How to Audit Your Facebook Account: 3 Ways to Make Your Friends Safer

Security & Privacy

Did you see any spam in your Facebook feed today?

Has it gotten so that every day you see some strange application shooting random posting random updates in between updates from The Onion and your brother’s best friend?

Maybe you just haven’t turned off Farmville, yet?

Or perhaps you’re one of the three out of four Facebook users who are bothered by social networking spam. If that’s true, there’s a good chance you agree with the nearly 50% of Facebook users we surveyed who deal with spam frequently.

With the help of you and the readers of this blog, we’ve just completed a study about Facebook safety.

What we found is that spam is getting pretty pervasive on Facebook. However, users still generally still feel safe on the site, which is crucial to Facebook’s growth. Despite the spam, people continue to spend more and more time social networking. Even the major security concerns—account being hacked and identity theft—suggest that users closely identify with their Facebook profiles. And we feel safe because we trust our friends. Yet crooks and spammers and frauds are looking to take advantage of our trust.

Here are three quick ways to keep your and your friends worst Facebook security fears from coming true.

1. Audit your friends list
We found that around half of Facebook users say that they know most of their friends.15% know only a few or none of their so-called friends.

‘Know’ could be an old fashion way to look at it. Many people have Internet relationships that have lasted more than a decade without meeting in person. Trust is more important. Do you trust this person enough to share your life with him or her? Is there any reason not to? You can always choose what you share. But you can’t choose what ends up in your news feed for you to accidentally click.

To audit your friends, go your Profile, scroll to Friends and click See All.  Ask yourself, if you know and trust this person. If you aren’t sure,  go to his or her profile. If they post lots of updates that you’re not interested in or worry you, scroll down the left hand till you get to “Remove from friends”. Click.

As you audit your list,  if you see a single woman with a revealing profile photo who has no friends in common  with you, chances are you’re friends with a spam profile.

2. Audit your applications
Got a minute? Do yourself a favor and log into Facebook. Go to Account > Privacy Settings. Under Applications and Websites, click Edit your settings.  Take a deep breath. Now you can either Turn off all platform applications or Remove unwanted or spammy applications. Do one or the other.

If you turn the platform off, you’ll be free of most Facebook spam, but you won’t be able to use any applications at all. So if you choose to use applications, you need to go through and remove any app you do not use or trust. You can also block spamming apps as they come up. And once a spammy application is removed, you make your network a little safer. If you come across a spamming app, please report it.

(Bonus tip: The single best way I improved my Facebook experience was to hide the notifications from Facebook games. Here’s how to do it. I’m not a gamer, so it was an easy choice for me. And you can always block games as they appear in your feed.

3. Remember: Links are not your friends.
Your friends are your friends. They post links. Those links are probably safe. But your friend may have activated a spam application or accidentally posted something he or she hasn’t checked. Use your intuition. If your aunt suddenly uses OMG or LOL for the first time, she may have been click jacked. If something in your feed alerts you to something particular scandalous—like a girl caught on a webcam or the ability to see who has viewed your profile or any profile—it may end up leading to a scam or malware. And if you click on it, you’ll spread that nasty little deal to your network. You can check any link it with our free Browsing Protection. It’s another layer of protection, but the best protection will always be your intuition. So always check your gut before you click.


One of most interesting things to me about Facebook is how clearly it demonstrates the social nature of online threats. When anyone in our network gets infected, you’re more likely to get infected. By helping to keep your network safe, you keep yourself safe. So there are selfish reasons to be safe on Facebook.

But I don’t believe people on Facebook are especially selfish or narcissistic. Research says we actually tend to be more social than those who abstain from Facebook.

Sean Sullivan of the F-Secure Labs has compared the members of social networks to antibodies that can be used to prevent infections quickly. On Facebook, you create your network. There is no one and nothing in your news feed that doesn’t come from someone of something you ‘liked’.  If the entire Facebook experience is based on’ like’, we should like each enough protect each other.





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[…] By taking people out of your feed, Facebook is enabling over-friending and following. This can become a security or spam problem if you’re following the wrong people. But you shouldn’t be following the wrong people. By keeping a realistic view of who you’re actually following, you’ll know when you need to audit your account. […]

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