If you use Facebook regularly, you probably know about some of the many different settings and features built in to the service. But because there are so many different settings, you may not know about some of the interesting and important ways you can maintain your account.
Facebook itself has a page dedicated to going over the basics when it comes to your account settings. But if you already know most of the basics and just want to go a little deeper into some of the settings that are especially important at the moment, here are just some of the features and settings you can use now.
When you’re using the Facebook app, you can choose whether the app has access to your location. You can also choose whether it keeps track of where you’ve been in the past.
In the Facebook app, simply go to your Account settings, then choose Location. Here you can decide whether Facebook is able to see your location by turning Location Services off or on. You can also disable or enable Location History, where Facebook stores information on past locations and uses the information for a number of things (including deciding which ads to show you).
Allowing certain kinds of targeted ads
Personalized ads are huge on Facebook. You can choose what kinds of ads are allowed when you’re logged in.
In your Facebook settings, click on the Ads category. There are a number of different things you can do here, including deciding which targeted ads are allowed. There are three kinds of ads you can choose to allow or block. One of them includes whether or not to let other people see whether you liked something once it shows up as an ad for them.
Hiding certain topics and removing interests
Some ads are targeted based on interests Facebook believes you have. In your Facebook settings, click on the Ads category. Here you can see your interests. You can click through the categories (like “News and entertainment” or “People”) and choose to remove certain interests that you don’t want ad choices to be based on.
You can also hide certain kinds of ads in the Hide ad topics section. You can choose to hide ads based on specific things, like alcohol, and you can even suggest other topics you’d like to hide.
Viewing information used for ads
Based on your Facebook usage, the service places you in certain categories and builds up certain information about you. You can see this information in your Settings by going to the Ads section. Clicking on the “Your information” section shows you some of what Facebook is basing their ads on. “Your categories” shows things like what kind of device you use and, perhaps most interestingly, what political category the site places you in. Clicking the ‘X’ next to a piece of information will remove it from your information.
Photo tagging based on facial recognition
When others are posting photos, Facebook can recognize your face and let people tag you—but only if you let it.
After going to your Facebook settings, simply choose the Face Recognition section. Then you can decide whether you want facial recognition enabled. When it’s on, other people can upload a photo and get a suggestion from Facebook to tag you in the photo.
Letting your friends unlock your account
If you have 3 to 5 Facebook friends you trust enough, you can set up a way to get back into your account if you’re ever locked out. In your Facebook settings, you can go to the Security and Login section to choose a handful of friends (at least 3) who can help you recover your account if needed. If you’re ever locked out of Facebook, the friends you choose can then send you a link that lets you log back in.
Using two-step authentication
Two-step authentication is one way to make logging into your account more secure. In the Security and Login section of your Facebook settings, you can turn on two-step authentication. To set it up, you can either choose to have a login code sent to your phone or to have the app work through a security app you already use. Once it’s turned on, every time you want to log in to Facebook, you’ll have to enter your password and the login code sent via text (or through your security app). This makes it more difficult for your account to be compromised.
If you’re unsure what your profile really looks like to the public, you can use the View As feature. You may have noticed this before but never clicked on it. Using View As makes it easier to see whether you’ve accidentally made public posts that give away too much personal information or make you look unprofessional. You can find the View As feature by going to your profile. In the Facebook app, there is an icon underneath your profile photo. On desktop, clicking the button with the three dots next to “View Activity Log” gives you the View As option.
Keep in mind…
These are just a few of the settings and features available on Facebook. For more, look around Facebook’s Help Center.
Instagram has been in the news very recently for their newest updates and for a recent announcement. Instagram users will now be able to use some new features, and they’ll also soon be able to download copies of their entire data history.
Reuters reports that Instagram, which is part of Facebook Inc, will soon let its users download their data. This announcement comes while Facebook is dealing with the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal (which you can learn more about in my recent articles “Third-Party Data on Social Media” and “Facebook and Its Data Scandal”). Because of the mishandling of their data, Facebook users (and users of many different social media platforms) have become much more concerned with how their data is being used. This has led to many updates from Facebook on how third-party apps and user data will be handled. And now Instagram has joined in with their plans.
Reuters reports that Instagram users will be able to download data like photos, videos, and messages. There’s currently no word on when this tool will be made available.
Meanwhile, Instagram has added some new features. According to TechCrunch, Instagram’s new update includes a new filter called Focus. Focus is a portrait mode that can be used in Instagram’s camera to take both photos and videos. It blurs the background of a portrait photo, making the subject of the photo stand out more sharply. This style was previously available in other apps and on certain phones. With Instagram’s Focus feature, though, more people will be able to take portrait photos.
They’ve also added stickers for mentions, says TechCrunch. This feature is currently rolling out for people using iOS. Instead of simply tagging someone using text, you’ll now be able to tag them using a sticker. This makes Instagram posts a little more customizable and fun. It’s not clear when everyone will gain access to these stickers.
Several companies are dealing with a data breach. According to Reuters, Sears and Delta announced last week that 7.ai, which the companies use, was the victim of a cyber attack back in September of last year. And according to CNET, Kmart and Best Buy were also affected.
Payment information for less than a hundred thousand clients of 7.ai was compromised, Reuters reports. They also note that although the credit card information was “exposed,” Delta has said that doesn’t necessarily mean it was actually used. And Sears has said that their stores themselves weren’t affected and that Sears cards weren’t part of the breach.
CNET also mentions again that no companies have actually said that this payment information was stolen. At this point, what’s clear is that there was a chance for the information of thousands of people to be taken. The period of the cyber security attack was just a couple of weeks—from the 26th of September to the 12th of October (at which point the breach was taken care of).
Despite not knowing whether the information was stolen, Best Buy, at least, is taking action to try to reassure customers. CNET reports that Best Buy plans to provide credit monitoring free to anyone who’s concerned. They’ve also tried to lessen fears by making it clear that purchases made using stolen information won’t hit the person whose information has been stolen.7.ai was quick to make their statement and make clear they were taking the issue seriously. In their statement, they said their service was safe and secure and said they were working with law enforcement and their clients to take care of the issue and any fallout.
Until more information is released, it’s hard to know whether any information was actually taken and used. As a precaution, be sure to keep a close watch on your card statements if you made purchases at these stores.
Facebook has been in the news quite a lot recently, and not necessarily for good reasons.
The social media service appears in the news on a regular basis any given week, but for the past week, a lot of focus has been on their data scandal and what will come of it. During that news, Facebook has announced some upcoming changes to its service.
Here’s what you might have missed over the past week or so, including a brief recap of Facebook’s data issues!
Some of Facebook’s newest announcements have come now that Zuckerberg has apologized for the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Zuckerberg issued an apology for what happened with their recent data scandal. According to CNN Money, Zuckerberg issued the apology during a TV interview on CNN. In his interview, he mentions the policy changes that have been put in place since the incident and notes that these policies should have been in place sooner. He also spoke about his regret that people weren’t informed about the issue sooner.
Facebook’s data scandal revolves around how some Facebook user data was accessed by an app (which is typical) and then, against Facebook policy, shared with a third party.
According Zuckerberg in his CNN interview, users will be notified if their information was shared during the incident. And The Verge writes that Facebook will be changing how developers can access Facebook users’ data.
Amid all of this negative press, one WhatsApp founder has said to delete Facebook. One of the founders of the popular messaging app has called out Facebook during their scandal concerning user data.
Brian Acton, who helped create WhatsApp before it was sold to Facebook, is now warning people that they should leave Facebook. The Independent reports that Acton tweeted that it was “time” to stop using the social media giant. He doesn’t specifically discuss the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but the timing of his tweet suggests his tweet was referencing Facebook’s current data issues.
You may remember that earlier this year Acton gave Signal (a secure messaging service) millions of dollars, which I wrote about back in February.
With Zuckerberg’s recent apology, it’s clear that Facebook is making a point to address this data issue and reassure users. Whether current users will jump ship due to the scandal and Acton’s call to leave Facebook remains to be seen.
There’s a lot going on behind the scenes as you surf the web. You might have heard about things like “cookies,” but do you know what they do or what else your browser is storing?
Whenever you use your browser, the sites you visit and actions you perform result in information being saved. This data is typically used to make navigating the web easier for you in the future.
Many different pieces of information are being stored while you’re online. Cookies are just one part of the equation. There’s also your browser’s cache, history, autofill information, saved passwords, and even more little bits of data.
Why does it matter?
You might be asking why you need to know about your browser data. Depending on the situation, you might want to change certain browser settings or learn how to clear your data. Understanding your browser data can do the following:
- Avoid privacy or security issues
- Help you make the right decisions with your settings
- Underline the importance of clearing your data
- Help you decide what data to clear
- Show you how some websites work
- Make it easier to troubleshoot problems
Also, many people use a browser on their computer, phone, or tablet every day. That’s a lot of data. It’s important to stay informed and know what’s being saved.
What data is being stored?
A lot of different kinds of information get stored while you’re using the web. In this article, let’s talk about some of the biggest types of data being saved, including how they work and what to watch out for.
What’s typically being communicated is information about what you’re doing on the site. Cookies help keep track of visits to a certain website, certain pieces of information, and things like what’s in your cart at an online shop. For instance, when you go back to a website and see your login information has been saved, it’s likely that cookies were used to do this.
There are two main types of cookies you should know—session cookies and persistent cookies. Session cookies are stored temporarily. Once a “session” is over, the session cookie is gone. This means you simply need to close out of your browser to lose the cookie. Persistent cookies, though, stick around. These are the kinds of cookies that help do things like save login information or preferences you’ve indicated on a website.
Though cookies are very helpful, it is possible for unwanted cookies to collect data about your visits and then be used in ways that aren’t helpful to you. For instance, some cookies can be used to keep track of your interests and show you ads based on those interests. This practice is concerning to some people. One way to try to combat this is to see if your browser allows you to block third-party cookies. These cookies are sent to your browser from a source other than the website you’re on—often from an ad on the page.
However, for the most part, it’s typically recommended to allow your browser to accept cookies. If you’re visiting safe websites, you’re probably not encountering unwanted cookies. They make visiting sites a much easier and enjoyable experience, as well.
Your browser history is pretty straightforward: it displays the sites you’ve visited in the past. Your history is a recording of the sites you’ve gone to, including the name of the page and when you visited. Depending on your browser, your history might go back to pages you visited months ago. This can be really helpful to you, because if you forget to bookmark a site, you can always go back and find it in your history.
If you’ve ever been told to “clear the cache,” you might have done so while wondering what you were even deleting. The browser cache is a way to save certain things on websites in order to load things more quickly and efficiently in the future. Pages or pictures on a website might be saved to the cache. This means that if you visit a site and certain images are saved to the cache, then the next time you try to load another page on the site with those images on it, they won’t have to be accessed from the website all over again—they’ll just be displayed from the browser cache.
This can be really helpful if you’re clicking through multiple pages on a website and there’s, say, an image at the top of each page being used as a banner. You won’t have to load it from the website every single time you click on a new page. Not only does this mean that things load more quickly for you, it also means it takes a bit of stress off the website’s server.
Autofill data is typically form information that’s saved for later. Think about all the times you’ve entered your address in a form. Storing autofill data means that next time you need to enter your address, you might not have to type it all back in again. This works with all kinds of information. Different areas (or “fields”) of a form often have names assigned to them. Autofill can use these names to identify which field to enter each piece of information into, so it won’t accidentally put your city in the field asking for your phone number.
Some browsers can also save your passwords for you. If you’re using different passwords for each different account you have (which you should—take a look at my article about managing your passwords!), then those passwords can be difficult to keep track of. You often have the option to let your browser remember the password for you. This password data is typically saved to just that certain browser on that specific computer.
Though it’s likely tempting to take this option, be careful! If you’re using a shared computer, others will have access to your accounts. Keep this in mind, and make sure you never save your password to the browser if strangers will have access to it.
What you can do with your browser data
Now that you know about some of the data your browser is storing, you can make some informed decisions. Data takes up some space on your devices, and some of the stored data may be totally useless to you (or even completely unwanted), depending on how you typically use your browser. The good news is, you do have some choices when it comes to your browser data.
Change your settings
Most browsers allow you to change your settings to fit your needs. For instance, you can choose to block third-party cookies, or, if you want, even block all internet cookies. You might also want to turn autofill on or off. Depending on your browser, you can likely edit your autofill information, as well. If you have a new address, you can update your old autofill information. If you saved some information on accident, you can delete it. You can also turn saved passwords off and on, as well as delete passwords. Most of this data can be managed in some way.
In Chrome, you can find these kinds of options in your Settings under the Advanced section. In Firefox, these options can be found in the Options under Privacy & Security. Similar settings can be found in most popular browsers.
Clear some or all of your data
You can clear your browser data as often as suits you. Unless you’re having issues with your browser, you probably don’t really need to clear your data. On the typical PC, browser data doesn’t usually take up that much space. Of course, phones and tablets can be a completely different story. If you don’t have much space left on your phone, clearing your browser history actually can make a notable difference.
Also, you can clear data if you have any privacy concerns. If you share your device, you might want to clear your history. (You can also bypass this altogether by using something like Chrome’s incognito mode, which prevents browser data from being saved while in use.)
You can typically choose which data to delete and how far back you’d like to go. For instance, you might only want to delete your history so you keep your cache and cookies for easier browsing. You could delete just some of your recent history, or you could delete it all. Take a look in your browser’s settings to see which options you can choose from!
Facebook is changing the way users learn about photos they’re in. Using the social media platform’s facial recognition that’s already in place, Facebook will now start notifying you when you’re in a photo someone uploads—even if they don’t tag you in it.
Facebook issued a press release this week detailing how the new process will work. With the new feature, Facebook’s facial recognition will spot users in other peoples’ photos and notify them about the upload. They’ll be able to go into their “Photo Review” and decide what action to take with the photo. The company notes that no one’s privacy settings will be overridden, however. Users will only be notified that they’re in a picture if the photo is set to public or if the user is in the post’s audience. So if a photo of a user is uploaded and the picture is set to a private audience, the person in the photo won’t know.
Facebook’s news post gives two reasons for the change: safety and accessibility. They want to cut back on people taking other users’ images and setting them as their own profile photos. (When someone uses another person’s photo and passes it off as their own, it’s called “catfishing,” a practice that’s fairly common on social media.) Current profile photos are always public, so this should help cut back on impersonation.
Also, Facebook suggests this feature will help people with visual impairments. Now when a photo is described, it will include the names of everyone in the photo, whether they’ve been tagged or not. This will give people who are visually impaired an even more accurate experience when using social media.
The press release is also quick to point out that being included in the feature is not required of everyone. For one thing, it won’t be used at all in Canada or the European Union, because Facebook doesn’t use facial recognition there. For another, users can simply opt-out of the technology. Facebook is reshaping their settings to make it easier to turn off facial recognition. Their press release shows a screenshot of a “Facial Recognition” section of their mobile settings, and they describe the upcoming change as simply using an “on/off switch” that tells Facebook whether you want them to recognize you in pictures.
Many people are still wary of facial recognition technology, and understandably so. The good news is it’ll soon be very easy to stop Facebook from using it on those who are uncomfortable with it. For those who don’t mind having their face mapped, though, it’ll be easier to keep up with the photos they’re included in. If the feature works as promised, Facebook could majorly cut down on impostors. And while they’re at it, they’ll make their platform more useful and appealing to people who are visually impaired.
Facebook is in the news again, and like last time, it’s got to do with their targeted ads. As you may be aware of, Facebook has targeted ads that let advertisers direct their ads toward specific users based on things like their profile information (age, location, interests, etc.) and browser cookies (meaning your Facebook ads might be targeted to you based on websites you visited). There has previously been some wariness toward these targeted ads, particularly the ads that pop up based on previous web activity. But many people pay this advertising no mind and aren’t particularly worried about how these ads are being directed to them.
Now Facebook is upping their ad game. In a recent announcement, Facebook described how some businesses are now able to target their ads toward people who physically visit their brick and mortar stores. Businesses can do this because of Facebook’s ability to follow the location of a user that has location enabled in their app. Facebook’s announcement suggests that these ads might be used to target recent store visitors and suggest new merchandise or that it could be used to exclude store visitors if they’re running a promotion that’s exclusive to new buyers. Whatever the reason, though, some Facebook users are sure to find it unsettling seeing ads based on where they’ve recently been.
There are ways to avoid unwanted targeted ads. Though you can’t go into Facebook’s settings and completely turn off all ads, you can stop them from targeting you in the some of the ways mentioned above. You can stop targeted ads based on your website activity by visiting the Facebook Ads page. Where it says “Ads based on my use of websites and apps,” just click Edit and select Off from the dropdown box. You can also use a page linked from Facebook Ads to edit what information they use in their other targeted ads. Clicking Edit next to “Ads based on my preferences” displays a button that reads “Visit Ad Preferences.” On the page it takes you to, you can change which interests and pieces of personal information targeted ads are based on, among other things. This can be a bit time consuming, but it may be worth it if you’re interested in cutting back on your targeted ads.
Most importantly, if you don’t want the new aspect of Facebook’s targeted ads to affect you, make sure you don’t have location enabled in your Facebook app. In the app’s menu, navigate to “Account Settings” and tap on “Location.” Where it says “Location History,” press the button to switch it to “OFF.” After doing this, you can also go to your phone’s settings, go to your apps, choose the Facebook app, and change the app’s permissions to no longer allow it access to your location.
To be clear, these new targeted ads are very likely exciting to many people, and if you’re one of those people, that’s fantastic! But if you’re wary of ad targeting and access to your location, be sure to look carefully into your Facebook and phone settings.
In case you missed it, the iPhone X has been in the news pretty much every day recently, and so has iOS 11, the new update for the iPhone operating system. iOS 11 has a number of new and updated features, but the one a lot of people are talking about is its easy-to-use screen recording feature. It was possible to record your iPhone’s screen before, but iOS 11 makes it much easier to do—a fact that has had some people excited, but some people pretty worried.
Being able to record the phone screen on an iPhone can come in handy for many different reasons. Some people may want to record themselves going through a process on the phone so they can upload it and teach people how to do something. Others might want to use it for viral video purposes. Or someone might want to record themselves doing something big, like sending an important message and getting a reply, applying for college, or anything that might be a memorable moment. People have had plenty of reasons to record their phone screens in the past, and iOS 11 just makes it much more accessible.
Mixed in with the positive response, though, was a huge concern: what would happen on Snapchat? Rumors began to swirl that the screen recording feature would allow iPhone users to record peoples’ Snaps secretly, bypassing Snapchat’s feature that tells users when their photos have been saved and who saved them. One huge draw for Snapchat is that the photos aren’t permanent, and if someone screenshots something, the original photo-taker can know who saved their photo onto their device. The idea of people being able to save photos and videos without identifying themselves had some people panicked.
It seems there’s good news and bad news. Fortunately, it’s been shown that Snapchat does, in fact, notify users when their direct messages have been recorded with the iPhone’s screen recorder. It doesn’t specify how it was saved, but it does still say that the Snap has been screenshotted. However, MacRumors tested the screen recorder on Snapchat and found that while it does notify for private messages, it doesn’t quite work with Stories, so be aware that you might not know if your Stories are being recorded.
Also important to note is that MacRumors also tested on Instagram Direct—a feature of Instagram that lets users send non-permanent photos—and the screen recorder did not alert the other user that a screenshot had been taken of their content. So while the issue with Snapchat is not much of a concern, be careful with your Instagram Direct messages until more is known about their screenshot alerts.
The internet is a double-edged sword. It is a wonderful, powerful tool that is a central part of modern life. Those who don’t know how to leverage some of the virtual resources at their disposal face an increasing level of disadvantage in all facets of development compared to their peers. It is important for children to be able to access the tools they need to grow into tech competent adults (not to mention the educational edge such technology can bestow).
But at the same time, the internet has a seedy underbelly of scammers, bullies, hackers, and more sinister folk, which are in the news at least weekly. Children are not the only targets, but they are the most vulnerable. A parent’s knee-jerk reaction may be to supervise all time online, or drastically limit it, and then feverishly Google how to set up firewalls and parental spy software. But is that really the best way to keep your kids safe?
Kids—especially older ones in school—depend on the internet for a lot. So do we all. And most parents would likely say that their kids know more about software and devices than they themselves do. So round-the-clock supervision isn’t really feasible, nor is it likely to foster trust between you and your child, especially as they get older. You could engage in a tech arms race with your child. But most cyber security experts interviewed in this article on safety.com recommend teaching your older kids how to protect themselves online rather than trying to watch them all the time.
- Ask them to teach you how stuff works. Feel in over your head? Is your child far better with technology than you? Use that. Get involved and informed on the sites and apps they are using by setting up your own account and then asking them for tips on using it. Everyone enjoys sharing what they know, and you can learn how to adjust security settings together.
- Encourage open communication about technology. You want them to feel like they can come to you for help if something weird happens online, or they clicked a link they shouldn’t have. If they DO come to you because they made a mistake, don’t freak out. Getting angry or upset may cause them to keep it to themselves next time.
Another way to not only get talking but build trust is showing that you are interested. Parents who play games with their kids are creating the kind of communication channels that are friendly and nurturing. And they are having fun because games are awesome!
- Teach them what to look out for so they can become self-sufficient now? “Don’t click this, because…” is much more likely to be remembered and followed than just “don’t click this.”
- Make guidelines to limit sharing on social media—and that goes for everyone! Personal info (like addresses, phone numbers, social security number/credit card numbers, etc.) should never be publicly searchable. You should limit who sees your posts to people you actually know, have met in person, and trust with that information—and people you’ve only met online could be anyone. Spend some time together figuring out how to change privacy settings on your social media, and beware of apps that want to share your location.
- Teach them that they are interacting with real people. When you interact with people online, and most of what you see is pictures, text, and memes, it’s a little too easy to forget that a complex human being is at the other end of the conversation. Because of that, it is easier for your kids (or you) to be victimized, or even to victimize others. This one goes both ways.
If you can’t see them, they could be anyone. The majority of people online are just regular people, and they aren’t trying to harm you. But those few bad apples make it hard to trust anyone. You shouldn’t live in fear, but healthy cynicism is good practice, and erring on the side of safety is too. Teach your kids about catfishing.
People have feelings, so be kind. Every cyber bully is someone’s kid who just needs a lesson in empathy. Teach your kids that they are talking to real people and that their words have real world consequences.
- Teach them that what they do and say will be online permanently. Even after it has been deleted, your pictures, posts, and other internet activities exist on a server somewhere, and screen shots and copies are easy to make and share. That is a sobering thought that is guaranteed to make anyone think twice about what they plan to share. This is a unique problem to today’s young generations, and the opportunities for public humiliation abound. If all of my adolescent angst had been shared with the world and was still searchable, I don’t know if I would ever get over it, even now.
Don’t know how to get started? Gamify it!
This doesn’t have to be hard; in fact, research shows that it’s better when it’s fun. A 2016 review of 10 studies published in the International Journal for Information Security Research (IJISR) on the effectiveness of using games to teach kids about internet safety showed that games can be extremely effective teaching tools.
Which is why it’s awesome that Google just announced a game to do just that. In a recent blog post, Google announced their new training program called Be Internet Awesome. It teaches kids how to be:
- Smart about who they share with.
- Alert about fake offers and scams.
- Strong in their passwords and privacy.
- Kind in how they treat others.
- Brave enough to communicate with parents.
It is free to play and aims to teach kids how to be safe on the internet in a way that isn’t boring. And it isn’t: some of the puzzles are legitimately challenging, and I learned some new things about staying safe on the internet in my play-through.