How to Protect Your Identity on Facebook 

Barry Armstrong

Founder and President, Armstrong Advisory Group

There are more than 7.6 billion people living on the planet and as of the fourth quarter of 2017, about 2.2 billion of them were active Facebook users.  With nearly 30% of the world’s population on Facebook, it should come as no surprise that bad-faith actors attempt to leverage such a universal network to gain access to people’s most sensitive information.  The most recent high-profile example involved Cambridge Analytica, a London-based data mining company accused of secretly mining the data of more than 50 million Facebook users without permission.  Although Facebook denies that a data breach occurred, the situation serves as a reminder that even adults should think twice before sharing their information with strangers.

If you are a Facebook user, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure to risk aside from deactivating your account altogether.  First, it is a good idea to avoid playing games or using third-party apps that require you to share information from your Facebook profile such as your list of friends and activity log.  Your Facebook activity log keeps track of your likes, comments, and shares, so it is possible for data miners to find information about you and your interests if you give them access to it.  You can also adjust your profile’s privacy settings and accept friend requests only from fellow Facebook users you know.  Even if you do not use Facebook, it is smart to follow these same guidelines when using any other social media network.

While we are at it, it would be remiss of me not to encourage you to ensure that your identity is secure in other areas.  You should consider implementing a multi-factor authentication system for all of your online accounts.  For example, two-step authentication provides an extra layer of security: in most cases, you must enter your password and a code sent via text message directly to your mobile phone.  Other smart ideas include avoiding unsecured Wi-Fi connections and using strong passwords.  You should also be frequently monitoring your bank statements and credit report in order to keep an eye out for cases of identity theft.  The world around us is full of people who want nothing more than to steal your personal information by any means necessary in order to profit from your online footprint.  It is difficult to stop every data breach or instance of identity theft, but you have the ability to take steps to lower your risk of becoming yet another statistic.

Barry Armstrong has over 30 years of experience in the financial industry.  He founded the Armstrong Advisory Group in 2004 and has been sharing his financial knowledge with New Englanders on a daily basis during his Boston-based radio broadcast for nearly 20 years.  Learn more about Barry and the Armstrong Advisory Group at  Securities offered through Securities America, Inc.  Member FINRA/SIPC and Advisory Services offered through Securities America Advisors.  Barry Armstrong, Representative.  Representatives of Securities America do not offer tax advice.  Always seek the assistance of a tax professional familiar with the laws in your state.  Armstrong Advisory Group and Securities America are unaffiliated.  March 2018

(Image courtesy of The New York Times)