With such frequent changes to social networks’ security and privacy settings, it’s a really, really good idea to review your accounts periodically.  Protecting your privacy and personal data online is not just an option – it’s a responsibility. The New Year is a great time to dig deep into the settings of your accounts, check on the permissions you’ve granted to various third parties, and make sure that you aren’t unintentionally publicizing your personal information. Here at inConcert Web Solutions, we want to make sure our friends, families, clients and readers all know what they can do to protect themselves.

Some tips to remember:

6. Just because it says “friend” doesn’t mean it’s true. We can’t stress this enough – be careful who you add online! Some of those online “friends” may be less than friendly. If you get connection requests from strangers, chances are likely that their account is fake! The intention is to access and exploit your personal data, and not to coo over the album of puppy pics you just posted. How can you truly trust someone that you don’t even know?

5. Cover photos are public. All of your Facebook cover photos are public, and they can be viewed by anyone with an account. Also visible to everyone? Cover photo comments and likes. This setting cannot be changed, but you aren’t required to have a cover photo at all.

4. Profile photos are public… at first. When you update your default profile picture on Facebook, the security of your new photo is automatically set to public. You can customize the privacy immediately after posting it and any time after that. Keep in mind that even if you block some people from viewing the photo full size and any comments or likes on it, that doesn’t mean the photo is completely hidden. If these people can visit your profile, they will probably see a small version of your photo there – they just won’t be able to click on it. In addition, small thumbnail versions of your default profile photo accompany all of your posts in other places around the site.

3. Apps can access your data. When you add a new Facebook game or app, usually you’ll be asked to grant permission for the app to access your data, friends list, or other information. If you stop playing the game or don’t want to use the app anymore, make sure you delete these permissions from your Facebook settings so that the developers can no longer access your information.

2. Automation is not always your friend. Having multiple social networks connected automatically can be convenient but it can also be a major security flaw. If your Facebook statuses automatically repost to your Twitter account, your post may have a larger audience than you originally anticipated. What you thought was a private post on Facebook may turn out to be a public Tweet, and the same can happen on other social media sites as well.

1. You can preview your public profile. For a long time, this feature did not exist, and it was hard to know what other people were shown when they visited your profile. Now you can see the public version of your profile, as well as what specific Facebook friends or groups can see. No more second-guessing whether your girlfriend can see those embarrassing childhood photos your family keeps posting!

I took some screenshots of my own Facebook account to demonstrate. The “View As” feature can be found in the gear menu on the bottom right of your cover photo.

Once you click it, you are shown your public profile:

Those who look closely can see that several details have changed. For example, in the first photo, my most recent post was last night, 13 hours ago. In the second photo, the top post is dated December 18th. That means that I have not made any public posts since December 18th.

To see your profile the way it’s displayed to any of your Facebook friends, just click on the black bar at the top where it says “View as Specific Person” and you will be able to enter a name. Depending on your privacy settings, some people might have permission to see more content than others.