Facebook simplifies privacy policy for users

When I see people venting on Facebook about their News Feed, questioning the ads and the things they see and don’t see, I know with almost 100 percent certainty they have never read the terms of service and probably never look at their privacy settings.

Bottom line: If you use a social media network that collects your personal data — most do — it’s your responsibility to understand what you’re getting into, even if that means reading the fine print and navigating a few screens.

Lucky for all you busy types who don't have the time, Facebook is making things easier with its new Privacy Basics https://www.facebook.com/about/basics section. There's still plenty to read, but Facebook has finally put its privacy policy in plain English.

Here are some highlights.

“You’re in charge.” The colorful Privacy Basics page starts with that headline and the explanation “We’re here to help you get the experience you want. Learn about ways to protect your privacy on Facebook.”

In the first subsection, “What Others See About You,” you can click to learn more about who sees what you post, how to delete posts, who can see your list of friends, what comes up when people search for you, likes and comments, tagging and how to deactivate and delete your account. They are all basics, but if you’ve never read them you might find something you’ve missed.

One of the most helpful parts of that section is learning about what your profile looks like to someone else. If you didn’t know you could type in the name of any friend and see what that person sees when they look at your profile, you’re missing out. You have total control, so if there’s a certain Facebook friend who absolutely shouldn’t have your email address or phone number, you can control that. And you should.

The second subsection is called “How Others Interact With You,” and it contains topics ranging from managing what gets posted on your timeline to unfriending and blocking to getting help if you think you’ve been hacked. People who aren’t familiar with these parts of Facebook are putting themselves at great risk. The last thing you want is to find something less-than-wholesome on your timeline and not understand how it got there. And if your password is your first name or 1-2-3-4-5, you definitely need to know how to recover your account should you lose control due to hacking.

The third and final subsection is called “What You See.” This is the section that lets you customize what you see from friends and advertisers. Here you can learn how to change the ads you see and change what shows up in your newsfeed.

You can’t control everything on Facebook, but you definitely have more control than you ever had before, as long as you know where to look.

Regardless of what Facebook announces or does, I always recommend people check the settings on all their social networks once every three months, just to make sure nothing has changed or updates aren’t needed. Do what I do and set an Outlook reminder so you don’t forget. You’ll feel smarter and more secure every time.

What questions do you have about social media? Tweet them to @scottkleinberg with hashtag #SoSocial. He might select yours for use in a future column.