It seems like every day we wake up to new developments concerning the privacy of millions of Facebook users in the U.S., and none of the news is good. Most recently, Facebook revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, was able to gain unauthorized access to at least 87 million users' data—much higher than the 50 million users that were originally reported.
Related: Should I #DeleteFacebook?
Additionally, Mike Schroepfer, chief technology officer at Facebook, revealed in a release that "most people on Facebook" should assume that they've had their public information scraped.
"Malicious actors have also abused these features to scrape public profile information by submitting phone numbers or email addresses they already have through search and account recovery," Schroepfer stated.
The company has long been able to police itself, but now it appears that government regulations are in the site's future; however, if you're a real estate professional who currently uses Facebook, it may be unwise to wait until this occurs. Be proactive and consider the following privacy and safety tips to avoid having your personal information used in unwanted ways:
Remove personal information. An obvious first step. This may be a case of too little, too late, but it's still a wise decision to take your personal email and phone number off your Facebook page immediately. Many people also have their home addresses and birth dates set as publicly accessible information. Take the time to remove these from your account, or edit this content so that only your friends can view it.
Don't use Facebook to log on to other sites. Taking the time to set up a new account can be a hassle, especially if you have the option to just click "Sign up with Facebook or Twitter account." Most folks choose the easier option instead of filling out their email, full name, etc. Stop doing this. Start creating accounts from scratch and stop spreading your personal Facebook information across the internet.
Control who sees your posts. As with your personal information, there are settings to control who can view what's on your Facebook timeline. Whenever you upload a photo, check in at a location or make a new status, there have always been three main drop-down options for who can view your post: Only me, Public and Friends. There are now two additional choices: Friends except… (don't show to some friends) and Specific friends (only show to some friends). Always consider who you want to be able to view your Facebook post.
Remove apps that you don't use. The Better Business Bureau suggests deleting apps and games that you don't currently use, especially those that you don't recognize or remember ever downloading. This is just another safety precaution to keep your information out of the wrong person's hands.
Of course, be sure to carefully check what your privacy settings are and judge for yourself if they need some tweaking. Also, here is an excellent article that outlines how to physically change 18 important privacy settings on your Facebook account, from hiding something on your timeline to restricting others from reposting your photos and posts.
In the wake of this Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, everyone should be more diligent about how they approach safety on the site. What are you doing differently on Facebook? Have you or any of your clients deleted their accounts?