to consider limiting old posts. What this does is lock down all of your old posts to just being able to be seen by friends. Of course, this is not what Facebook wants because Facebook makes it money off of your data so you will get a pop-up window warning on why you should not do this and that it can not be reversed. Blah, blah, blah. If you value your privacy go ahead and do this and if you want to go back and make specific posts public you can.
Fourth step is consider controlling who can contact you. Who can contact you and request to friend you is a personal question only you can answer. Your two options are either everyone or friends of friends. Not much of a choice. If you are on Facebook, you are most likely to leave this at everyone understanding that you will get definitely get some spam. That is just part of being on the platform.
Along with who can contact you is who can look you up. When it comes to who can look you up, Facebook in their infinite wisdom gives you three options – Everyone, Friends of Friends, and Friends only. If you allow search engines and other applications to link to your profile and timeline, the safest option is obviously Friends only. A second suggestion is that you do not allow search engines to link to your profile and timeline.
Last step is to manage your timeline and tagging. You begin by selecting Timeline and Tagging to the left of the privacy settings. First, if others are tagging you in posts and pictures and then adding them to their timeline, you should consider turning on the Review Tags setting to on. This is set to disabled by Facebook initially, so it takes effort to turn it on. Second, Facebook has added facial recognition to their backend application to automatically generate tagging suggestions. If it bothers you that Facebook is auto-suggesting tags like this, then turn this feature off.
Facebook can be a great way to stay connected to people, ideas, organizations, and movements that are important to you. But Facebook is a company and the way they make money is through gathering your data and selling it. Make sure you make an educated decision about what data they are able to gather and what of your data is visible to others.