Facebook is the biggest and best-known social network, but that doesn’t mean its users don’t need to keep their wits about them. Here’s how to secure your Facebook account and protect your privacy on Facebook. Plus: the Facebook hoaxes you can ignore. Also see: Best Facebook tips & tricks

If you’re going to share intimate details of your life on Facebook, it’s important to consider who can see what you’re posting and, also, if you’re potentially sharing a personal detail too far. Follow our tips to below to make sure your Facebook account is secure from threats of all shapes and forms.

Update 23 November 2016: A new Facebook Messenger scam will attempt to install a malicious browser add-on that can steal private data. Click here for full details on how to avoid the Facebook Messenger scam.

How to secure Facebook: Keep Facebook private

The best way to see what you’re publically sharing is to put yourself in the public’s shoes. Go to your profile page, tap the three dots icon on your cover photo and choose View as. By default you will see your Facebook profile as seen by a random member of the public with whom you’re not friends, but you can also click ‘View as specific person’ if there is a certain friend for whom you have limited your posts (see below). If you’re not happy with what you see, follow the tips below to secure your Facebook profile.

Facebook privacy

It’s also worth checking out Facebook Privacy Basics for a real beginner’s step-by-step guide to Facebook security. 

How to secure Facebook: Don't accept all friend requests

If you don’t know them, don’t add them. Simple. It’s worth going through your friends list every so often and weeding out all the randoms - who knows how they got there.

Facebook security

How to secure Facebook: Keep an eye on kids

Facebook has an age limit of 13 years, but it’s easy to get around and even 13-year-olds need protecting online. If you have a young child using Facebook, check that they know who they are talking to, that those people really are who they say they are, and that what they are saying is appropriate - cyberbullies, pedos and groomers are not something you want your child to experience.

How to secure Facebook: Consider what you post

Have you ever read someone’s posts every day on Facebook but walked past them in the street and not even acknowledged them? If the answer to that question is not yes then you’re in the minority. Not everyone who views your profile is your friend, and not all can be trusted with your most intimate personal details. One that really bugs us is the airport check-in posts. We might well be jealous that you’re off to soak up the sun for a week, but we won’t be jealous when you return to find your home ransacked and your irreplaceable personal belongings gone.

How to secure Facebook: Share posts privately

Ensure your profile is locked down so that only approved friends see what you share. To do so, open Facebook and click on the downward triangle at the top right corner of the page and choose Settings. Under the privacy tab you’ll find an option for who can see your future posts. Click Edit and choose Friends, or choose More Options to select a custom list. (Certainly do not choose Public, and you should choose Only Me only if you wish to be a loner. In which case Facebook might not be the best place for you.)

This is a global setting, but you can also specify who can see individual posts. Before you hit Post on a new status, click the drop-down to the left of the Post button and again choose Friends or select More Options to specify a custom list.

Facebook security

How to secure Facebook: Secure old Facebook posts

That takes care of future posts, but what about those you shared before you became concerned about Facebook privacy? Still in Settings, Privacy, Who can see my stuff is an option to ‘Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or public?’ Set this to ‘Limit Old Posts’.

How to secure Facebook: Secure posts you're tagged in

Facebook is a social network, which means it’s not all about what you do but also what your friends do. And they can tag you in all sorts of stuff that will be visible to all on your profile and in the News feed - if you let them. Open Settings, Timeline and Tagging and carefully check each option here. You can control who can post on your timeline, who can see posts you’ve been tagged in and even set Facebook to gain your approval before the tag is applied.

Facebook security

How to secure Facebook: How to hide your phone number on Facebook

Facebook mobile nags and nags until you add your phone number to the service, but you don’t necessarily want that information to be visible to all who view your profile. Open the drop-down for Who can look you up using the phone number you provided under Settings Privacy, Who can look me up. You can do the same for your email address above, and below you can specify whether your Facebook profile should be listed by search engines such as Google.

Facebook security

How to secure Facebook: How to block people on Facebook

Having followed the above steps your Facebook profile will be reasonably secure from people not in your friends list. But it’s the ones you don’t get on with who could become an issue. To block a Facebook member from being able to see your profile, go to Settings, Blocking and add their name under Block users. Click Block to save the change.

If it’s a friend who you’ve decided is no longer a particularly good friend you want to block, go to their profile and tap the three dots icon on their cover photo. Choose Block.

Facebook privacy guide continues on the next page