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5 privacy fixes your Facebook News Feed needs by New Year's

Caitlin McGarry | Dec. 9, 2014
Facebook's privacy settings are a labyrinth of information. Here's what you need to know.

facebook privacy

It seems like Facebook is constantly adding new settings or changing old ones. Sometimes it's under the guise of simplifying your options, like with the new Privacy Basics walk-through. Other times it's because new kinds of ads are coming and Facebook wants you to be prepared. So there's no better time than the present to update your privacy permissions than the present. Let's face it: You're not going to remember to check on your Facebook settings once the chaos of holiday parties and New Year's resolutions takes hold.

The bare minimum
Facebook has made it much easier in recent months to see what information you share, who can see what you post, and how Facebook uses the data it collects on you. For people who don't use Facebook very often, the network's own Privacy Checkup, which rolled out this September, is a solid refresher.

The guide, led by a helpful blue dinosaur, quickly walks you through basics like your default audience for all posts (friends, public, or custom), which apps have permission to access your Facebook account, and what kind of information on your profile is visible to the public. Privacy Checkup is easy to access on the top blue menu bar in your News Feed (denoted with a lock icon), useful, and fast, but you need to go deeper into your Facebook settings to get to the good stuff.

Delete ad preferences
Facebook shows you ads in your News Feed to make money. No surprises there. But you have way more control over how the platform uses your personal information to target ads to you than you realize. When you see an ad in your feed, there is a small grey drop-down arrow on the top right of the ad. This innocuous little arrow is the key to unlocking how and why the ad appears in your feed. Just select "Why am I seeing this?" from the list of options for an explanation. For instance, if you've given a company your e-mail address, it can cross-reference that information against Facebook's database to serve you an ad.

That same section will give you the opportunity to manage your ad preferences. Facebook has a roster of information about you based on pages or causes you like, your location and check-ins, and online browsing activity when you're logged into Facebook. Some of this information is accurate, while some of it is hilariously off-base. Facebook seems to think I'm an artist in my spare time, which I wish were true but isn't at all. You can delete all of these preferences if you don't want Facebook to target ads to you, or you can add more relevant preferences to get ultra-tailored ads. If you delete your preferences, note that you'll have to do this regularly because Facebook likes to keep adding information to your roster.


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