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How to: Protect your Facebook privacy

Plug Facebook information leaks

Whether you're a committed telly addict, a tabloid aficionado or a web surfer extraordinaire, every couple of days seems to bring another security scare. Here, we show you how to protect your privacy in Facebook.

Whether you're a committed telly addict, a tabloid aficionado or a web surfer extraordinaire, we're sure you can't help but notice that every couple of days seems to bring another security scare. Scare stories make for good headlines, of course, but some affect you more than others. Such is the case with privacy - something we're increasingly expected to manage for ourselves.

There are plenty of straightforward ways to claw back some peace of mind. As we outlined in our in-depth look at the latest online security threats, the little bits of information with which we furnish web apps can be collectively turned against us.

A good example is the Facebook app that asks what single topped the charts the day you were born. I don't mind admitting that my answer to this is one of those dated comedy tracks. But I'm not about to amuse Facebook's entire London network (several million-strong and counting) with its details, particularly when doing so narrows down my date of birth to a seven-day period. How many guesses does a hacker need to correctly ascertain and make use of my date of birth (DOB) on an official form, such as applying for a credit card? Not many, given those odds.

Changes to Facebook's interface now promote the idea of searching, Friends Reunited-style, for old acquaintances based on school years. Again, you're semi-publicly drilling down into the detail and then proudly displaying the results.

If you and five of your friends all went to the same school, it takes only one person to list their DOB for a snoop to reasonably deduce that you were all in the same school year.

Don't even get me started on the dangers of posting your full address, phone numbers and myriad other details that only true friends should be privy to. And it's no better if you have a blog and post the information there. Web crawlers will happily serve it all up on a platter to anyone who knows how to use a search engine skilfully.

It's great to share; it's even better to check first who you're sharing it with.

Plug Facebook information leaks

Step 1. Click Account at the top right and choose Account Settings from the drop-down menu. From here, you can swap your existing password for a stronger alphanumeric one. It's also a good idea to remove your maiden or middle names if you included them at registration.

Facebook privacy step 1

Step 2. Click the Networks tab to check you're happy with the sharing settings for any network you may have joined. You're no longer required to join a network, however, so you may prefer to remove yourself from it altogether. Also consider unlinking your Twitter and MySpace accounts, your personal blog and so on.

Facebook privacy step 2

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