How do I protect my identity on Facebook?

I’m a bit apprehensive about the amount of data Facebook collects about me. How can I control who this gets given to?

This question came out of a Twitter conversation I was having with Rob from Bloggeries who pointed out that you can never actually delete an account from Facebook. This sparked off this post which is aimed at less experienced users than Rob and myself, who might need to find this information.

Facebook has been getting better at giving users control over which data about themselves is available to the entire world. They have been introducing more and more features that allow you to see and restrict access to your personal information, but the default settings are still very open and if you don’t know what’s being distributed it’s harder to control.

Your privacy controls are located in the tabs at the top right of every Facebook page. If you click on the link you are presented with a number of areas where you can control your privacy settings:

Let us say you want to control why has access to your personal and contact information. If you click on Profile, you can get to see the different groups of information you can restrict access to:

As you can see, there are a number of areas where you can control access to and there are quite a few options as to what you can control. So, let’s say we wanted to restrict access to our contact details:

As you can see, each of the different contact information has different settings, ranging from No access to my telephone number, to my email address which can be seen by the Friends of my Friends and anyone in my Networks, but not by Leo for example. There is quite a bit of granularity around the security settings that gives you a pretty fine level of control as to who can see what. Ok, it’s a bit like muscle growth, it’s a slow and arduous process, but you can get there with enough effort.

Now, back to Rob’s comment. What if I REALLY want to delete my account off Facebook. Well, from what I’ve found out you’ll need to follow the following steps:

  1. Make sure your Facebook account contains a contact email address
  2. Delete all other email addresses your account may contain (work, school, secondary email addresses). The only email address in your account should be the one in Step 1 above
  3. Deactivate your Facebook account
  4. Register for a new account using an email address other than the one in Step 1 above
  5. Once you are signed into your new Facebook account, add the email address in Step 1 above to the account. Open the link in the confirmation e-mail that you receive. This step will wipe out your previous Facebook account, rendering it inaccessible.

I haven’t actually tried this process, so would appreciate any comments from someone who has.

2 thoughts on “How do I protect my identity on Facebook?”

  1. Great post; I guess twitter is good for something besides carpal tunnel ;). I also think the aftershock of facebook is yet to be felt. Many younger people adding ridiculous party pics of things they think are cool “now” may regret it later depending on the vocation they choose.

  2. @Bloggeries: Yeah, and I think there are already stories to that effect. Amazing how some people don’t control what information they disseminate. But I’m pretty sure we’re just as guilty as they are

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