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Fear of Facebook: 7 free apps that guard your privacy

March 18, 2013 06:00 AM ET

Norton Safe Web

Some of the biggest threats to your privacy on Facebook don't necessarily have anything to do with your settings. They can be malicious links posted on your newsfeed. That's where this app comes in.

Norton Safe Web scans all of the links on your newsfeed and reports on the safety of each using four levels of security: Norton Secured, Safe, Caution and Warning.

Norton Secured sites have been issued SSL certificates from VeriSign, the authentication service owned by Symantic. Safe sites have been checked out by Norton and found to be safe, but don't have SSL certificates.

Norton Safe Web
Norton Safe Web scans all of the links on your newsfeed and reports on the safety of each.

A site listed with a Caution has some potential threats; one with a Warning has more. For every tested link, you can click to a Web page to see Norton's Safe Web report about it, which includes details about any associated threats, including overall threats to your computer, identity threats or simple annoyances. There are some links Norton apparently hasn't gotten to yet; these are rated as Untested.

If the associated site is problematic, there's plenty of granular data on the Safe Web report, such as specific viruses, worms or spyware that have been found on the site, suspicious applications that it's linked to and more.


This free add-on for Firefox and Chrome is an excellent, simple way to see all the privacy implications of your Facebook use -- and to fix any of the settings you'd like.

The installed app puts a Privacyfix button on your browser's bookmarks bar. Click it (first making sure you're logged into Facebook), and you'll be presented with a screen full of privacy-related information, such as whether non-friends can see likes and posts, whether your likes can be used for ads, whether your profile is indexed in Google, whether your profile information is shared when you visit websites and much more. It even tells you how much money you're worth to Facebook (based on your Facebook use) and what percentage of the websites you visit are tracked by Facebook.

Privacyfix offers a thorough report on your Facebook settings and offers a way to fix them.

Privacyfix does more than that, though. The real power of this excellent add-on is that it will fix your privacy settings if you want it to. Each setting that can be tweaked to provide greater privacy has a button with the word "Fix" -- click on the button and it sends you to the appropriate Facebook settings screen, along with instructions about how to make the change. Any setting that is already fully protected has the word Fixed next to it. After you fix a setting, it changes from Fix to Fixed.

Privacyfix protects your privacy for other sites as well; for example, it shows which sites and/or ad companies are tracking you. Click on the company's icon, and you can access a variety of information about that company, including a rating of how concerned you should be.

Finally, if you click the Privacyfix button when you're on any website, the app shows you general privacy policies and concerns related to that site, including whether private information is generally shared with other sites.

Here's another free way to check for potential privacy problems with your Facebook account.

Once you've logged in to and connected it to your Facebook account, you'll be sent to a page called the Dashboard, where you can see a summary of your all scans and other activities. scans your Facebook posts for the last 7, 30 or 90 days, depending on your preference, and reports not just on privacy but other threats as well. It divides these reports into three major categories: Privacy (which checks whether you've revealed any personal information, such as your hometown, workplace or the names of family members), Profile (which checks whether your posts are being created by apps, under the theory that they might be malware) and Network (which checks your network of friends on Facebook to see if they have posted "questionable posts" with problems such as potentially harmful links).

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