Despite ongoing reports about teens fleeing Facebook, the site continues to draw more than a billion users a month. As Zuckerberg's baby celebrates its 10th birthday this week, more people claim they are thinking about abandoning the shiny blue and white digital world for greener pastures.
However, many of us are far too invested in Facebook to jump ship. Personally, it's the only place where we can quickly get the gist of what's going on with everyone we know, from our nieces and nephews to our grandmas and grandpas. Professionally, it's the only place where we can count on all of these people liking, sharing, and talking about our products and services.
For anyone who wants to say on Facebook, it's worth doing something we've forgotten that we're actually in control of doing: protecting our privacy.
A few lines below your Privacy controls, within Settings, you'll see a section called Ads. When you click on this, there are three different categories: Third Party Sites, Ads and Friends, and Website and Mobile App Custom Audiences. For the first two options, to avoid ads through Facebook social plugins and to avoid social ads, click Edit at top right and simply choose "No one" in the drop down menus.
The latter, for example, will ensure that when you like a company, this action will not be associated with an ad that the company can display to one of your friends. For the third category, click on the "Opt out" option to ensure that Facebook doesn't "show you ads based on your activity on an advertiser's websites or apps."
Every time you install an app on Facebook, you're giving that company access to a certain amount of personal information. There are some apps that you probably do use on a regular basis, so perhaps you're OK with them having access to your profile picture, username, and other details. However, for many of us, we've installed dozens of apps over the years that we no longer use.
In short, it's a good idea to dive into this section (Select Settings - Apps - Apps You Use) to remove the app entirely from your account. For example, I just checked my account and I have 119 apps installed. I can remove the apps I no longer use (which is pretty much all of them); I also have the option to go into the apps I do use to adjust the privacy settings within.
As tempting as it might be to post a photo of your home's new paint job or your kid's new school, there are other ways to share these moments with your family and friends (like email, for example). While it's understandable and easy to use Facebook as an online diary of sorts, as our online networks get bigger and we get less restrictive about who we let in, it's worthwhile to keep some parts of your life private. Moreover, it's questionable whether we should be posting as many photos of our children as we do—after all, there is a strong argument that they deserve the right to a clean slate when they're old enough to go online.
None of this means you should stop using Facebook altogether, but do take 30 minutes to fine-tune how much personal information you're sharing unknowingly. Despite some of the site's downsides, Facebook continues to be a solid platform for socializing, brand-building, and organizing. Moreover, it doesn't cost a cent to use, but it could cost you your privacy if you're not careful.
[Image: Flickr user Rosino]