You're completely mastered your social networks' privacy settings. Facebook? Check. Twitter? Locked down. Google+? Deleted. (Just kidding! Sort of.) But then Facebook removes a setting and Instagram adds messaging, disrupting the delicate ecosystem of privacy protections you've worked so hard to create. Security firm AVG says they have the cure with PrivacyFix, free software that lets you manage privacy settings across all your social networks from a centralized dashboard.
From the dashboard, you can keep an eye on your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ settings. If the networks tweak a setting, PrivacyFix alerts you. The software also tracks the trackers that each network uses to follow you around the Internet and lets you block more than 1,200 of the most common trackers. There are plenty of browser extensions that prevent cookies from tracking your online activity, but PrivacyFix is aiming to be the one-stop shop for your online privacy protection. For the ultra-paranoid, the dashboard has a neat feature that tells you how much your data is worth to Facebook and Google. (It's just a drop in the bucket.) The software is accessible from the Web as well as on iOS and Android apps.
AVG recently updated the Android app to add an extra Do Not Track tool: a feature that prevents Wi-Fi tracking while you're out and about. PrivacyFix allows your Wi-Fi to turn itself off when you're not near one of your normal networks at home or work.
The family that Facebooks together
AVG is currently testing a new tool, PrivacyFix Family, which is a way for parents to keep an eye on their kids without friending them on Facebook. But Jim Brock, the AVG's vice president of privacy products, says teens are also teaching their parents about Facebook's complicated settings. You can see what each family member's privacy settings look like on the Facebook app and then start a conversation about sharing information online. You can't change anyone's settings--that's where the whole discussion part comes in--but you can at least see what's going on.
"Maybe we're building the features that Facebook would build if anyone at Facebook had teenage kids," Brock says. "Maybe they don't understand these issues because they haven't been through it. We're trying to fill the gaps in the social network."
Thousands of families have signed up for the public beta of PrivacyFix Family. AVG doesn't disclose overall user numbers, but Brock says PrivacyFix has grown rapidly since its launch last September with the rest of AVG's 2014 security product line. Part of the software's appeal could be tied to ongoing revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance efforts, which have ensnared Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and other tech giants in a maelstrom of controversy.
"Users can't expect to be protected. They're not waiting for a law to protect them. They're turning to a product like ours," Brock says. "We talk about privacy as power over your data--whether it's social, websites, or apps. I think people understand better now that to assert that power, they have to step forward, they have to take action."