How to Use Facebook Safely

by Paul Higgins

Your Facebook account probably contains private information you don't want to fall into the hands of strangers, from private messages exchanged with friends to photo albums. Protect your privacy by preventing unauthorized access to your account and editing your Facebook privacy settings.

Prevent Unauthorized Access

Choose a Secure Password

Malicious users employ a variety of techniques to guess your Facebook password, from trying to log in to your account using passwords based on your personal information -- such as your date of birth or maiden name -- to running scripts that try a list of hundreds or thousands of commonly used passwords in sequence. To prevent those users from successfully using such techniques to log in to your account, change your current password to a more secure one.

Tip

  • Secure passwords typically contain a mix of numbers and letters. In addition, they should preferably not contain common English words or words that a malicious user can easily guess. For more information about choosing a secure password, visit this page on Boston University's website.

Change your current Facebook password by visiting the General Account Settings page and clicking Edit next to Password.

Edit Your Facebook Security Settings

Facebook offers several security features that help prevent unauthorized access to your account or warn you of suspicious activity.

Enable one or several of those security features by visiting the Security Settings page and clicking Edit next to the feature you want to activate:

Security Settings page on Facebook.
  • Enabling Login Alerts sends a warning to you by email, Facebook notification or text message when someone logs in to your account using a new device or browser.
  • Activating Login Approvals requires you to enter a verification code sent to your phone when logging in from a new device or browser, to prevent users who do not have access to your phone from logging in.
  • Manage and review your current devices or browsers by clicking Edit next to Your Browsers and Apps and Where You're Logged In.

Edit Your Privacy Settings

Facebook lets you choose the audience for each of your posts. Use this feature to prevent strangers from seeing your personal information.

Visit the Privacy Settings and Tools page to edit who can see your Facebook posts.

Privacy Settings and Tools page on Facebook.

Choose the audience for your future posts by clicking Edit next to Who Can See Your Future Posts and selecting an appropriate group from the drop-down menu. For example, select Friends to prevent people who are not currently friends with you on Facebook from seeing your posts.

Tip

  • Selecting Public displays your posts to everyone.

Select Limit Past Posts and click the Limit Old Posts button to change your old posts' privacy settings from either Public or Friends of Friends to Friends.

Tip

  • Clicking Limit Old Posts changes the privacy settings of all your previous posts.

Click Edit next to Who Can Send Me Friend Requests if you only want friends of friends to be able to send you friend requests.

Select who can look up your profile using the Facebook search engine by clicking Edit next to the first two options in the Who Can Look Me Up group.

Prevent Google or Bing from indexing your Facebook profile by clicking Edit next to Do You Want Other Search Engines to Link to Your Timeline and selecting No from the drop-down menu.

About the Author

Paul Higgins has been working as a writer since 2005, covering topics such as travel, technology, health and finance. He has also served as a Web developer and information technology trainer for more than 10 years. Higgins graduated from the University of Denver in 2006.