Though Facebook is only a fraction of most people’s digital footsteps, it is one of the social networks that relies most heavily on distribution of personal information. While this can be such an asset to keeping up with friends and family you don’t get to see very often, it’s also a great hunting ground for people looking to stalk you or find out more information about you. As such, it’s important to be aware of the steps you can take to protect yourself from a Facebook stalker, whether now or in the hypothetical future.
This is the first and most obvious step if you already have a Facebook stalker. When you block somebody on Facebook, they can no longer send you messages or see your timeline. For some people bothering you, this will be enough to discourage them from continuing to do so. But unfortunately, it is very easy for people to create a new profile and start the stalking process all over again, so this step alone isn’t often enough.
Check Your Privacy Settings
Privacy Checkup is Facebook’s way of walking you through the basic steps to see what your current privacy settings are. This takes you through three categories:
Your Posts: Make sure this is set to Friends. That way, only people you have approved can see what you’re posting about.
Your Apps: You’ll probably want to set most of these to Friends or Only Me. Sometimes when you buy tickets for events, the ticketing sites connect with Facebook. Setting those to where only you can see them will prevent people from seeing what concerts or shows you may be attending in the near future.
Your Profile: This is all your personal and contact information. It’s a no brainer to protect your phone number and email, but even making your birthday and hometown Friends Only can help — stalkers can use every bit of personal information to find you on other websites, or in real life.
Those are the basics, but there are more privacy settings to make sure your Facebook is even more secure.
The ones to pay the most attention to are Security (options to help protect your account from being hacked), Privacy (make sure all your past posts are set to Friends Only, allow only people you know to contact you, and prevent search engines from linking to your timeline), and Timeline and Tagging (turn on the option that allows you to review posts when your friends tag you in photos or updates).
Review Your Friends
Cull down your friends list. If you don’t still interact with the kid who sat behind you in 7th grade science class, unfriend him. You only want people you know and trust being able to view your Facebook.
You can also customize friends lists, so if you want to post something that gives away your location or that you’re going out of town, you can make sure only your closest friends and family can see it.
And, of course, beware of strangers, or even duplicate profiles of people you already know. Confirm online identities with your friends in real life before you add them; a smart online stalker could easily pretend to be someone else to gain your trust.
Go Through Your Old Information
The easiest thing to do is to switch all your old posts to Private on the settings page. But if you don’t want to do that, it’s not a bad idea to go through all your old updates and photos and make sure there’s nothing in them that could give away too much information about you. Does that picture of your home show the street number? Did you “like” the page for the gym you go to three times a week? Does the photo update of your new puppy have your phone number showing on his ID tag? Stalkers know how to look for the little details, and they will if they gain access to them.
Check Your Permanent URL
If you’ve chosen your permanent Facebook URL (http://www.facebook.com/YOURPAGE), google the name you chose. If it leads to other accounts you have outside of Facebook, consider changing those. Your stalker is probably going to look for you elsewhere online regardless, but definitely make it as hard on them as you possibly can.
You don’t have to launch a crusade against stalking, but talk with your friends and family about what’s going on if you are being stalked, or let them know that you want to be protective of your information and whereabouts if you’re worried about potentially attracting a stalker in the future. Don’t be afraid to ask them not to tag you in things, or to not share information about you on their own page that you’re uncomfortable with. And it never hurts to have some extra support.
If all else fails, you can always deactivate your Facebook profile. Stalkers can’t find what isn’t there. And if you deactivate, Facebook allows you to come back whenever you want and reinstate everything that used to be there. Sometimes a break isn’t the worst idea. It may give you a break from worry, and, hopefully, give your stalker time to stop obsessing over you.
If somebody’s stalking you on Facebook, they may very well continue on to your other social networking sites to find out more about you. Be aware of that, and take whatever steps necessary to protect your personal information on those sites as well.