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Saving Your Sanity (and Privacy) on Facebook

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Saving Your Sanity (and Privacy) on Facebook

It’s normal to feel anxious about sharing all your personal information on Facebook, but there are some basic precautions you can take to protect yourself from hackers and stalkers. BK's publicist Cynthia Shannon has five recommendations for maintaining your privacy and sanity on Facebook.

1. Avoid easy passwords: Having your Facebook account hacked is a lot more common - and frustrating - when your password is easy to crack . Make your password really hard - a mix of random numbers and letters that only make sense to you. Example: The area code of the first phone number you remember, the initials of your favorite two cousins, and an ampersand. Heck, make it two ampersands.

2. Get instant notification in case of a security breach: Go to Account > Privacy Settings > Account Security (second from bottom). Click Yes to receive notifications when your account has been accessed from another computer that wasn’t your own. You’ll have to register each computer you’re accessing Facebook on, but it’s worth knowing when someone else is too (hackers will use your account to spam your friends and download viruses to their machines. Not fun .

3. Control who can find you on Facebook: Go to Account > Privacy Settings > Basic Directory Information. Select Only Friends under Search for Me on Facebook. The same goes for Message Me. Let's face it, you really aren't too keen on being found by certain people .

4. Stop Google from finding you on Facebook: Take your privacy to the next level by going to Privacy Settings > Applications and Websites (bottom left) > Public Search. Unclick the box that catalogs you in public searches. You will now have to be the instigator of all friend requests -- which is fine because Google knows a bit too much about us already. This only works if you’re already limited under Basic Directory Information (see above).

5. Don’t let Facebook follow you where you go: Facebook partners with certain sites such as Pandora and Yelp, instantly showing your Facebook profile picture and likes when on their sites. If you think this is creepy, turn it off by going to Privacy Settings > Application Settings (bottom left) > Instant Personalization. Uncheck the box, and no one will know of your secret crush on Justin Bieber.

Though these tips are drastic, they can save you unnecessary headache from spammers, hackers, and stalkers. On the other hand, if people can’t find you on Google, you might miss out on reconnecting with a former flame - or potential business partner. Tread wisely, my dears, and do let me know your thoughts, reactions, and suggestions below.