Time to Take the Facebook Privacy Checkup

Over the years, Facebook has taken some well-deserved heat for making its privacy settings overly complicated, but that all changed in December 2012 with the introduction of Privacy Shortcuts. Accessible from the little lock icon at the top right-hand corner of any page, the Privacy Shortcuts allow Facebook users to perform a quick check-up of their privacy settings, and also act as a constant reminder of the privacy issues that are most important. Here’s how they work:

Privacy Shortcuts are divided into three distinct areas: Who can see my stuff? Who can contact me? and How do I stop someone from bothering me?

Who can see my stuff?

This, of course, is the most important question for any Facebook user concerned about his or her privacy. The Shortcut explains how you can control who can see your future posts by adjusting the settings at the time you post, but it also guides you to two of the most powerful – and underutilized – tools on Facebook: the Activity Log and View As.

The Activity Log is basically an archive of everything that you have ever posted on Facebook, or anything others have posted about you. You can review by category – Posts, Photos, Likes, Comments, etc. – or by timeline, all the way back to the time you joined Facebook. You get the chance to delete or hide old posts and photos, and even ask others to delete photos that you’ve been tagged in. (Keep in mind that you can only delete old posts and photos from your own timeline. These posts and photos can still appear elsewhere on Facebook.)

View As allows you to see what your timeline looks like to the public or to a specific friend. (Again, even if you hide something on your timeline, it could still appear in your news feed or elsewhere on Facebook. If you don’t want someone to see a certain post or photo, don’t post it on Facebook!)

Who can contact me?

This Privacy Shortcut allows you to control who can send you friend requests and whose messages you see. The new Message Filters are Facebook’s attempt to make its messaging system more useful by filtering out unwanted messages or spam. Users have a choice of Basic or Strict Filtering, with unwanted messages ending up in an Other folder as opposed to the regular Inbox.

How do I stop someone from bothering me?

Here, Facebook provides a shortcut for blocking someone, as well as a way to view users you have previously blocked. Other Privacy Shortcuts allow you to adjust who can look you up using the email address or phone number you provide to Facebook, and whether various third party search engines can link to your timeline.

Taken together these new tools provide Facebook users with an excellent way to perform a quick privacy check-up, while acting as a reminder of what’s important as we all continue to expand our online presence.

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