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How to Fix Your Facebook Settings

Recent changes to Facebook's unwieldy privacy settings promise to make it easier to control who sees what, but it's still a work in progress. The newest privacy settings (under "Account") offer simplified choices for sharing content you post (such as status updates) and the content that others post about you (such as "tagging" you in a photo). One-click options for "everyone," "friends of friends" or 'friends only" let you choose your level of privacy for content that you can share. The default for new accounts is a combination of the three levels. Or you can customize each setting.

Unfortunately, the simplicity ends there. You must choose seven directory-information settings to restrict who can search for you and what they can see (the default setting is "everyone"). And you're not done yet: You should also set preferences for applications and Web sites that can access your information. For example, the "public search" feature creates a listing for you on search engines unless you disable it.

Some content will always be public: your name, gender, profile picture and networks. To see how your profile appears to others, go to your account privacy settings. Then, under "Basic Directory Information," select "View Settings" and click "Preview My Profile." For more information on the new settings, go to www.facebook.com/privacy/explanation.php.

Regardless of the settings, it's best to self-filter, says Murray Jennex, information security professor at San Diego State University. The site could eventually change the settings, be sold or go bankrupt, he says, and "at some point the content could be viewed by anyone."

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