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A guide to protecting your information on the New Facebook

By now, you've probably heard that Facebook has made some big changes that affect your privacy. However, you might not know what they are. So far, the changes have been explained in the language of the people that they benefit: companies and app developers. What about us, the end users? Here's a handy collection of the best tips that we could find for protecting your privacy on Facebook's wild new frontier.
Obviously, the best way to keep your information private on Facebook is to not have a Facebook page. You can deactivate your account using the link at the bottom of the account settings page, which hides your info and gives you the option to reactivate later and pick up where you left off. If you're looking for a full, permanent, once-and-for-all Delete Account link, you can find it in Facebook's help center.

If you're not going to delete your account, you should (at a minimum) pop open your Application Settings and delete any Facebook apps that you aren't using. Under new Facebook rules, apps can hold onto your info as long as they like (as opposed to the old limit of 24 hours). That makes using apps more convenient (you don't have to authorize them repeatedly), but it also means that you're trusting them a lot more. If you don't trust or don't use an app, just hit that X and disconnect it from your account.

Another new Facebook feature that you have to be careful of is that all of your interests and favorites (and even your hometown) will be linked to Facebook pages now. These will be visible to search engines and anyone who finds your page. To get around this, you can delete that info altogether, or move it to the freeform "About Me" box.

There's also a sneaky new preference called Instant Personalization that you've been automatically opted into (gee, thanks Facebook!) This is that "Facebook automatically shares ALL of your data with its special partner sites" feature I wrote about last month, and now it's here. So far, the partners are Yelp, Microsoft's, and Pandora. Go ahead and find Instant Personalization in preferences under Applications and Web sites and uncheck it.

Facebook warns you that even unchecking Instant Personalization won't stop your friends from automatically sharing your info to personalize their experiences on the partner sites. Friends who don't care about privacy are a major leak on Facebook, so you'll also want to uncheck every single box under the "What your friends can share about you" section of the preferences. It's under Applications and Web sites.

Of course, it doesn't help to keep your friends from sharing your info if you're sharing it yourself. To make sure you're not, go to Profile Information, and make sure everything is set to Only Friends. It's a tedious process, but it's highly recommended.

Remember, the only way to guarantee that Facebook won't share, sell, or expose your information is to not put that information on Facebook at all. Of course, Facebook is harder and harder to avoid as it becomes a more useful, more essential part of the Web. It's important to take basics steps in order to make sure you're only sharing what you want to.
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Tags: facebook, facebook settings, FacebookSettings, privacy, settings, sharing