-- If you haven't checked your Facebook privacy settings lately, it's time to revisit them. I'm amazed at how many people think they've taken adequate precautions, yet I can waltz right onto their wall or view all their personal photos, even though I'm not a friend or even a friend of their friends.
Fortunately, Facebook now places privacy and location controls next to everything you share. You can choose who sees your status updates, photos and location before you even post them.
You'll still want to check your default settings. You should also edit your profile to make sure you're not sharing unwanted information. If you're the parent of teenagers and you allow them on Facebook, it's important that you help them lock down their settings, as well.
Let's start with the profile. Click your name at the top of the screen. Then click the Edit Profile button in the upper right hand corner.
To the right of every piece of information you can share, there's a drop-down menu where you choose Public, Friends, Only Me or Custom. Facebook calls it the inline audience selector.
The Public, Friends and Only Me settings should be self-explanatory. The Custom setting allows you to choose specific people or lists of people who can see your information. Alternately, you can choose to hide information from specific people or lists of people.
Try to strike a balance between having fun and getting connected, while not becoming a target for stalkers and identity thieves.
To stay safe, I recommend always setting your address, birthday, phone number and email to Only Me. Better yet, don't enter that information in the first place. Remember, once you let any of those details loose on the Web, they're there forever.
As you're tweaking your profile, you'll notice there's a View As button in the upper right hand corner. This feature allows you to test how your profile looks to friends and to the public. When you're done editing your profile, click Save Changes.
Now, edit your privacy settings by clicking the upside-down triangle in the upper right corner of your screen and selecting Privacy Settings.
Facebook gives you the option to set all your privacy settings to Public, Friends or Custom. This option will appear by default when posting content. You can then change the privacy of each individual post with the inline audience selector.
Some apps, such as Facebook for Blackberry, haven't yet caught up to the inline audience selector. If that's your case, set your mobile default privacy to Friends or Custom.
If you're happy with the global settings, you're done. But I recommend looking at all the individual options. You're likely to find something else that needs tweaking.
Start with How You Connect and click on Edit Settings. Here, choose who can look up your profile, send you friend requests, send you Facebook messages, post on your Wall and see Wall posts by others. If any settings confuse you, click the Learn More link.
Next, visit How Tags Work. I recommend turning on Profile Review and Tag Review. That way, if a friend tags you in a post, it won't automatically appear on your Wall. You can approve the item first.
You'll also want to turn off Tag Suggestions and Friends Can Check You Into Places. Tag Suggestions allows Facebook's facial recognition system to tag you in photos. Friends Can Check You Into Places could allow your friends to reveal your whereabouts with the mobile Places app.
Under Apps and Websites, look at the apps, games and websites you use and decide if you want to edit or delete them. Websites such as Bing, Rotten Tomatoes and games use and share your profile information to personalize your experience.
I would unclick all the options under "How people bring your info to apps they use." You should also turn off Public search, especially for minors. That will keep a preview of your Facebook profile from appearing in a Google search.
The Blocked People and Apps section can help you manage problematic friends and apps. This is the section you want to visit if someone is bullying you.
Finally, if you're searching for a job or think you may soon, I'd recommend a very cautious approach to social sharing. The most innocent photo from your recent trip or political comment (even a "like") can paint a less-than-professional picture for hiring managers.
And don't think they won't check you out; these days it's just part of the hiring routine. Better to share sparingly than be sorry.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. To get the podcast, watch the show or find the station nearest you, visit www.komando.com. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.