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3 Ways to Protect Your Privacy on Facebook

Facebook undoubtedly is the greatest social networking tool created.  It has allowed millions of people the ability to easily and regularly connect with friends and family – no matter how far away they are.

Such platforms make it extremely easy to let down our guard and willingly divulge personal information without thinking about who may see it and how it may be used by others, and in turn, how doing so may impact us.

Two weeks ago in this column, I shared some alarming statistics and other details about how Facebook gathers information on you and how various individuals and groups use this information.  Today, I want to provide you three practical ways to protect your privacy on Facebook.

 1.      THINK before you type

Facebook allows you to share a wealth of personal details – your birthdate, relationship status, religious and political views, work and education history, where you live and more.  You need to ask yourself, how important is it that I share this information?  If you decide to share this information, you need to think about how much detail you wish to share – knowing that it can be used by less than honest people.

It’s also very easy to post a status update or upload a photo “off the cuff.”  However, you need to think about WHO can see your post and WHAT potential effects it could have.  For example, if you announce that you’re enjoying a weekend out of town, that could let the wrong people know that your house is empty and an easy target.

Remember, too, that even if you delete something from Facebook, it can remain stored on their servers for up to 90 days.

 2.      Understand you’ve agreed to how Facebook uses your information

When you created your Facebook account, you agreed to certain terms and conditions on how Facebook can use the things you share on the site.  For example:

  • Facebook can use any photos and videos you post in any way they wish without your approval.
  • Deleting any content does not mean that all copies of it are immediately removed from Facebook’s servers.
  • When you use an application within Facebook (such as Farmville or Birthday Calendar), you give the developer of that application access to and use of certain information contained in your profile, as well as potentially information from your friends’ profiles.

Knowing what Facebook and others can do with your information – always abide by Rule #1 – THINK BEFORE YOU POST!

For full Facebook terms and conditions, visit

 3.      Set and regularly review your privacy settings

Limiting who can see certain information about you, who can find you on Facebook, and more requires you to modify the default Facebook privacy settings.

You should take about 30 to 45 minutes to review and change the privacy settings to your liking.  You can download a step-by-step guide to help you choose the right settings by visiting our website at

Once you’ve set your privacy settings, you can’t simply forget about it.  Facebook constantly changes its site, which can affect how your information is shared.  I recommend reviewing your settings at least every other month to make sure your information stays locked down.

Above all, remember Rule #1 – THINK BEFORE YOU POST!  Just because you’ve set your privacy settings does NOT mean that you are completely protected from having personal information shared with others who shouldn’t see it.  You cannot completely lock down what you post or provide on Facebook.

In closing, while Facebook is a valuable and entertaining platform for interacting with others, you must always be on guard with how you use it and what information you share on it.

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What information are YOU sharing on Facebook?

Facebook. It’s the most popular hangout on the Internet – ranking #1 globally and #2 in the United States among the most visited websites.

The ability to “spy” on your Facebook friends can be rather interesting and humorous. Most people share way more about their personal lives and thoughts in this online forum than they would in normal day-to-day conversation. We know more about others than ever before.

But what people knowingly share on Facebook pales in comparison to the exorbitant amount of personal information collected behind-the-scenes by Facebook and other Internet sites. This raises serious questions about your online privacy: What information is being collected?  How is it being used?  Could it fall into the wrong hands?

In this two-part series, we will briefly examine the facts about your privacy on the Internet, followed by providing practical ways you can protect your personal information while still using the social networking sites.

A recent study by Consumer Reports found that:

  • 4.7 million people “liked” a Facebook page about health conditions or treatments (details an insurer might use against you)
  • 4.8 million have posted on Facebook where they planned to go on a certain day (a potential tip-off for burglars)
  • 20.4 million include their birth date on their profiles (can be used by identity thieves)
  • 900,000 discussed finances on their wall
  • 2.6 million discussed their recreational use of alcohol on their wall (can be used by employers and schools)
  • 4.6 million discussed their love life on their wall

This information is willingly provided by Facebook users through status updates, uploaded pictures, comments, and profile details. Most of it doesn’t require special access for others to see it – considering that 28 percent of all Facebook users share all, or almost all, of their wall posts with people other than just their friends.

And others DO use the information you post.

Employers, insurance companies and college admissions departments regularly check Facebook to obtain information on potential employees, insureds, or students. What they find can be used to make a determination about you.

Government agencies, such as the IRS, use Facebook as a research tool in resolving taxpayer cases. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy and consumer rights group, obtained a 2009 training manual that offered this example of how an agent could use Facebook:  “An IRS officer learns that a taxpayer he’s investigating is a comedian who posts a video on a social network to promote previous and upcoming performances. It suggests the agent contact past performance locations to find out how much the comedian was paid or serve the performer a summons at a future venue.”

As mentioned before, criminals and enemies can also use information you post against you.

However, did you know that …

  • Facebook receives a report every time you visit a site with a Facebook “Like” button – even if you never click the button or are not even logged in to Facebook?
  • Your personal information could be given to a third-party without your knowledge if you have a friend using a Facebook app that extracts that data – even if you have locked down your privacy settings?
  • Facebook uses facial recognition software that detects your face in photos, allowing friends to easily tag you – and this is automatically allowed by default?

Sites like Facebook have a reason for collecting this vast amount of information on you. It’s valuable.

Companies appreciate having this detailed market research readily available to them at a very low cost. They use this information to target consumers who are most likely to buy their products or services.

While Facebook doesn’t give these companies your information without your consent, when you click on an ad, “like” a page, or make a purchase, you may be giving them access to more information than you think.

It’s a scary world out there. Because the Internet is an integral part of our daily lives, avoiding it really isn’t an option – especially if you’ve already joined the over 900 million Facebook users.

In the next column, I’ll provide practical steps you can take to protect your privacy and personal information.

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Should You Buy An iPad or Laptop?


“Scott, I’m thinking about buying an iPad and doing some research. I know very little about them, except that they are very handy,” Janet wrote me in an email a few weeks ago. “I’m curious. What are the benefits of an iPad over a laptop?”

With the advent of numerous mobile computing devices like iPad, the Kindle Fire, the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the new Google Nexus 7, many computer users – maybe even you – are asking the same question.

Which is better – a laptop or a tablet?

There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to that question. As with all technology purchasing decisions, it comes down to you answering two important questions: 1) What do you need or expect the device to do?  2) How much are you willing to invest?

What Will You Be Using The Device For?

This is the most important question when purchasing any technology device – or anything for that matter. For example, you need transportation. You can choose between a bicycle, a moped, a motorcycle, a car, and a truck. You have to answer certain questions to determine which of those vehicles will meet your specific needs.

It’s the exact same when choosing between a laptop and a tablet. What will you want or need to do on the device?  Are you only checking email?  Will you do a lot of typing?  Will the size of the screen affect what you will be doing?  Do you need a device that offers plenty of storage for files and pictures?  Will you need to edit pictures?  Will the device be used for business or pleasure?  Do you prefer a traditional keyboard with real keys or an on-screen keyboard?

The list of questions could be quite lengthy. But taking time to answer questions like these will help you make the right purchasing decision. After all, no one likes to buy something only to find out that it doesn’t work like they had hoped.

Tablet vs. Laptop Comparison Chart

Once you’ve decided on either a laptop or a tablet, your work isn’t done. You then have to select among the variety of options available for the product you chose.

For example, if you determined a tablet would meet your needs, you now have to decide between iPad and one of the dozens of Android-based devices. Each of them has its own pros and cons.


How Much Are You Willing To Invest?

Once you’ve determined the right device that meets your needs, then it’s appropriate to consider the cost. You may find the perfect device that fits right in your budget. Or you may find that to get exactly what you need may cost a little more than you had expected. Then you have to decide whether to pay the extra or scale back on what you need.

I personally own both a laptop and a Google Nexus 7 tablet. For most things, I find myself using the laptop because it’s much easier for me to use – a full-size keyboard that’s easier to type on, a larger screen to be able to view documents and websites in their entirety, and the availability of all the software programs that I need to use.

I generally only use my Nexus 7 tablet for checking email, reading Kindle books, checking Facebook and Twitter, and tracking my vehicle mileage.

So many options make it challenging to determine the perfect device for your needs. As always, I’m here to offer advice and help you navigate the ever-changing world of technology.