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5 private details Facebook asks for that you shouldn’t share

Published May 10th, 2016 9:52AM EDT
Facebook Privacy Settings

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Like Google, Facebook’s business is built around a simple design. It offers services to users for free, but those users are not Facebook’s customers. Instead, Facebook’s customers are companies that pay to run advertisements on its website and in its mobile apps. And the reason Facebook is so successful is that it offers its clients ways to target their ads better than most rivals. Why? Because Facebook knows so much about its users’ likes, dislikes and all sorts of other personal information.

It’s a successful model and it’s not going to change anytime soon. By using Facebook, you’re agreeing to let the company make use of your data in order to serve you targeted ads. As long as you understand that, then go right ahead and use Facebook all you’d like — but there are still a few things you’re better off keeping to yourself.

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Everything you look at, click, like and so on is recorded by Facebook and tied to your user profile. As a result, the site learns more and more about you in order to serve you ads that you’re most likely to click. Your profile also plays a big role as well, and there’s a great deal of personal information Facebook asks for in order to learn more about you. This info often does little or nothing to enhance your user experience though, so you might be better off omitting it.

Where you live

Listing your home address in your profile or as a location in Facebook’s events section seems harmless enough, but you might want to think twice before doing it. First, there’s a security issue — if someone gains access to your account, they now know exactly where you live. Beyond that, location plays a huge role in the targeted advertising profile Facebook wants to build for you.

If you must, just drop in a city and state but leave your street address a mystery.

Where you work

The reasons for omitting your work address and history are similar to your home address, but your work history also makes it easy for annoying former coworkers to find you. You already get enough of that on LinkedIn…

Your phone number

You should absolutely give a phone number to Facebook, but it shouldn’t be your phone number.

To clarify, supplying a phone number allows you to configure two-step authentication to better protect your Facebook account. But if you give Facebook your cell phone number, that exposes you in a few different ways. It means anyone and everyone who has your cell number can find you on Facebook, which is something you might not want. They also might be able to see profile info that you thought was only visible to your friends.

Instead, use a service like Google Voice. You’ll get a free number and texts can be forwarded to your real cell or to an email address. That way you can use two-step authentication without supplying your actual cell phone number.

Your birthday

Withholding your birthday from Facebook is smart for a few reasons. First, it means you don’t have to bother thanking 300 of your friends each year when they post a note on your wall wishing you a happy birthday. More importantly, if someone ever gains access to your Facebook account without your knowledge, your birthday is a key piece of info they need to verify your identity if they try to gain access to other accounts.

Your views and interests

Feel free to post whatever you’d like on your wall on in the comments section of things that your friends post. But Facebook also asks for things like who you’re interested in as well as your political and religious views in your profile. Adding that info to Facebook offers you no benefit whatsoever — it just gives Facebook an even better idea of what ads to show you.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.