How to Secure Your Privacy on Facebook

Facebook acts like it’s a fun social media platform for users of all ages — and it is a guise that works effectively as they continue to collect their users’ personal data. The platform already faced a settlement in 2019 due to privacy concerns. However, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen recently revealed that the company still actively chooses corporate profit over public good. In fact, research confirms that social media platforms directly expose young users to harmful content through deliberate designs and algorithms. So if you’re a social media user, here’s what you need to know about how social media platforms use your data.

What Happens to Your Data on Social Media Platforms?

Social media platforms currently have over 3.6 billion active users. Most of these individuals join these apps to connect with others, which is why no one anticipated that it would be a platform for manipulation and disinformation.

This has prompted experts, like Silicon Valley pioneer Jaron Lanier, to speak up about the dark truths behind these platforms. Lanier’s book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now revealed that social media platforms are constantly monitoring their users to collect data. Corporations then utilize this personal information to manipulate the users’ behavior through targeted social media ads. The book points out that these dangerous advertisements can twist one’s relationship with the truth, distort political views, and influence consumer behavior.

Similarly, reporters Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang revealed that Facebook has also become a platform for disinformation. Their book Ugly Truth emphasized that the social media platform requires each user to surrender personal information upon signup. Unfortunately, this data can be used for targeted advertisements that contain false content. In short, the personal information you share on the platform can be utilized by different entities to manipulate your perceptions for their own benefit.

How Can You Secure Your Privacy on Facebook?

Be Vigilant with Friend Requests

Protect your privacy by being careful with friend requests. Our previously published article here on Iowa City Technology Services states that scammers can infiltrate your account and collect personal information by pretending to be people that you know. Once they gain access to your account, they can use personal information from your posts for identity theft, social engineering, and hacking purposes. Thus, accept requests only when you can verify the legitimacy of the account.

Limit the Access of Your Connected Apps

You can prevent Facebook from running targeting ads by putting a stop to the third-party apps and websites that share your personal information. CNBC states that you can do this by managing your off-Facebook activity through the privacy settings of the app. To start, click the “Settings & Privacy” button then tap on “Settings”. Under the “Your Facebook Information” heading, click on “Off-Facebook Activity” then open the portion called “Manage Your Off-Facebook Activity”. This will help you look into all the apps that are feeding your personal data to Facebook.

Use the Privacy Settings and Tools

Furthermore, you can regain control over your personal information by looking through other privacy settings and tools on your social media apps. Some important tools that you need to turn off are the app’s data trackers, your location data, and even facial recognition features. This limits the amount of data that the app can gather from your usage. You can also limit the users who can see your photos and posts by tweaking your privacy settings.

Facebook is a useful app that allows users to connect with people from all over the world. However, you need to be aware that it can access your personal data through your usage as well as through third-party platforms. However, by restricting your privacy settings, you can prevent the app from accessing your personal information and utilizing it for malicious purposes.

ABOUT — The above article was written by Isaac Burton, and then reviewed and posted by Greg Johnson.

How to completely backup and restore your Facebook account.

In these two videos, you’ll learn how to completely backup and restore your Facebook account — even to another user account — using Acronis software. This is important in case your account gets hacked, suspended, or content is mistakenly deleted. For those wanting to shut down their Facebook presence, it provides a way to keep your content accessible.

Facebook Account Backup

Facebook Account Restore


Source: Acronis (19 May 2017)

Facebook: Be careful when accepting friend requests from people you know.

Problem Summary

We’re all familiar with the warning to be cautious when accepting emails or social media requests from people we don’t know. Now it’s important to use caution when accepting friend requests from those we do know. Here’s why.

  • Scammers will setup a fake ‘imposter’ Facebook account using your friend’s name and maybe two or three of their photos. Then they will send you a friend request.
  • Because the friend request comes from someone you know, you’re less likely to be skeptical about it.
  • Additionally, because a few of your common friends will have already been duped into the scam, when you see the request come in,  you’ll see that you have several friends in common and that will further reassure you that the request is legitimate.

At this point, the snowball effect begins. The people behind these scams seek to build massive databases of names and personal information for identity theft, social engineering, and hacking into accounts.

You and those you know, who may have their Facebook content marked as ‘viewable by my friends and their friends’ are exposed to having all their content and list of friends stolen and misused.

So, for this reason, be VERY careful when accepting friend requests on Facebook even from people you know.

What To Do if You’re the Target

If someone has setup an imposter account pretending to be you, don’t post a message saying “my account has been hacked” because then your friends won’t know which account to trust. Explain that your account hasn’t been hacked, but that someone setup a new ‘fake / imposter’ account in your name and that you’re reporting it. Then follow the instructions on this page to report it and have it shut down.

Identification and Prevention – 3 Easy Steps

Here are three easy steps to identify and prevent fake accounts. (source)

  1. Take a few seconds to look and see if you are already friends with that person. If so, the new one is likely fake.
  2. Glance at the profile for the person making the request. Does it look legitimate? Often the fake accounts have only a few simple posts.
  3. Communicate with the person making the request. Send a message: “Hi ____, I’m just making sure this is really you.” If they reply by telling you that Facebook is giving away a million dollars, it’s probably fake.

If it’s fake, take a moment to report it quickly before the scam spreads. Use the steps below.

How to Report and Shut Down Imposters

Because this is becoming a very prevalent problem, Facebook has improved the mechanism for reporting it. Follow the instructions shown below. Click the image for a larger view. In step 4 you can indicate whether someone is pretending to be you or someone  you know.


Further Reading

Here are some additional articles on the topic of Facebook safety and how to avoid Facebook scams.

Facebook has an official ‘how to report things‘ page.

You can view all Facebook support requests in your support inbox, including reporting of user accounts.

Tech Q&A: Why do scammers create fake Facebook accounts?

Q: Why do scammers create fake Facebook accounts?

A: They have a few goals:

  1. To build fake personas on Facebook which can be sold on the black market for big money.
  2. To buy or use fake personas on Facebook to sell or promote things.
  3. Once trust or acceptance is garnered, they use the profiles to post links to malicious websites that will infect people’s computers and/or steal passwords.
  4. To launch social engineering campaigns via Facebook asking friends to ‘answer these ten questions about yourself’ — in order to gather personal information about people for the purpose of identity theft or hacking into people’s accounts.

There may be other reasons as well.

What You Can Do

Fake users may ask to be friends with you on Facebook. Even if you have friends in common, be careful not to friend anyone until you’ve spent at least a few minutes checking their profile. You may want to send the person a message and ask them why they were wanting to connect. If you identify a fake account, click the three dots menu icon and select Report to report the user account as shown below. By spending a few minutes, you can protect hundreds of social media friends and contacts.


Identifying Fake Profiles

Here are signs of a fake profile:

  • Their profile has only a few posts on the timeline.
  • There are spammy advertising-like posts on their timeline.
  • Their About page has very little information.
  • They claim to work for Facebook on their About page.
  • Although you supposedly have friends in common, you’ve never heard of the person.
  • You’re a middle-aged man and the person you’ve never met who wants to friend you is an attractive girl in her 20s or 30s.
  • The person has only a few profile pics.
  • The profile pics are suggestive.
  • The person has multiple profile pics, but of different people.
  • Their Facebook friends have unusual or seemingly fake names.

On Facebook Use Caution When Approving Friend Requests

Today I received a friend request from someone on Facebook. Usually I would just click “Approve” and move on.

Yet, we only had one friend in common, and upon checking this person’s Facebook profile, it showed that they had only one post on their timeline (a poor quality profile pic), yet they were adding friends on Facebook at a furious rate. I couldn’t really find anything from a Google search on this person. It was as if they didn’t exist.

Many of the people who he friended are from my community — people I know, although we’re not Friends on Facebook.

I thought I’d spend a few minutes investigating this a bit, so I contacted some of the people (dozens added in the last hour) who had recently friended him.

Turns out none of these people really know anything about him.

Potential Harm

Here’s the danger in accepting friend requests too quickly:

  1. The person controlling the fake user account (a troll) gets access to your entire friend list.
  2. The troll or potential hacker sees your private timeline posts as if they are your friend or family member. They see things about you that you’ve set as not public and only viewable to friends or friends of friends.
  3. Because of your supposed friendship with this fictitious person, the troll then gains the trust of your friends, so when the friend request appears, your friends think they are a trusted and known individual. So, they accept the friend request, and the troll returns to step 1 above to become friends with everyone that person knows, and so on.

The goal of these people is to quickly build up a huge friends list on Facebook which can grow exponentially. These accounts are typically built up over time and then sold on the black market to spammers, advertisers, and hackers who attempt to use reverse social engineering to hack into Facebook accounts (and your other accounts) based on what they gather from your personal information online.

What You Can Do

While Facebook is usually a fun and safe online environment, it’s still important to be cautious.

  • Alert Your Friends. If you suspect some suspicious activity, let your friends know — the friends who have already friended a troll using a fake account.
  • Alert Others. Look at the list of people the fake account has friended. Some of them will be people you’re not friends with, but you have dozens of friends in common. In other words, they are likely legitimate users. You could also consider notifying them.
  • Notify Facebook. You can also contact Facebook about suspicious activity. Go to the profile of the person you suspect is fraudulently using Facebook. Click on the dots to the right of the Message button and choose Report to report the person. You can also Block them.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to help keep Facebook safe and secure through each person being careful about who they connect with.


Several hours ago, there was no Google image match on the Internet for the profile image that had been posted by the fictitious user. None. Now, a few hours later, that same image is showing up for multiple user accounts under different names on Twitter and other websites. On those sites, he’s also posted little or nothing, but building friend networks.


Facebook took down the fraudulent user’s account within a few more hours of this post. Another victory.

You Can’t Copyright Your Facebook Content

Contrary to urban legend, you can’t copyright your Facebook content or otherwise unilaterally change your user agreement. This applies to other similar services, software, and agreements. The following excerpt from Snopes elaborates on this.

Messages about protecting your copyright or privacy rights on Facebook by posting a particular legal notice to your Facebook wall are similar to an item which circulated several years ago positing that posting a similar notice on a web site would protect that site’s operators from prosecution for piracy.

In both cases the claims were erroneous, an expression of the mistaken belief the use of some simple legal talisman — knowing enough to ask the right question or post a pertinent disclaimer — will immunize one from some undesirable legal consequence. The law just doesn’t work that way.

Facebook users cannot retroactively negate any of the privacy or copyright terms they agreed to when they signed up for their accounts, nor can they unilaterally alter or contradict any new privacy or copyright terms instituted by Facebook, simply by posting a contrary legal notice on their Facebook walls.

Moreover, that Facebook is now a publicly traded company (i.e., a company that has issued stocks which are traded on the open market) or an “open capital entity” has nothing to do with copyright protection or privacy rights.

Any copyright or privacy agreements users of Facebook have entered into with that company prior to its becoming a publicly traded company or changing its policies remain in effect: they are neither diminished nor enhanced by Facebook’s public status.

Further, the concerns about copyright ownership which these types of notices are intended to address are unfounded.

Click here to read more.