6 Facebook security mistakes to fix on Data Privacy Day



Graphic by Pixabay/Illustration by Angela Lang/CNET

Tuesday is Data Privacy Day, an occasion that should serve as a reminder to spend a few minutes going through your online accounts to ensure your information, or data, stays private. One of the largest hoarders of our personal data is, of course,  Facebook. 

Facebook knows a lot about you, and that makes your account a prime target for would-be bad guys. As we learned with Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, a strong password doesn’t always keep out the bad actors from getting hold of all the information we willingly share with Facebook. Instead, the researchers used an app to collect data about its users and their friends. A recent report claims that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg knew about some of these privacy issues, which is yet another black eye for the company. 

Securing your Facebook account doesn’t take much time, and is best done from a computer rather than your phone, since some of the settings can include a lot of information. Even if you’ve recently spent time securing your account, you should occasionally visit the Facebook Settings page and look things over once again. Odds are, new settings have been added, and older settings have been moved. 

Read on to learn how to set a strong password, limit how others can search for you and prevent Facebook from keeping your location history.


Strong passwords and 2FA is incredibly important. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use a strong password and two-factor authentication

The first thing you should do to secure your Facebook account is to create a strong password and enable two-factor authentication This might seem obvious, but the importance can’t be overstated. You’ll also want to update your password from time to time, and make sure you’re not using the same one for crucial accounts like your banking app. Use a password manager to help create and, most importantly, remember your unique passwords (these are our top picks for best password manager). Go to the Security page and change your password.

Once you have a new password, turn on two-factor authentication. With 2FA enabled, you’ll need to enter your secure password and a randomly generated code whenever you sign in to your account. (You really should be using 2FA on every account and service that supports it.)

Most password managers have the ability to store your two-factor authentication codes, as well. However, you can always use Google Authenticator to store and provide access to your codes.


Take time to go through each setting and tailor it to your liking. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Go through Privacy Settings and Tools

Facebook has a dedicated Privacy section for your account. In this section, you can do things like set the default privacy setting for future posts, control who can send you friend requests and decide what information people can use to search for your account.

Go through the privacy settings and tools page and adjust each setting to your liking. I suggest setting your future posts to “Friends” and limiting the phone number and email address search options to “Friends” or “Only Me” to ensure that anyone with just a piece of your personal info can find your account.


There’s no telling what kind of personal information you shared several years ago on Facebook. Limit past posts to prevent that information from being public. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Limit past posts from the public eye

The way we use social networks has changed quite a bit, especially as we become more aware of just how Facebook, and those on Facebook, can use our personal information.

Thankfully, you can limit your past posts from being visible anyone who might stumble across your profile.

Go to the Privacy section and find Limit The Audience for Old Posts on Your Timeline, click Limit Last Posts and then click the button with the same title. Anything you’ve ever shared publicly or with friends of friends will be changed to being shared only with friends, thus limiting who can see it.

You can’t pick and choose which posts you want to change via this setting. If you want to do that, you’ll have to manually go through your timeline and make those changes individually.


You may end up surprised at how many devices have access to your Facebook account. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Audit devices with access to your account

Over the years, we’ve all signed into our Facebook accounts on different phones, computers, tablets and various other devices. Facebook keeps a log of the devices that have access to your account, and makes it easy to revoke access to a rogue device or one you forgot to log out of.

View a list of all those devices under the Where You’re Logged In section of the Security and Login page. If you have several devices, click on See More to view the entire list. To remove a device from the list, click on the three-dot icon to the right of the device’s name and then Log Out. You’ll be asked whether or not you want all posts that came from that device to be removed from your account as well; a convenient feature should someone have gained access to your account and posted without your permission.

Alternatively, you can sign out of every device linked to your account by clicking See More > Log Out Of All Sessions at the bottom of the list. I found a couple of devices from 2012 still had access to my account while writing this article — yikes. I logged out of all devices to start with a clean slate as a result. The few seconds I’ll spend logging back in each time I use a device that was revoked is well worth the peace of mind.


Keeping tabs on the apps with access to your Facebook account is just plain smart. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Don’t forget to look through apps with access

In that same vein, we’ve all granted countless apps access to our Facebook account. Over time, some apps are abandoned by developers and ultimately become a security risk. Should someone gain access to the app’s database of users, they could — in theory — gain access to some features of your Facebook account.

Visit the Apps and Websites page to view the Active apps that have access to your account. Click the checkbox next to any apps you want to remove, followed by the Remove button.

You can also remove any apps which access has expired by clicking on the Expired tab at the top of the page.


How to disable Facebook location history tracking in the Android app. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Disable Location History on your mobile phone

Facebook uses its access to location data from your phone to create a map of your location history. You can delete your location history here, or if you’d rather Facebook not store your location history at all, you can turn off location history.

On an Android phone, open the Facebook app and then tap on the three-line icon. Under Settings & Privacy select Privacy Shortcuts followed by Manage your location settings on the Privacy card. Next, select Location History and make sure the switch is turned off.


How to disable Facebook location history tracking in the iPhone app. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

The process is similar on an iPhone ($900 at Amazon). Open the Facebook app and tap on the three-line icon, then Settings & Privacy then select Privacy Shortcuts followed by Manage your location settings on the Privacy card. That’s where you’ll find the switch to turn off location history.

Even after you’ve secured your account, you’ll want to make sure all of your data is secure, or if you’d rather just be done with Facebook altogether, you can delete your account. 


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Originally published last year. Updated with new information. 


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