Making the latest Facebook Safe

Well, making Facebook 'safer' anyway.

May 31st was supposed to be Quit Facebook Day. With only 0.005 percent of Facebook's 500 million users electing to quit, I think we can safely call it a flop.

It's not that people aren't ticked off at Facebook; it's just that they're not mad enough to actually walk away from it. In part, that may be because there really isn't a new alternative social network for people to move to. I also think, it's in part, because people never take security seriously until it blows up in their faces.

After all, if you can't talk your company into updating from XP SP2 to the far safer SP3, why should Joe and Joanie Facebook be any different?

Still, while Facebook still hasn't done the one simple thing that's needed to make Facebook far more private and secure than it is now-lock down your sharing options from the start-they have made it easier to protect your privacy.

To get at the new privacy controls now, click your way over to Facebook's Privacy Tab. Your first stop here is Basic Directory Information

The interface is a bit of a mess, you need to click on "View Settings" at the end of the second line to get to them. Once here, set all of these to the Friends Only, except for "Send me friend requests," which must be Friends of Friends or higher.

Now, head back to the main privacy face, and dump Facebook's lame default settings and switch everything over to Friends Only.

Next, hop over to Facebook's Applications, Games and Websites settings. Here, make sure that the only applications you're using are the ones that you actually want to use. If there's any on there you don't recognize: Kill them. Now. I recommend using as few applications as possible, but if playing Farmville makes you happy, who am I to tell you no.

While you're on this page, set your "Game and application activity" to be shared only with friends. You should keep in mind that some people, like say me, can't stand to see dozens of game updates every day you may want to use the option of using a custom setting of friends only with a list of those folks that you know don't want to hear about your latest Mafia Wars exploits.

As for the "Info accessible through your friends" setting, that one is mis-named. It actually gives other Web sites and applications that your friends may be using permission to snoop around your information. Turn all of them off.

It's at this point, by the way, that Facebook reveals in that page's footnote that "your name, profile picture, gender, networks and user ID (along with any other information you've set to everyone) is available to friends' applications unless you turn off platform applications and websites." And how do you do that? Good question. I haven't been able to find a good answer.

It seems that any information you share with your friends is only as safe as their settings and applications are safe. That leaves me with a sinking feeling in my stomach since security, like anything else, is only as secure as its weakest link. The most practical way of handling this, I think, is to minimize your personal information on Facebook and dump some of your 'friends.'

If you're having trouble with someone who just wont' stop bugging you about being your Facebook friend or who's already pestering you with Facebook application invites, use the Block List function to keep them out of your hair. They may still bury you with phone calls and e-mails, but at least they'll be leaving you alone on Facebook.

So, there you go. Facebook is still far, far from perfect, but at least it's some better than it was. Now, if they'd only do something about those Facebook-borne malware programs like "Distracting Beach Babes."

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