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All of us we know the internet can be an obnoxious place, and the sharing culture of social media often runs counter to security and privacy best practices. Most of us have at some point shared our birthdays, photos of our loved ones, information about where we live and come from, and other content that perhaps shouldn’t be made public online.

In a worst case scenario, information you share online could be taken advantage of to pose a threat to your security or even physical safety. The fundamentals of securing your online presence are much the same regardless of what online services you use.

In a worst case scenario, information you share online could be taken advantage of to pose a threat to your security or even physical safety. The fundamentals of securing your online presence are much the same regardless of what online services you use.

In general you should ensure that mutual friends/followers with access to restricted accounts are people you trust. Search your post history for personal information that could be used for identity theft, to access your accounts, or to locate your physical address. If necessary, take measures to remove them en mass. Plus you can check for photos of you that others have shared on tagged, removing any tags if they are unneeded.

When it comes to protecting your physical address, this can be exposed in a number of ways. If you’re an eBay seller and have shared links via personal accounts, note that your address is generally published alongside your auctions. The same may apply to other business listings, such as records at Companies House, as well as some academic listings.

If you’re being actively threatened, it’s best to immediately restrict access, set private or, if necessary, suspend, delete, or unpublish your accounts. While doing so you should screenshot and report any threats that have been sent to you, before blocking those who are responsible.

Other steps you can take are: disabling automatic location sharing, enabling two-factor authentication to protect your accounts, back up and delete old posts wherever possible, and consider closing non-essential social media accounts that you don’t use anymore and particularly those associated with your real name and identity.

Now for some specifics.

FACEBOOK

You’ll find Facebook’s main privacy options on the settings screen. Under the security and login tab, you should enable two-factor authentication, check what devices are logged in and enable alerts for unauthorized logins if you suspect someone may try to break into your account.

Under the Privacy tab, you can set who can see your posts, including your old posts – set both to friends-only or private. You should also set your friends list visibility to Only me or Friends, disable email address and phone number based lookup and possibly restrict friend requests to only people who are already friends of your friends.

These settings also include an option to review past posts. This will take you to your Activity log, where you can see everything you’ve posted, as well as anything others have tagged you in. You can also get to the Activity log by clicking on the downward-pointing arrow at the far right of Facebook’s top toolbar, clicking Settings & privacy and then Activity log.

On Activity log, click Timeline review, then Posts. You can select them by date, shown along the left-hand navigation bar. Use the ‘…’ icon at the top right of each post to delete them one by one. However, if you use Facebook or Facebook Lite on your phone, you’ve probably received access to the Manage Activity feed, which lets you send multiple posts to a Trash bin, from which they can be recovered for 30 days before being fully deleted.

From your mobile Activity Log page, tap Manage Activity at the top. You can then filter your past posts by date and content, and use tick-boxes to select multiple posts to delete or privately archive. If you’re had your account a long time, full deletion will still be time-consuming, but it’s a good way of keeping on top of a regular deletion habit.

Also on mobile, disable location services to avoid inadvertently advertising your movements.

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If you need to get rid of your full posting history you may still wish to use more convenient third-party tools such as the Delete All Messages for Facebook and Social Book Post Manager for Chrome. Be aware that the effectiveness of such tools is dependent on factors including Facebook not changing its API and the speed of your internet connection. As ever, back up your data before deletion and remove the tools from your browser when finished.

If you plan on closing or temporarily deactivating your account, you’ll find those options in the Your Facebook information tab, as well as an option to download a full archive of all your posts and activity on the platform – you should also take advantage of this before bulk deleting posts.

Facebook’s tools for viewing and unfriending the people are also easier to work with than Twitter’s: from your main profile page, click on your Friends tab to browse through them and click on the Friends label next to someone to produce a drop-down and click Unfriend to remove them. Sadly, we couldn’t find any functional tools to automate this process.

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