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Peter Imes: What you need to know about Facebook privacy


Peter Imes



This is the first of what I hope will become a regular column on technology and how businesses and individuals can better use it. If you have questions after reading a column, I encourage you to either e-mail me or find the column on and post your question in the "reader comments" section that can be found at the bottom of each story. I monitor these comments and will try to answer questions there. 




Understanding Facebook privacy 


If you are not one of the 400,000,000-plus people who have a Facebook account you should know that Facebook is a free website that can quickly connect you to virtually anyone you''ve ever met. By creating an account and entering some personal information, Facebook finds other registered users who you have come into contact with and allows you to become online "friends" with each other. Once you are friends, you can exchange messages and share photos, links events, and videos.  


I''ve taught several classes on Facebook over the past year, and privacy concerns are always one of the most popular topics of discussion. Facebook allows you to enter a tremendous amount of personal information into their website, and you should be aware of how that information is used. To complicate matters, Facebook frequently changes their privacy policy without effectively communicating those changes to their users. 


Admittedly, newspaper columns about privacy policies don''t make the most exciting reading, but this is something every Facebook user should understand so bear with me. 




Personal information 


Sharing personal information with your friends is at the heart of Facebook. Every Facebook user is required to share their name, profile photo, gender, current city, networks, Friend lists and all the Facebook Pages they follow with every other Facebook user. If you are not comfortable with that, you should delete your Facebook account because you don''t have a choice in the matter. (I''ll tell you how to do that in a bit.) 


Though you are required to share the above information, Facebook allows you to control who sees any additional information you enter such as your birthday, your religious and political views, your relationship status and more. 


To access Facebook''s privacy controls, log in to your Facebook account, click on the Account menu in the upper right hand corner of the page and then select Privacy Settings.  


You have four levels of privacy for most items within Privacy Settings, You can select to share something with everyone, friends of friends, only friends, or you can create a custom security setting. 


If I were sensitive about my age and wanted to prevent everyone from seeing my birthday, I would go to Privacy Settings, click "Personal Information and Posts" and then scroll down the page until I see "Birthday." Just to the right of the word "Birthday" is a little button that currently says "Everyone." I don''t mind if my friends know my birthday, but I don''t want the whole world to know, so I can click that button and change "Everyone" to "Only Friends." 


If you''ve never visited this part of Facebook, you should take 15 minutes and explore each section. Most of it is pretty self-explanatory but many people don''t take the time to review their settings. Since Facebook changes their privacy policy relatively frequently, you should review these settings every six months. 


While you are in Privacy Settings, you will see an option to disable your account. Disabling your account does not remove your personal information from Facebook. It simply makes your account inaccessable to others. The ability to completely delete your account is really hidden on the Facebook website. The easy way is to type this address in your browser: 




Easy plastic processing 


I''m jumping subjects a little but want to mention a new service that I think is one of the neatest products announced in awhile. 


Square is a system that allows virtually anyone to remotely accept credit and debit card payments. It currently works with iPhones, iPads, iPod Touch, and Android devices. Simply plug a free Square card reader into the headphone jack of your device and start accepting electronic payments wherever you are. The reader securely transfers the customer''s card data to Square who processes the payment. Once payment is confirmed, you have the option of e-mailing or text messaging a receipt to the customer. 


Hosting a car wash fundraiser? Setting up a booth at an area festival or farmers'' market? Doing some painting work on the side to make some extra money? Historically, it would have been complicated and expensive to accept credit card payments in these situations, but now you can make it drastically easier for your customers to pay you. 


Anyone familiar with PayPal will understand the concept. When you accept a payment from a customer, your Square account is credited the amount of the payment. You can link your Square account with your traditional bank account to transfer funds. You do not need a merchant account to accept payments with Square, and they do not charge monthly fees. Like any other card transaction system, they charge a competitive percentage rate on each purchase. 


Square is not the only company offering wireless card processing, but it makes the process much easier than any other solution I''ve seen. 


Square is currently in beta testing, which means it is not quite ready for wide release; however, you can get more details and apply for a Square account at


Peter Imes is publisher of The Dispatch. You can email him at [email protected]



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Reader Comments

Article Comment Tammie Honeycutt commented at 5/13/2010 6:37:00 PM:

Great article, Peter. Simple, straight-up guidance. Looking forward to your regular column.


Article Comment kat commented at 5/14/2010 10:04:00 PM:

good article=
my question is- why, as a "friend" of the Dispatch, do you have access to my page and friends, but I don't have access to "friends" of the Dispatch?


Article Comment Peter commented at 5/15/2010 10:35:00 PM:

The Dispatch is set up as a Facebook Page. When you become a fan of (or "like") the Dispatch, the relationship is a little different than when you become friends with another individual or when you join a Facebook Group. If you are a fan of our page, we actually can't see everything about you and your friends. We can see your name and profile photo plus any item you've marked for Everyone to see. You get to see updates we post but we don't see updates you post unless you post them directly to our wall. Facebook Groups (usually created for individual events) work a little more like individual friends. Hope this clears the difference up.


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