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Clear the present danger

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By Vicente Radito David

Coming from the Cambridge Analytica fiasco and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to the US Congress, Facebook recently announced that it is launching ‘Clear History’ – a feature that enables FB users to clear information from their accounts. It’s similar to deleting cookies from your web browser, and is a (long delayed) move to secure the information that Facebook (and all the websites and apps that use Facebook’s ads and analytics tools) has on the social media platform’s 2.2 billion (monthly active) users.

Clear History is a good and necessary move – but it’s far from adequate. Rather than wait for the social media giant to satisfactorily protect us, it would be faaaaaaaaaaaaar better if we audit our own accounts, clean up the things that shouldn’t be in Facebook in the first place, and clear out our own mess from the ever present danger inherent in a social media platform.

Here are the things that you should take down from your Facebook account to protect your privacy and your safety:

1

DATA THAT HELP CRIMINALS

Your birth year, your mother’s name, the street you’ve grown up on, the name of your first pet (yes, the details that you willingly put on those inane online quizzes to know your pornstar name or whatever), and a host of other personal details can help determined identity thieves to pull the rug from under you and steal your accounts. Do yourself a favor and delete these things now. And why in the world would you put your phone number on social media? Are you looking for scammers or stalkers?

And then, there’s the bonus-level kind of dangerous data that we willingly, negligently put out there.If your home address is available on your profile, that’s a key vulnerability to your security. And when you upload humblebrag posts about the hassles of traveling, you alert potential burglars that you’re not home. Photos of boarding passes (with barcode displayed) help data miners collect information about your flight details, your frequent flyer account, and even travel plans.

And just in case you’ve uploaded a photo of your credit card ANYWHERE (FB messenger included), ask your bank to have it replaced immediately. If you haven’t been robbed yet, it’s just a matter of time.

2

OLD APPS

Any app that you’ve allowed to connect to Facebook and get some privileges should be dumped/unlinked/uninstalled once you’ve stopped using it. What is that Farmville account doing in your list of Facebook apps? Revoke its privileges right away. And that funny little thing that posts what you would look like as the opposite sex? It has your data now. Even those ‘Which Game of Thrones Character Are You?’ quizzes which require you to allow some shady app/website to gain access to your account before they give you the result of the quiz should go. And in the future, be more discriminating about the apps/websites you open your account for. After all, you don’t let anybody into your home, right? Why should your social media account be any less secure?

3

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Turn off your geo-data now. If someone wants to do you harm or just know your location for their own benefit (like that traitor in the office who whispers to your boss that you go down to 7-11 eight times a day), you’re giving them a free pass by broadcasting where you are.

If you don’t want to turn off Location Services because there are times that you purposely want people to know where you are (when you Check-In, for example), make sure that your other posts don’t automatically shout where you can be found.

4

YOUR FRIENDS

I’d bet my salary that the majority of your Facebook friends aren’t really ‘true friends’ and just your casual acquaintances. Combing through your Friends List and getting rid of extraneous people not only results to a richer, more meaningful FB newsfeed, it also plugs a gaping hole in your online security. Remember – some of your posts might be visible to the friends of your friends.

If you’re wary of unfriending people because you think the world benefits from your ultra-exciting updates and posts positively overflowing with wisdom, then just create an FB Page and keep your personal account private.

5

PASSWORD CLUES

Protecting your data extends beyond the obvious. That’s why it bears repeating: don’t post anything that might hint at your password or possible answers to security questions. Don’t give specifics about childhood pets, the town you grew up on, your first kiss – anything that you’ve used to lock down your account. Quit doing those inane ‘Which FRIENDS character are you?’ quizzes and ‘What would you look like as a Wookie?’ thingamajigs.

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