How to Use Facebook Securely

There’s a lot of routine activity on Facebook that I bet people would think twice about if they considered it from a security perspective:

  • How many times have you seen posts like, “I’m out at Starbucks getting my morning coffee and reading the paper…” Great!  All a burglar (or the NSA) needs to know is WHEN you are at Starbucks, so they can ransack your house, and carry off your computer with your top-secret documents.
  • If some creep thinks you’re cute, all they need is to know WHEN and WHERE you are so they can start stalking you.
  • What about when a prospective employer asks to see your Facebook profile, and starts looking at the pictures of you at that drunken party last night?  Oops.

How much information about yourself are you putting online? Whatever it is, it is probably too much. I do have a Facebook account, but there’s not much on there.  What is safe to post? My daughter, a 20-something, uses two rules of thumb:

  1. She only posts about past events (things she’s already done)– that way there’s no “where and when” information to tempt stalkers or robbers.
  2. She doesn’t post anything that she wouldn’t want her family, employers, and the kids she volunteers with to see.

I do have a Facebook account, but there’s not much on there (besides the photos that my daughter tags me in). That’s because I just don’t trust Facebook. Have you ever watched the movie “The Social Network”?  What an insight into the creation of Facebook.  Consider carefully:

  • How does Mark Zuckerberg choose Facebook’s first employees?  Remember the scene when they are having a race to break into a computer, drinking shots of alcohol, and the first hacker that breaks into the computer becomes an employee of Facebook?  That scene was terrifying to me!  You have the brightest hackers in the world (remember, this happened at Harvard), very knowledgeable, malicious enough to break into a computer, and THOSE are the people who are programming Facebook?  They are telling you that your Facebook account is secure?
  • Remember how Mark Zuckerberg treats Eduardo Saverin?  Eduardo Saverin is the guy that put up the money that Mark Zuckerberg needed to create Facebook.  Initially, Eduardo Saverin had a 34% ownership in Facebook, because he was the guy with the money.  Then, later in the movie, in a malicious deal, Mark Zuckerberg screws Eduardo Saverin out of his ownership share, and dilutes his Facebook ownership to 0.03%!!  Consider, if Mark Zuckerberg treats his FRIENDS like that, how is he going to treat YOU?  He doesn’t know you, and judging from past behavior, he probably doesn’t care very much about you, or the security of the personal information you enter into Facebook.

If Facebook says they are concerned with security, it is only because they are being forced to by some competition (Google+) and some bad publicity.  Facebook isn’t concerned about the security of your information. They are more interested in how to leverage the information you enter into Facebook to do some Targeted Advertising.

After all, Facebook makes its money by advertising.  That’s why, amongst my friends chatter,  I am seeing come-on pictures of women that I don’t know trying to sell me stuff.  These “saleswomen” used to just be on the side.  Now, they are inline, in the middle of my friends chatter, where I have to glance at those ads.

Just remember, whatever you post out there in public will be viewable by many, many people (maybe millions of people) for a very long time, maybe for your entire lifetime.  And the vast majority of those people are not your “friends.”

To summarize, here are some pointers for using Facebook securely:

  1. If you want something to be private, don’t post it ANYWHERE on the Internet— and especially not on Facebook!
  2. If you must use Facebook, then only post about past events and stuff that’s not in any way incriminating.
  3. Don’t “friend” people who you’ve never met in person.
  4. Don’t assume only your “friends” will see your posts.  If there are any security weaknesses at all, your posts may become accessible to the entire Internet.
  5. If you have overly chatty friends on Facebook, refer them to this post.
  6. Don’t judge people by what you see online.  Online identity and real identity are two completely different things.
  7. If you want to meet someone, meet them at public place surrounded by a lot of other people.


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