Trader’s Guide to Securing Your Facebook Account (Part 1 of 2)

For many of us, connecting on social networks is part of the trading business. And Facebook is one of the networks traders are mostly likely to use. Facebook has been in the news a lot lately, but not for good reasons. Unless you’ve been under a rock for most of 2018, you’ve already heard about the problems Facebook has been having with its security. Earlier in 2018, the Cambridge Analytica scandal put Facebook’s privacy problems front and center in our attention. After the scandal broke, a lot of people took the drastic measure of deleting their Facebook accounts. However, many of us didn’t want to lose the pervasive social and business benefits Facebook has brought. So taking full advantage of Facebook’s privacy settings has become the preferred solution. More recently, Facebook has announced it was hacked, affecting almost 50 million users. And suddenly, a feature that once appeared to make life easier is now a major security threat. But I’m getting ahead of myself. In this post and the next one, we’ll take a look at specific things traders can do to minimize the likelihood of having their accounts and their trading activity compromised because of Facebook’s security vulnerabilities.

The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings and Risks

Most people don’t invest the time to learn about Facebook’s privacy settings. You can solve a lot of problems by carefully selecting from the available options. In the Cambridge Analytica case, the company used an app called ‘This is Your Digital Life’ to collect data. Users had to consent to share information. So it might seem that you should stop sharing data. However, most legitimate apps still need data access to function. It isn’t a good plan to just shut down the access. Instead, be aware of the personal information these apps are using. It will help you make smarter decisions. Here are a few steps that can prevent Facebook privacy leaks:

Run Privacy Checkup

Facebook privacy settings are not straightforward. The information is scattered all over the application. But a good starting point is the Privacy Checkup. Access Privacy Checkup from the question mark icon in the Facebook toolbar at the top of the window. Click on the icon and select Privacy Checkup. It will guide you through the following broad areas:
  • Posts – Specify how broad an audience can see your posts.
  • Profile – Control the visibility of your personal information.
  • Apps and Websites – See the third-party apps you’ve used Facebook to log into.
Let’s look at each of these areas in more detail.

Set Up Default Post Privacy

The information you share on Facebook can reach many or a selected few. It all depends on your settings in the Posts section of the Privacy Checkup. You have the option to select Public, Friends, Friends except, Specific friends, Only me, and Custom. Most of the time, the Friends option is your best choice. This means only your Facebook friends can see your posts. Only me can be a handy option if you want to put something on Facebook but keep the information to yourself. Finally, Custom is an interesting option as you can play around and make your own selective groups. Note that this setting can be overridden with a one-time change for each new post you publish.

Restrict Access to Profile Information

Under Privacy Checkup > Profile, decide who can see these bits of personal information:
  • Phone
  • Email (could be multiple email addresses)
  • Birthday (month/day is controlled separately from year)
  • Hometown
For each of these items, you can choose to allow viewing by Public, Friends, Only Me, and Custom. Facebook lets you name and save your Custom lists of contacts (e.g., business contacts). In the Posts section, you can choose one of these lists as your default group for sharing posts. Here in the Profile section, you can choose a specific list for sharing each separate bit of personal information. In addition to your own lists, the Profile section gives you the option to choose from several general lists tied to the geographic locations you mention in your profile (e.g., New York City area). Some privacy settings let you set both ‘share with’ and ‘don’t share with’ lists. This allows you a fair amount of flexibility and control.

Control Third-Party Apps

The third section under Privacy Checkup deals with third-party apps and websites. These are apps you’ve logged into with Facebook. This can happen in a couple of ways:
  • You are already on Facebook and you want to access the app from within Facebook. This list of apps includes everything from games to storefronts (e.g., Selz).
  • You want to create an account for an app outside of Facebook. When you get to their account registration page, they give you the option to ‘Log in with Facebook’ (e.g., Spotify).
In either case, when you use Facebook to log in, the app gains some level of access to the personal information Facebook has for you. Specifically in the second case, these ‘outside’ apps can create a more in-depth profile of you. And the more one app knows about you, the greater the risk. The Apps and Websites section of Privacy Checkup will show you which apps have access. At a minimum, remove any unused apps to improve security. For even better security, do NOT use Facebook to log into other apps. I know it’s easy. But don’t do it. This was always a best-security practice. Now it’s a necessity, highlighted by the Fall 2018 hacking incident in which hackers theoretically gained access to accounts on any app for which users had used Facebook’s login service. Instead of using Facebook to login, set up a separate account for every app. (Get your list of apps from Privacy Checkup.) If you haven’t done it already, get around the added inconvenience by installing a password manager app on your trading computer. (My team uses Roboform.)

Conclusion

Traders deal with business-sensitive information every day. Security needs to be top-of-mind. Make sure you aren’t unwittingly leaving yourself vulnerable on Facebook. Take a look at your Facebook profile’s Privacy Checkup settings and take action today.
There are more trading computer tips like this in our buyer’s guide. Check out our “How To Buy a Trading Computer” e-book.
Remember, we are here to help with all your technology-related questions. If you think of additional questions about computer hardware or other questions, give me a call. My team and I are here to help. We’re happy to answer any of your questions about trading computers via phone: 800-387-5250.