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These 11 Facebook privacy tweaks put you back in control

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02.07.2019

Death. Taxes. Facebook. The first two you can’t avoid. And the third isn’t that much easier to escape. A long history of privacy backtracking and goofs—like a longstanding vulnerability that allowed Cambridge Analytica to harvest user’s data—has fueled plenty of “Quit Facebook!” chatter. But you’ll miss a lot if you do.

“If Facebook is . . . your connection to friends and family, the place where you practice your profession or run your business, you can’t just quit,” says Gennie Gebhart, a researcher on consumer privacy and security at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Facebook pages and groups have become de-facto websites for restaurants, bars, clubs, civic and political organizations, and nonprofits. Facebook Messenger often replaces texting and email. That’s not even getting into Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp.

Even if you don’t delete Facebook, there are ways to limit the ability of the social network, other companies, and/or fellow users to get information about you. This is not an exhaustive list of what you can do—because that would be exhausting. It focuses on the steps likely to have the biggest impact. For all the website adjustments I recommend, begin by clicking the down arrow on the upper right of the screen to access Settings. Mobile tips are for the latest versions for Android and iOS.

Many Facebook settings (Privacy, Timeline, and Tagging) restrict who can see your activity. Besides the hermit-like “Only me,” the strictest option is “Friends.” Trimming the people in that group limits not only who sees your activity but who can share it with third parties, as happened with Cambridge Analytica. (Bonus: It also reduces dull posts from people you don’t care about.)

To whittle your friends list, go to the profiles of people who you’ve decided don’t make the cut, hover over “Friends” at the top of the page, and select “Unfriend.” They won’t be notified.

Facebook can use your phone number for two-factor authentication (2FA). With this option turned on, the service will text you a code that you enter in the site as a second “factor” (beyond your user name and password) to confirm your identity.

Facebook has also used these phone numbers for ad targeting and user-profile lookups, either or both of which you might not be comfortable with—2FA is a critical security tool, however, so tip number three describes how to use it without a phone number.

If you’ve already given Facebook your phone number, it remains in the company’s internal records unless you delete your account. But........

© Fast Company