Facebook: do what it takes to protect your image online

I cannot connect to Facebook during work hours, due to a nefarious blocking service that ensures I stay productively at work for the duration of the time I am paid to be at my desk, energetically pouring over  contracts, letters of intent, amendments and other legal documents.  Nevertheless, I am still on Facebook.

I cannot connect to Facebook during work hours, due to a nefarious blocking service that ensures I stay productively at work for the duration of the time I am paid to be at my desk, energetically pouring over  contracts, letters of intent, amendments and other legal documents.  Nevertheless, I am still on Facebook.

Without a doubt, this presents a quandary.  In recent years, Facebook usage has exploded, becoming the social networking destination for over 350 million (!) users.  (Apropos: only about 100 million of them are in the US, and the second largest group comes from Turkey…who would have thought?).  Further, I use Facebook for both social networking and professional networking because, really, is there a clear line between the two?  I make friends with people I work with, and I hope my friends will send work my way.

All this is complicated because Facebook, like so much of the web now days, on occasion changes their rules and regulations, updating what can and cannot be seen by viewers on the web (beyond my “friends” that I’ve already permitted to visit my page).  With so much personal information available online, a few precautions are wise.  Dennis Kennedy, an attorney from St. Louis, had some great suggestions for a starting point:

1) Use a strong password and change it on a regular basis. A corollary: Don’t give your Facebook password to anyone who asks for it, especially if the request comes in an e-mail or message. Phishing is the term used for efforts made by the bad guys to obtain your username and password, and phishing efforts abound in the Facebook world. There are also plenty of stories of passwords being guessed or stolen and accounts compromised and misused.

The solution is to take great care with your password, use a strong password and change it on a regular basis. By “strong” I mean a password consisting of a string of eight or more characters with a combination of letters, numbers and symbols that don’t include words, a common pattern or obvious numbers or names. The best thing you can do after reading this column is to change your Facebook password.

2) Review and make appropriate changes to your privacy settings. Facebook has a profile privacy page that lets you establish settings for who can see a variety of different types of information and otherwise lets you control your privacy settings. Go to it, review and understand the default settings, and make appropriate adjustments. A word to the wise: Think long and hard before you make anything available to everyone.

3) Be discriminating in your use of Facebook apps. Several people I know have installed Facebook apps (games, etc.) and later found, to their embarrassment, that all their Facebook friends had learned the latest movie they saw or how much they won playing online poker. Apps also ask for your username and password, another area of concern.

4) Take control of what others can put on your page. Your wacky friends in real life are likely to be wackier on Facebook. Some of their material might be displayed on your Facebook page or “wall” unless you adjust your settings. A common area of concern is photos that people tag with your name.

5) Consider using “friend lists.” Facebook allows you to create lists of friends (family, work, classmates, etc.) and treat the friends in each list differently in terms of what they can see and do.

And what to do when a boss “friends” me?  Likely, I will have to accept, and then just be aware of what I post.

What do you do to protect your online presence?  Do you have one?  How do you manage to keep it safe?

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One response to “Facebook: do what it takes to protect your image online

  1. always a good reminder. Thanks

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