5 privacy fixes your Facebook News Feed needs by New Year's

It seems like Facebook is constantly adding new settings or changing old ones. Sometimes it's under the guise of simplifying your options, like with the new Privacy Basics walk-through. Other times it's because new kinds of ads are coming and Facebook wants you to be prepared. So there's no better time than the present to update your privacy permissions than the present. Let's face it: You're not going to remember to check on your Facebook settings once the chaos of holiday parties and New Year's resolutions takes hold.

The bare minimum

Facebook has made it much easier in recent months to see what information you share, who can see what you post, and how Facebook uses the data it collects on you. For people who don't use Facebook very often, the network's own Privacy Checkup, which rolled out this September, is a solid refresher.

The guide, led by a helpful blue dinosaur, quickly walks you through basics like your default audience for all posts (friends, public, or custom), which apps have permission to access your Facebook account, and what kind of information on your profile is visible to the public. Privacy Checkup is easy to access on the top blue menu bar in your News Feed (denoted with a lock icon), useful, and fast, but you need to go deeper into your Facebook settings to get to the good stuff.

Delete ad preferences

Facebook shows you ads in your News Feed to make money. No surprises there. But you have way more control over how the platform uses your personal information to target ads to you than you realize. When you see an ad in your feed, there is a small grey drop-down arrow on the top right of the ad. This innocuous little arrow is the key to unlocking how and why the ad appears in your feed. Just select "Why am I seeing this?" from the list of options for an explanation. For instance, if you've given a company your e-mail address, it can cross-reference that information against Facebook's database to serve you an ad.

That same section will give you the opportunity to manage your ad preferences. Facebook has a roster of information about you based on pages or causes you like, your location and check-ins, and online browsing activity when you're logged into Facebook. Some of this information is accurate, while some of it is hilariously off-base. Facebook seems to think I'm an artist in my spare time, which I wish were true but isn't at all. You can delete all of these preferences if you don't want Facebook to target ads to you, or you can add more relevant preferences to get ultra-tailored ads. If you delete your preferences, note that you'll have to do this regularly because Facebook likes to keep adding information to your roster.

Cover your tracks

To prevent Facebook from following you around the web and marketing to you based on your activity on other sites, you'll need to opt out of tracking cookies with the Digital Advertising Alliance. It takes a second for the DAA to submit your requests with the slew of companies who want to track you, and you'll have to do it for each browser you use. Once you're done, Facebook will recognize the opt-out across all your desktop and mobile web activity. There are also settings within iOS and Android you can toggle on to limit ad targeting for an extra boost.

You get the last word

Do your friends and family like to tag you in posts and photos you'd rather not appear on your Timeline? Instead of retroactively untagging yourself, use my personal favorite privacy tool: Timeline Review. It's a little tough to find, but once you turn it on, you'll have complete control over what appears on your page. Follow these steps to activate Timeline Review on your home computer: Settings > Timeline and Tagging > Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your Timeline? > Edit > Enabled.

Yeah, it's not exactly simple, but once you turn on Timeline Review, posts and photos you're tagged in will go into a queue for you to review. You can either approve a post to appear on your page or banish it. If you leave items in the queue, they'll languish there and won't be visible to your friends.

A better News Feed

The biggest complaint about Facebook that I hear from friends, family, and people on the Internet is one even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledges: The News Feed algorithm withholds some content you might actually want to see. But there are a few tricks to seeing all updates from your preferred pages and friends. If you add people to a Close Friends list, Facebook's algorithm will recognize that you want to see more from those users. In your News Feed, tap on Friends > More > Close Friends > Add Close Friends. Once your list is filled out, you can choose to receive notifications every time those chosen few post.

Facebook has been cracking down on pages spamming News Feeds with useless links and photos, which is mostly a good thing. But what if you want to read updates from your favorite local businesses or find out about deals from retailers? Well, you'll need to take action. First, like the pages you want to appear in your News Feed. There's an arrow next to the Like button you can tap on a page to see more options. Select "Get notifications." Facebook will tell you when that page posts something, even if it doesn't appear in your feed.

These steps will take some time to work through, but once you're done, your News Feed will be a slightly less annoying place. (But not perfect: I'm not a miracle worker.)

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags securityFacebookprivacy

More about FacebookNews

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Caitlin McGarry

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place