Facebook has more than 250 million users – with the fastest demographic being over 35 years old. Everyone has on average 120 friends, more than1 billon photos are uploaded to the site every month and more than 1 billion pieces of content are shared every week! Let’s face it if you haven’t heard of Facebook then you’re one of diminishing few.

What is interesting though is the shear amount of information that people display about themselves on their Facebook pages. Names, locations, birthdates, religious beliefs, who your married to or currently dating. We share photos, stories and information with hundreds of people every day – and in many cases we actually know very little about the people that we are sharing this private information with.

It’s like a stranger arriving at your door, and asking you for your name, date of birth, photos of your kids, and a few other personal details! I’m not sure about you but if a stranger knocked on my door, they get approximately 2 seconds to give me good reason to keep the door open before I slam it! So what’s different with Facebook?

In an age of identity theft we have never been so open with our information – that is one of the disadvantages of the Internet!

So if you are a facebook user, then stop, and look at what you are sharing – and more importantly who you are sharing it with!

Here are my top tips to start protecting yourself within Facebook.

1. Hide your year of birth.

Displaying your year of birth to all is pretty dangerous in my opinion – not just because to tells everyone exactly how old you are; but it’s also a good security question that you would normally be asked, and sometimes incorporated into people passwords. Not showing it also helps to protect yourself against identity fraud – and let’s face it Facebook is the identify thieves’ greatest tool if they want to know anything about you!

How: On your facebook profile, click on the ‘Info’ tab and then select ‘Edit Information’ and then under ‘Basic Information’ change the option to either, “Don’t show my birthday in my profile” or “Show only day and month in my Profile”.

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2. Maintain a ‘’Private Life’!

Just remember that anything that you or your kids/family put up onto facebook is potentially public – to others. For example if you upload an embarrassing photo and I am not your friend, I wouldn’t normal know about it – however if one of MY friends make a comment on one of your photos (because they are your friends) then I can see that action; and then also see the photo. Be warned!

3. Use your friends list

imageFriends lists in facebook is not only useful but also important – it essentially allows you to ‘Group’ your friends into different lists. Once you’ve done that you can start to manage them better. To access your Friends  list – hover over the ‘Friends’ menu at the top, and then select ‘All Friends’.

Now you will see all your friends, and to the left side of the screen, you will see you have one list. called ‘Friends’ – which means that everyone is treated the same as your friend.

What you need to do now is start create different lists and places your friends in one or more of those lists. So for example you might have a ‘Friend List’ called, ‘Family’ and another called, ‘Close Friends’ and potentially some like ‘Friends, but never met!’

imageTo create a new list simply click on ‘Create new list’, give it a name and then start selecting which of your friends should be in that list.

For me I have lists such as Family, Close Friends, Friends of Friends, School Friends, and Business Contacts to name a few.

3. Adjust your privacy settings to control who see what

By default in facebook you share all your information, photos, wall posts to all of your friends (and their friends in many cases). This is something that you need to think about carefully. Whilst my family members are indeed my friends (most of the time!) and I am happy to share my embarrassing photos with them – ‘Bob’ who I have never met, nor actually know but is in my friends list – do I really want him to see those photos as well?

So the best way is to change your privacy settings. To do this simply select ‘Privacy Settings’ from under the ‘Settings’ menu on your facebook page.

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Then you will want to click on ‘Profile’ to change the privacy settings of who can see various elements of your profile.

Firstly select ‘Profile’ and you will see that you can define who can see your profile. Personally, I would select ‘Friends’ Only’ here.

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Now continue down the list selecting different settings for different areas of your profile.

4. Avoid the embarrassing tagged photos

It only takes an embarrassing situation, a camera, Facebook and a ‘tagged image’ and all your friends, family, colleagues and half the world suddenly can laugh at you. Not great at the best at times, but what if the photo that you were tagged in was not actually you? That’s both embarrassing and potentially hurtful.

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The best way to protect against this is to restrict which of your ‘friends list’ can see the photos that you have been tagged in. Under ‘Photos Tagged of You’ in your privacy settings, select the option “Only Me” and then “None of My Networks” if you would like to keep all tagged photos private. If you’d like to make tagged photos visible to certain users you can choose to add them in the box under the “Some Friends” option. In the box that displays after you select “Some Friends” you can type either individual friends or friend lists.

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I would suggest that you did the same for ‘Video Tagged of You’ to remove the video nastys as well.

5. Protect your photo albums

imageThe previous section only protects photos for which you are tagged in – however what about all the photos that you upload and store in your own albums? Do you really want all those photos shared amongst everyone?

“If anyone called Jason Micheal White, Jason White, James Ryan White, Phil Gibson, Shelly White, Daniel White, Hayley Omalley or Hayley White try to add u, dont accept!! They copy pics of ur kids & sell them to perverts, they’re fake! Please copy paste & inform all ur friends, we need to put a stop to them, police R informed, plz take it seriously .. I’ve been told to pass the message, Please do the same too!” – Taken from a Facebook posting today.

Well, there is a way to protect your photo albums as well. Firstly click on your ‘Profile’ and then  click on ‘See All’. You will then see an option for ‘Album Privacy’;

From here you will be able to select who can and who cannot see each one of your albums.

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6. Don’t be afraid to remove friends

Every once in a while take a look at who your friends are – and ask yourself, “Am I still OK with this person seeing what I am doing?”. If not then remove then – or place them in a group that only sees a small amount of your information. It could be an ex-boyfriend or a complete stranger. Nothing feels better than culling a few people off your friends list!

7. Be careful when mixing work and play

If you are like a lot of people you will have both friends, family and work colleagues in your friends list. If you do, then think carefully in what you share. Is your boss, or one of your work colleagues privy to what you are saying? People have been sacked for posting a defamatory comment about their employer on Facebook – or updating their status saying that they are pulling a ‘sicky’!

If you do have work colleagues on your friends list then consider placing them all in a separate friends list (as mentioned above) and restricting what they can and cannot see.

If in any doubt – check it out!

There is a great way to ACTUALLY see what another person can see from your profile on Facebook. Use it to check up on yourself through another’s eye – and use it to check your security settings. To access this gold nugget go back to your Privacy settings page – and at the top there is an option to, “See how a friend sees your profile”.

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Enter in one of your friends names and spend a few minutes in their shoes looking at your profile!