NOOB PWNED

I try to do a Facebook audit every so often, just because I’m a high school teacher and I know the kids go looking for me sometimes. As a general policy, I never accept students as friends until after they graduate (or I don’t work there anymore) and even then, I put them on a limited profile where they aren’t allowed to see my pictures, among other things.

So about six months ago, I checked out my security settings and discovered with the change to the “Timeline” layout of Facebook that it was left wide open. I was pretty much completely exposed to the public, at least with my Wall and About Me information. Maybe the pictures were still contained. I was horrified, scrambling to figure out how to lock it down again. Minimally, I had actually scrubbed out some pictures that I didn’t want up anymore before I had moved to the Timeline, but still. (Yes, I know Facebook still has them in their possession, but at least they don’t appear to be attached immediately to my account for everyone to see.) About a month ago, they changed everyone’s email address that is displayed on their profile to a generic Facebook email address without notifying anyone. Of course, I still haven’t managed to remove that email from my account (impossible), but I did get my email back to the display.

That’s the thing about Facebook. You just don’t know when a change will leave you exposed. They change privacy policies or remake a layout and you start over. More often than not, settings are buried in several locations so it is very possible to “miss something” sometimes. Wonderful. More rookie users or the naive that don’t think about privacy much probably never know. Back in the day, when Facebook was “young,” it wasn’t so tricky to tame as it is now.

For me, the most useful tool they have is the one that you can see how your profile looks to a specific user (you type in the name). Lately, I can never seem to find it though. It moves, I swear! Today I managed to find one that showed me what my profile looks like to the public, which was satisfying enough. I didn’t find the specific user view this time. I hope my Limited Profile view still is limited.

About a month ago, I found a handy little security setting that if my Facebook was accessed from a new computer, that it would text me a authentication code that I would have to use as a password to log in. I wasn’t too sure about attaching my cell phone number to my Facebook account, but I feel like it is better than getting hacked.

My most recent audit of Facebook this week didn’t expose anything as alarming as what I discovered with Timeline. I made a few tweaks. I changed a setting on I will need to approve when other users tag me in posts. I cleaned up some Apps that I felt didn’t need to be associated with my account anymore. I changed a setting so that Facebook can only text me 5 times a day. It never does, except for the authentication codes I described above, so I figured this is reasonable. I’d rather them not change a security setting again, and find out too late that I’m getting a hundred texts a day from Facebook.

A few years ago, I offered a community ed course called “Financial Peace University” by Dave Ramsey. (I am emphatically anti-debt and really believe in his method. If you want some getting-out-of-debt tips, I’m your girl!) Anyway, I used Facebook ads to publicize my course in the area. It didn’t really help; my enrollment was low no thanks to the $40 I spent on Facebook ads, but I tried, right? Because of this, I had a credit card attached to my Facebook account… I’m not sure why I never removed it before, but I tackled it today. It was actually a little tricky to remove. Typical…

My Google audit was also pretty clean. I used to be a little more visible with K-12 lesson plan sharing and stuff, but that seems to have settled deeper into the depths of my Google results. I had never thought to pull up Google images attached to my name before, though. That was quite a surprise. Not that the pictures were compromising, but basically all of my Picasa albums that were set to public were indexed with tags to my name. I guess I just thought that the link allowed people in, if they knew where to look, not that everything was tagged. There were a lot of pictures of family members that I don’t think I would have posted if I had realized that they were all tagged behind their back. I think I managed to evoke some privacy settings on the pictures, but I’m sure it will take awhile before they fall off the top results for Google images.

While I am fairly confident and secure about my digital image and digital dossier, I have a separate digital insecurity that has recently developed. Yesterday, I bought my first Apple computer–a MacBook Pro! I am excited, but COMPLETELY out of my element. I have been checking out MacBooks from the campus libraries for the last week because I require a Mac program for my final course assignment (I am using Pages to publish EPUBS).

I think I’ve made a few mistakes with the loaner Macs, like installing iCloud and logging into to my Chrome browser account on a machine that wasn’t mine to personalize. Since I am pretty green on how Macs work, I am unsure how much I have exposed myself or my data from my other Apple devices (like my iPhone or iPad) or even my internet browsing history. For example, because of my iCloud mistake (I think that was the culprit), my brand new Safari browser on the new computer was fully equipped with all of the UW-Madison Libraries Quick Links. Gee, thanks… Who knows what else got screwed up! Since I’m such a Mac newbie, I don’t even know where to look.

I’m hoping it will turn out okay, especially since the campus libraries re-image each machine every time when they are returned after 3 days. In the meantime, I’m trying to learn as quickly as possible and I’m making visits to the Apple Store for One-on-Ones. I had one this morning and I’ve got another appointment tomorrow before class. Maybe they can help this NOOB before she gets PWNED.

2 Responses

  1. amerry August 7, 2012 / 7:25 am

    As a general policy, I never accept teachers as friends until after I graduate, haha.

  2. Kyle August 7, 2012 / 7:43 am

    Congrats on the new MacBook.

    Your story shows how slippery the privacy ground is. So many ways to customize your privacy settings, yet so often how to change those settings morphs. No one tells you. No one asks your opinion. You are at the mercy of the one who controls your data.

Leave a Reply