Facebook is known for the lack of privacy and selling personal information. Here’s a solid plan on how to be informed about who is using your information and where. Did you know that even when you purposely do not publish your real name or phone number, Facebook has found a way around that issue to still give out your data. Want to see?

According to this recent article posted on Law.com,

The FTC alleged that Facebook violated the FTC Act, which bars unfair and deceptive conduct, by falsely promising consumers that their information would be kept private. “On numerous occasions, Facebook violated its privacy commitments to hundreds of millions of users,” said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz in a conference call with reporters.  

For example, the FTC alleged that Facebook changed its Web site in December 2009 so that previously private information, such as friend lists, were made public without warning users in advance or seeking their approval. Facebook also failed to reveal that third-party apps could access nearly all of users’ personal data. Facebook also promised users that it would not share their personal information with advertisers, but did so nonetheless. The company also claimed that when users deactivated or deleted their accounts, their photos and videos would be inaccessible. But Facebook allowed access to the content, even after users had quit.

The settlement bars Facebook from making any further deceptive privacy claims, requires that the company get consumers’ approval before it changes the way it shares their data, and requires that it obtain periodic assessments of its privacy practices by independent, third-party auditors for the next 20 years.

Facebook learned its lesson, right? Special Monitoring by no other than our government, (eek,) a slap on the hand… they hung their heads in shame? Not so much.  According to CBSNews.com, another privacy leak has been found. Just one week after the settlement was announced users found that their private photos were on display:

A member the bodybuilding.com forum discovered a security flaw in Facebook that would allow anyone to access a user’s private photos. That discussion thread has since been deleted.  The method was a roundabout way that would only come in handy if you wanted to block a user or report obscene photos.  Once a person is reported, an option popped up to help Facebook filter out the obscene content. If you checked off the “inappropriate profile photos” option, another box would give the option to report “nudity or pornography.” If this option was selected, Facebook displayed all of the user’s private photos.

How does Facebook get away with it all? The answer is very, very, simple: We are really, really ignorant. We are too trusting and far too kind when it comes to giving away our personal data.  I started cracking down over a year ago on who had my information and who I allowed to use it willingly. The first steps I took, was to truly lock down my Facebook profile. This meant, I controlled what people could see, how much they saw and whether or not my information was used in their advertisements.  I routinely check my Facebook monthly to make sure that my settings stay the same way I left them, (Facebook has been known to change user settings randomly and blame ‘glitches.’)

Protect yourself in 3, easy steps:

1.) Settings

One important setting that you need to be aware of is Facebook Ads. To find your advertising settings, go to: Account Settings —> Facebook Ads and read all the text. There are hidden check boxes after links. (Notice how it’s not straight-forward?) You need to look all over your profile settings for how Facebook has hidden it’s deceptive practices.

Ads shown by third parties

Facebook does not give third party applications or ad networks the right to use your name or picture in ads. If we allow this in the future, the setting you choose will determine how your information is used.
You may see social context on third party sites, including in ads, through Facebook social plugins. Although social plugins enable you to have a social experience on a third party site, Facebook does not share your information with the third party sites hosting the social plugins. Learn more about social plugins.

Edit third party ad settings

Ads and friends
Everyone wants to know what their friends like. That’s why we pair ads and friends—an easy way to find products and services you’re interested in, based on what your friends share and like. Learn more about social ads.
Here are the facts:
  • Social ads show an advertiser’s message alongside actions you have taken, such as liking a Page
  • Your privacy settings apply to social ads
  • We don’t sell your information to advertisers
  • Only confirmed friends can see your actions alongside an ad
  • If a photo is used, it is your profile photo and not from your photo albums

Edit social ads setting

To find out about instant personalization, go to: Privacy Settings —>Apps, Games and Websites —> Instant Personalization —> Edit Settings. A video will come up telling you to be excited about selling your information for free. (Yes, I’m serious.) After you are done watching the video, you have to press CLOSE. Then you’re given access to your own settings.  What does it say?

Instant Personalization
We’ve partnered with a few websites to provide you with great, personalized experiences the moment you arrive, such as immediately playing the music you like or displaying friends’ reviews. To tailor your experience, these partners only access public information (like your name and profile picture) and other information you’ve made public.

When you first arrive at the following sites, you’ll see a notification message and an option to turn off the personalized experience:

To turn off instant personalization on all partner sites, uncheck the box below.

Know all those annoying articles that come up in your timeline about what atrocious news stories your friends are reading? You can unclick that box and your information will not be shared with your friends.

2.) Photos

In October, I signed in to Facebook to see a photo of my friend Mandy getting a procedure done to her face. Knowing she was gorgeous, but way too busy to model, I decided to give her a call. “Mandy, you’re getting hair removal on the right hand side of my Facebook.”  She died laughing, (that was, until I emailed her the photo.) She recognized her own face instantly. Her children also pointed to the photo and said, “Mommy!” Mandy was very uncomfortable. The worst part? It was for a new hair-removal company in Minneapolis. Her photo had been stolen and photoshopped. It certainly grabbed my attention. When I asked Mandy if she locked down her photos she said, “No, because the kids are cute and I want family to be able to see.” It was then that Mandy got a very rude awakening. Anyone can right-click on a photo on facebook and save it.

Rule #1: Always, always lock down your facebook photos, especially  if you have children.

In early November, my profile photo was stolen and used for another person’s profile. How did I know? Facebook recognized the face with their recognition software and suggested that I friend myself. Many people reported the photo and the fake profile was taken down as a TOS violation.

Rule #2: Always watermark your photos. This is something I’m going to start doing, TONIGHT. I’ll use easy watermarking software and make sure all my photos are never used for advertising purposes. Will it deter someone 100%? No. Will it make it harder for them to use the photo? Yes. The only 100% deterrent, is to not use Facebook.

Did you know that simply uploading sharp and clear images anywhere, you make yourself the target of stolen identity or photos?

Rule #3: Never, ever upload ‘high-res’ images on  your facebook. If you need to keep client’s photos, or brand photos, consider using Flickr, a great alternative to Facebook photos with way, more privacy.

3.) Ditch the unsecure password

On every website you visit and subsequently give your personal information too, if you don’t protect that information with a hearty password, you might as well hand over the keys to your bank account or identity. Passwords are being hacked more and more often. To protect yourself, make sure your password has at least  variables. What are variables?

1.) Uppercase letter

2.) Lowercase letter

3.) Number

4.) Punctuation

5.) Symbol

Here’s an example of a poor password that looks good: 121399jfg  It looks solid, right? If that’s one of your children’s  birthdays or perhaps your anniversary, STOP IT! It’s easy to hack, especially if your information is everywhere. Consider a password like this: G1raff3!23  It’s easier to remember then you think. Keep your passwords on a secure file, (flashdrive that is with you not with the computer,) or a piece of paper in a locked cabinet. Think I’m over-reacting? Here is a great article from over 4 years ago. Remember, technology has changed A LOT in the last few years. If a layman or woman can do it, any machine can.

You can stay safe by educating yourself about the risks and knowing how certain websites are using your private data.