Chances are, you're not really "friends" with everyone on your Facebook page.
They may be acquaintances, work colleagues, or friends of friends that you just happened to add along the way -- because if you have all those mutual friends, they must be okay, right?
Well, maybe not.
An incident at Northwestern University proved that many people will follow the crowd when it comes to letting people into their social networks, which, of course, defeats the entire purpose of privacy controls.
In 2007, a Facebook profile for "Lauren Cohn" made friends fast -- 143 friends, to be exact -- despite the fact that Lauren Cohn did not exist, at least not at Northwestern University.
Cases like Lauren's show how easily social networks can be infiltrated, and it's not always the user's fault. Facebook's frequent changes to privacy controls often leave less tech-savvy users unprotected.
The phenomenon known as "cyberstalking" became much easier with the advent of Facebook, allowing anyone who gets into your network unlimited access to your status updates, pictures and even vacation plans. Cyberstalking ranges from the mildly annoying (that random acquaintance who comments on or "likes" every one of your posts) to the scary and even dangerous (someone who uses your information to find or follow you in real life).
Aside from the usual "friends only" privacy settings, here are a few simple tips to help keep your Facebook profile private -- and restrict which of your "connections" you want to connect with you.
1. Do some spring cleaning.
If your friends list is loaded with people you don't talk to -- and don't foresee talking to in the future, you may want to ask yourself, why are they there? Don't be afraid of removing connections -- you can always add them again later if you change your mind.
2. Adjust your chat options.
A CNN blogger recently called Facebook chat "the red-headed stepchild in the family of social communication." Not everyone feels that strongly about it, but if you're getting chat messages from people you'd rather not talk to online, there is a way to stop that popping noise.
All it takes is a quick filter setup -- on your Friends page, create a list of people that you don't want to see you online, and then in your chat box, click the green dot next to that list. No more unwanted chat pop-ups.
3. Delete unnecessary applications.
All those applications you add -- from FarmVille to Flixster -- have access to your personal information, and they don't have to play by the same rules as Facebook's privacy controls. If you're not using the application, delete it. You could be closing a loophole into your personal data.
Copyright 2010 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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