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Take the Facebook Privacy Check-Up

Late last month Facebook introduced yet another set of changes to its much-criticized privacy settings. However, these changes have one distinguishing feature that sets them apart from most of the other changes over the last two years: they are actually quite helpful!

The changes consist of a set of easy-to-locate links, which Facebook has termed Privacy Shortcuts. These links encourage users to perform a quick check-up on their privacy settings, and also act as a constant reminder of the privacy issues that are most important.

Once the changes go into effect, Facebook users will see a new window at the top of their home pages titled Please take some time to review who can see your stuff. If you have already bypassed that window, then you can return to the Privacy Shortcuts at any time by clicking on the new lock icon at the top-right of any Facebook page.

The Privacy Shortcuts are divided into three distinct areas: Who can see my stuff? Who can contact me? and How do I stop someone from bothering me?

Who can see my stuff?

This, of course, is the most important question for any Facebook user concerned about his or her privacy. The Shortcut explains how you can control who can see your future posts by adjusting the settings at the time you post, but it also guides you to two of the most powerful – and underutilized – tools on Facebook: the Activity Log and View As.

The Activity Log is basically an archive of everything that you have ever posted on Facebook, or anything others have posted about you. You can review by category – Posts, Photos, Likes, etc. – or by timeline, all the way back to the time you joined Facebook. You get the chance to delete or hide old posts and photos, and even ask others to delete photos that you’ve been tagged in. (Keep in mind that you can only delete old posts and photos from your own timeline. These posts and photos can still appear elsewhere on Facebook.)

View As allows you to see what your timeline looks like to the public or to a specific friend. (Again, even if you hide something on your timeline, it could still appear in your news feed or elsewhere on Facebook. If you don’t want someone to see a certain post or photo, don’t post it on Facebook!)

Who can contact me?

This Privacy Shortcut allows you to control who can send you friend requests and whose messages you see. The new Message Filters are Facebook’s attempt to make its messaging system more useful by filtering out unwanted messages or spam. Users have a choice of Basic or Strict Filtering, with unwanted messages ending up in an Other folder as opposed to the regular Inbox.

How do I stop someone from bothering me?

Here, Facebook provides a shortcut for blocking someone, as well as a way to view existing blocked users. Other Privacy Shortcuts allow you to adjust who can look you up using the email address or phone number you provide to Facebook, and whether various third party search engines can link to your timeline.

As suggested above, taken together these new tools provide Facebook users with an excellent way to perform a quick privacy check-up, while acting as a reminder of what’s important when we consider how exposed our Facebook accounts might be.

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