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I've become very confused about protecting myself on Facebook. Everything I read is a bit complicated for me to follow if I want to keep my account. Can you provide any easier steps? – Fred Frantic

Dear Mr. Frantic: From what appears to be the Russian Invasion to plain ole' hackers, Facebook is in the headlines today and makes for scary reading. Many folks are fleeing what they see as a sinking ship, but for those who prefer to remain in the social media know, the following steps can help you protect your data on this site with, perhaps, fewer complications, thanks to AARP. (I might add that Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have been pressed to come up with much more simple steps for user self-protection, but in the meantime )

Who among us hasn't, in a moment of boredom mixed with intrigue, clicked on a Facebook link to take a quiz to show how we'd look glamourized or how high our Southern intellect may be? It seemed harmless at the time, but what has become clear over the past couple of weeks is that even the tiniest Facebook click can unleash your personal data and information in ways you likely never considered. If you refuse to simply delete your account, we can better safeguard our personal information.

Fine-tune Your Third-Party Apps Settings

The quizzes and other apps on Facebook usually require you to grant access in order to use them — and it's easy to remember to "ungrant" that access once you're finished. "Access" means these suckers remain linked to your account, with access to your (no, no, no) personal information. Facebook comes right out and states this, though the reminder is placed search-it-out-deep within your apps settings page:

"On Facebook, your name, profile picture, cover photo, gender, networks, username, and user id are always publicly available to both people and apps. (Learn why). Apps also have access to your friends list and any information you choose to make public."

The good news is it's pretty easy to unlink those apps, if you know how (I love you, AARP!):

Click the downward-facing triangle at the top right of your profile page, then scroll down to "Settings."

Once in the Settings, click the "Apps" section. You'll be taken to a list of all third-party apps that you've granted access to your account.

Scroll to the bottom of this list, locate the "Apps, Websites and Plugins" box, click edit, and click "Disable Platform." On the same App Settings page, find the "Apps Others Use" box, and click Edit. You'll then be able to select which of your personal information is shared when any of your friends use apps, including your bio, your birthday, your recent Facebook activity and even your religious and political affiliations.

Modify Those Sharing Settings

Yup, I'm guilty of the next item: dictating who will see what I post to Facebook. By default, my/our profile is set to "Public," meaning anyone can see your information and posts. Limit who can see what you post:

Go to your Facebook settings by following the directions above.

Click on "Privacy" and you'll be taken to a page where you can edit "Who can see your posts?" Choose "Friends Only" for many or even all of these settings. You can also customize a list of Facebook friends who will see your posts or choose to keep your posts private to yourself only.

In the Privacy settings area, also opt out of Facebook's facial recognition system, which scans photos posted to the sites and makes tagging suggestions to other users.

Contact Ellen Phillips at ConsumerWatch@timesfreepress.com.

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