December 2012

A basic safety guide to Facebook

Facebook, launched in February 2004, is the largest social network consisting of over 1 billion users as of September 14th 2012. And as many benefits as there are in the usage of it, there are just as many downsides. Here are some tips.

By: Joanna Filejski
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Schleswig-Holstein - Germany

Logo of the social network

There are three major risks using Facebook. The first one being stalked by strangers or even acquaintances, because of the many detailed information that are revealed by one. The second is getting in trouble with universities or schools, because of school policy violations. And the final being turned down by employers for internships or jobs because of the Facebook content. Therefore it is essential to know what happens with the data published on the social network.

Terms and conditions

As boring and time-consuming as it sounds, it is vital to read the terms and conditions. They will make you understand what is happening with your data at all times, because even after your account is deleted, your data is not. Unfortunately Facebook only leaves you the choice between either agreeing to everything or not being able to join. Since the social network became such an important part of many of our social lives, at least be aware of what is happening with your information. Think twice before uploading or writing things as once something is on the internet, it stays there forever - even if it is hard to find.

Sharing your information

The first very important thing when using Facebook is how you share things. If you choose to post as “público” that is exactly what will happen. The information will not only be visible to your Facebook friends, but to every member and, in fact, to everyone on the internet. Also you should consider that probably not all of your Facebook friends are real friends, but also include family, co-workers, your boss etc. Make sure your post is adequate for everyone or sort your contacts in lists that the site provides. Another thing, you should be aware of, is that Facebook tests its new features right on the users, which lead to some disadvantageous changes at times. The operator, however, does not ask his users if he or she wants the changes. Sometimes there is a little notification on top of the homepage or the user finds out by chance. Usually with every new change (which happens 1-2 times a year) your privacy settings are reset which means you have to set up everything again, as your settings are highly likely back to “público”. The social network makes its money mostly from advertisement using the members’ data. This means that everything, that is being posted, liked or uploaded, will be saved on servers and used to personalize advertisements. However, users are not only giving their information to Facebook itself, but to pretty much anyone using the web, so it is important to choose the published information carefully. When you go to your privacy settings and then to apps, you can control which information third parties, who advertise on Facebook, will get from you. If you decide to uncheck all the boxes, it also means you will not be able to use apps any more.

The check-in; think twice before checking-in
Photo: Taisuke Azuma

One of the services, you have to watch out for, is being tagged in a location. It makes it easy to find you, when you post where you are at all times. Even if you make this post only visible to your friends, tagging another person in the update or being tagged in another person’s post, opens up this information to all of their friends’ lists as well. Furthermore, it can be public, if your friends have it set up that way. This can mean that you are telling potential thieves when there is no one home, which gives them the perfect opportunity to rob you.

Internet “Friends”

In the early 1990s a psychologist with the name Robin Dunbar generated the number of social contacts a human is capable of cultivating. The number is 150, but many of our Facebook friendslists will show a much higher number. It is important to make sure that you know the people you share your information with and maybe consider to “unfriend” one or the other acquaintance with whom you do not even communicate actively on the social platform. Many hackers pretend to be friends to commit identity theft. As a study from 2008 shows 40% of Facebook profiles are fake (although shortening your last name to a couple of letters also counts as fake), so there is a high chance that amongst your many friends are some false ones. One of the highest risks using the internet and social networks is “phishing”. Phishing is defined as a scam with the purpose of identity theft. Therefore it is best not to publish your birthday, address, credit card number or other private information on Facebook, as strangers can easily hack into an account. If for example someone you do not know writes you a message and you answer him (even if it is asking “Who are you?”), this person has a wider access to your account for a limited time, which is just enough for a professional to hack into your data and phish. He then might use your information to get a loan or purchase things on the internet with your credit card number.

Facebook as your unwanted CV

Also remember that many employers use Facebook to check on future employees. A survey showed that around 45% of the employers use the social network to research applicants and 35% of them were rejected, because of their Facebook content. Your profile is a curriculum vitae which may include information about you, that you do not want to share with your future boss. Therefore you should avoid photos of you being primed or status updates like “Let’s get wasted”. If a friend uploads a party picture of you, you can hide it from your timeline with just one click. Use your Facebook profile to present yourself from your best side and benefit from its features instead of letting them become a handicap.

All in all use Facebook wisely and do not upload every thought or photo you might have as it may become a disadvantage for you in future times. And always remember: once your information is out there in cyberspace, it will stay there forever in one form or another. The internet never forgets!

A taste of Cochabamba city - Casa de Campo
After being told from a lot of different Cochabambinos, that Casa de Campo is a restaurant worth visiting, six volunteers have done so. With expectations of getting a real authentic Bolivian evening Joanna from Germany, Ben from Australia, Laura and I from Denmark and Antoine and Jean-Baptiste from France meet at the big restaurant. The music, that is playing and showing on several TV-screens around the restaurant, is very rhythmic, in Spanish and is mostly salsa. The experience of a Latin American evening begins well this Thursday evening.
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