Want an Early Warning System for COVID-19 Infections? Install NOVID! IT Consultants in Los Angeles

With vaccinations underway, there’s light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic tunnel. But given the enormity of the task and the unknowns surrounding coronavirus variants, we’ll still be in this tunnel for some time to come. Happily, there’s a new app called NOVID that, if you and your friends (and their friends, etc.) install it, provides early warning as COVID-19 infections creep closer in your personal network of connections. It’s like weather radar for disease.

Developed by a Carnegie Mellon University math professor, NOVID is a free app for iOS and Android that relies on roughly the same smartphone proximity detecting technique as the Apple/Google exposure notification technology. If your phone can use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or ultrasound to detect another nearby phone with NOVID installed, the two phones record that completely anonymous interaction.

However, where the Apple/Google technology notifies you only if you have been directly exposed at some point in the past, forcing you to quarantine and get tested, NOVID helps you look into the future and evaluate your personal risk of being infected. That’s because the Apple/Google technology stops at 1 degree of separation—you only learn about exposures to people with whom you have directly interacted, and only well after the fact. NOVID goes way beyond that, tracking infections out to 12 degrees of separation and showing you how far away they are.

Think about what that means. If a friend’s father gets sick, you probably wouldn’t hang out with your friend until it was certain that she wasn’t also infected. That’s 2 degrees of separation. Imagine 3 degrees of separation—another friend’s spouse works in an office where a colleague tested positive. That still feels pretty close, and you’d probably take more precautions than normal with your friend.

Beyond 3 degrees of separation, however, it’s unlikely you’d ever know about infections. Plus, you would only learn about infections that are 2 or 3 degrees of separation away from you if everyone involved knows each other. What if that 3rd-degree infection was a guy at a bar that an appliance repair person chatted with several nights before fixing your friend’s dishwasher? That’s where anonymous smartphone proximity sensing comes in.

NOVID solves these problems by building your network of personal interactions out to 12 degrees of separation, showing you both how many connections and how many infections are at each level of your network. As infections get closer, you can take more precautions to reduce your chances of being exposed to the coronavirus.

What’s most fun about NOVID is that its statistics show it working. It tells you how many other NOVID users you meet each day, and tapping the graph even tells you how NOVID detected their presence (ultrasound is more accurate than Bluetooth, and Bluetooth is more accurate than Wi-Fi).

NOVID also provides some community-level statistics if users choose to provide the first three digits of their ZIP codes. You can see how many people are in your greater ZIP code, how many cases are in the community, the size of the average user’s network, and even the iOS versus Android breakdown.

The key to making NOVID useful is adoption, so here’s our pitch. Install NOVID and ask a couple of friends or family members with whom you come into contact to do so as well. Then ask them to encourage a few of their friends or family members to install it and keep recommending it. Think of it as an early warning system that leverages the same kind of person-to-person transmission exploited by the coronavirus itself. And if a city—like Santa Fe—or a college campus—like Georgia Tech—were to recommend NOVID more broadly, that would be a super-spreader event on the positive side of the balance sheet!

We’ve all installed NOVID. Will you join us in building a network for community-wide early warning of approaching COVID-19 infections?

(Featured image based on an original by Kate Trifo from Pexels)


Home Sharing Lets You Access Media on Your Mac from Other Local Apple Devices – IT Support in Los Angeles

In the heyday of iTunes, Apple users stored their music, movies, and TV shows on their Macs and shared them with other Macs in their homes, as well as their iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs. Of late, however, streaming has become Apple’s preferred media consumption approach, thanks to the rise of Apple Music and the way the Apple TV app aggregates video streaming services like Netflix.

Nevertheless, even though iTunes has been replaced by the Music and TV apps on the Mac, it’s still possible to maintain your libraries of music and videos on your Mac. When you do that, sharing that media with your other Apple devices over your local Wi-Fi network continues to work through Home Sharing, but how you manage that technology has changed. To be clear, we’re talking about content stored in the Media folders specified in the Music and TV apps’ preferences—they may still point to an old iTunes Media folder.

One note first. We’re focusing on network sharing here, not syncing media to an iPhone or iPad. That’s possible too, but is a separate topic—for more details, check out Take Control of macOS Media Apps, by Kirk McElhearn.

Set Up Home Sharing on Your Mac

With the demise of iTunes, Apple has moved the Home Sharing controls to the Sharing pane of System Preferences. Follow these steps to enable it:

  1. Open System Preferences > Sharing > Media Sharing.
  2. Give your library a recognizable name.
  3. Select the checkbox for Home Sharing.
  4. Enter your Apple ID credentials. You’ll need to use this same Apple ID for every computer or device on your Home Sharing network. (There is also a guest option that  others in your household can use; see below.)
  5. Click Turn On Home Sharing.

Home Sharing provides three options via checkboxes:

  • Devices update play counts: Select this option if you want each play from one of your devices to update the play count in your Home Sharing library.
  • Share photos with Apple TV: This option lets you share photos from your Photos library—either everything or just selected albums, with an option to include videos. You can also share photos from your Pictures folder, any folder inside it, or any folder at all.
  • Share media with guests: Normally, you can access media using Home Sharing only from devices signed in with your Apple ID. With this option, however, you can allow guests to access your songs, movies, and TV shows. If you live in an apartment or other situation where people unknown to you can see your Wi-Fi network, it’s a good idea to require a password, and regardless, you can share just selected playlists if you want. Guests access Home Sharing media just like you do.

Access Media from a Mac

The process of accessing media from another Mac using Home Sharing is the same for music and video—the only difference is that you use the Music app for music and the TV app for video. In either, click Library in the sidebar and choose your shared library under Public Sharing. Library changes to the name of your shared library, and all the items underneath display its contents. You’ll interact with them just like any local or streamed media.

Access Media from an iPhone or iPad

As on the Mac, the trick on the iPhone or iPad is simply to use the correct app. For instance, to access your videos, open the TV app, tap Library ➊ at the bottom, and tap the name of your Home Sharing library ➋ above. You’ll then need to tap to select the type of content you want to view, and then you’ll see thumbnails for the actual videos. Tap one to play it.

Access Media and Photos from an Apple TV

Finding Home Sharing media is a little different on the Apple TV. Open the Computers app, select your library, and then choose from music, photos, or videos at the top. A sidebar at the right lets you drill down into your content.

You can also have the Apple TV play a randomized slideshow of your photos as its screen saver. Go to Settings > General > Screen Saver > Type > Home Sharing > Photos, and select either Photos to show all available photos or Albums to limit the selection. In the Screen Saver preferences, you can also set a preferred transition.

We won’t pretend that Home Sharing is the latest and greatest technology from Apple—it’s definitely yesteryear’s solution—but if you have a lot of music and video on your Mac, it’s a good way to share it throughout your house and get a personalized screen saver on your Apple TV.

(Featured image based on an original by Erik Mclean from Pexels)


Reclaim Local Storage Space by Removing iCloud Drive Downloads – LA Business IT Services

With iCloud Drive, Apple provides an Optimize Mac Storage checkbox that, when checked, stores the full contents of iCloud Drive on the Mac only if there’s enough space. However, you may wish to recover local storage space without selecting that option—luckily, that’s easy to do. Open iCloud Drive in the Finder, Control-click a file, and choose Remove Download. The file remains in iCloud Drive, and if you need it locally, you can click the cloud icon next to its name to download it. If you’re not sure which files in the iCloud Drive window occupy the most space, choose View > As List, and then click the Size column so the largest files sort to the top (click again if they’re sorting to the bottom).

(Featured image based on originals by Denny MĂĽller on Unsplash and Mahir Uysal on Unsplash)

Keep iPhone 12 and MagSafe Accessories Away from Pacemakers – LA IT Support

Remember when we had to keep magnets away from floppy disks to avoid scrambling them? Modern storage is no longer vulnerable, but magnets and electromagnetic fields from consumer electronics can interfere with medical devices, like implanted pacemakers and defibrillators. Although iPhone 12 models contain more magnets than prior models, Apple says they’re not expected to pose a greater risk of magnetic interference. However, after a study found that one pacemaker could be deactivated by holding an iPhone 12 near it, Apple issued a support document recommending that you keep your iPhone 12 and MagSafe accessories more than 6 inches (15 cm) away from your medical device or more than 12 inches (30 cm) away while wirelessly charging. Better safe than sorry—if you have a pacemaker, don’t put your iPhone or any other consumer electronics in a breast pocket.

(Featured image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay)

Not Enough Space to Install iOS 14 or iPadOS 14? Try This Approach – IT Consultants in Los Angeles

Suppose you have an older iPhone or iPad, especially one with only 16 GB of storage. In that case, it’s possible that you won’t have enough space to upgrade to iOS 14 or iPadOS 14 through Settings > General > Software Update. That’s often true due to an inexplicably large Other category when you look in Settings > General > iPhone/iPad Storage. Upgrading using iTunes (in macOS 10.14 Mojave and earlier) or the Finder (in 10.15 Catalina and later) is one workaround, but there’s another that’s often better. Make a backup to iCloud (Settings > Your Name > iCloud > iCloud Backup > Back Up Now) or to your Mac with iTunes or the Finder, and then erase your device (Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings). When you restore it, the size of the Other storage category will likely have dropped significantly, making it possible to upgrade iOS.

(Featured image based on originals by stokpic and Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

8 Ways Apple Improved the Camera App in iOS 14 – IT Consultants LA

It’s difficult for most of us to imagine that a camera—something that still feels like it’s a standalone object—could be improved significantly with a software update. But now that cameras are part of our phones, code is king. With iOS 14, the camera in your iPhone becomes all the more capable. You’d be excused for not discovering the new features, though, so here’s a rundown.

Apple ProRAW

For professional and committed amateur photographers using an iPhone 12 Pro or Pro Max, perhaps the most important new feature of iOS 14 is the Apple ProRAW image format. Standard RAW images provide raw information from the camera sensor, which can be tweaked in editing to achieve results that the camera’s standard processing can’t. Alas, RAW images can’t take advantage of the iPhone’s computational photography capabilities, such as stitching together many images to produce a single image with good exposure even in low light conditions.

The Apple ProRAW format gives you the best of both worlds: the iPhone’s computational photography plus the added flexibility of working with raw data to adjust exposure, color, and white balance. It’s far too complex to get into here, so if you’re interested, check out these articles by photographers Ben Sandofsky, Austin Mann, Nick Heer, and Om Malik, all of which feature copious visual examples.

Faster Performance

We’ve all missed shots because we couldn’t get the Camera app open in time. That may still happen, but Apple is doing its best to help. The company says that the Camera app now opens faster and the time to the first shot is 25% faster. When taking a series of Portrait shots, the time between shots is 15% faster. Overall, Apple says, the Camera app is 90% faster, taking up to 4 frames per second.

Prioritize Faster Shooting

Want still more shooting speed? If you take a lot of action shots, iOS 14 offers a new Prioritize Faster Shooting option that reduces the amount of processing (probably reducing image quality slightly) when you press the shutter button rapidly. Turn that on in Settings > Camera.

Use Volume Buttons for Burst Photos or QuickTake

Burst mode is the best way to make sure you get the photo when shooting fast-moving subjects. Historically, you invoked burst mode by pressing and holding the shutter button. Unfortunately, in iOS 13 on the iPhone 11 models, Apple assigned that action to the QuickTake feature, which automatically starts taking a 1080p video regardless of the current mode. Burst mode required pressing the shutter button and dragging to the left, which is tricky to perform correctly under pressure.

Happily, iOS 14 gives us additional options. When in the Camera app, press and hold the physical Volume Up button to invoke burst mode—let up to stop taking photos. Pressing and holding the Volume Down button invokes QuickTake and records video as long as you press the button.

QuickTake Comes to iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max

QuickTake was initially available only on the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max from 2019. When Apple released the second-generation iPhone SE in 2020, it too featured QuickTake. With iOS 14, the QuickTake feature also comes to 2018’s iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max. So if you have one of those models, try pressing and holding the shutter button to take a video, or use the Volume Down button.

Change Video Mode in the Camera App

Most people will probably want to set the resolution and frames-per-second for videos once and then forget it. That’s what you do in Settings > Camera > Record Video and Record Slo-mo. But if you do want to change the settings, getting back to that screen quickly is difficult. In iOS 14, Apple added a pair of tiny indicators to the upper-right corner of the Camera app when you’re in Video or Slo-mo. They tell you what resolution and frames-per-second you’re using, and tapping either one cycles you through the other options.

Preserve Exposure Adjustment

Sometimes, when you’re taking photos in challenging lighting conditions, you want to override the automatic exposure settings and keep those settings across multiple shots. In Settings > Camera > Preserve Settings, you can now enable Exposure Adjustment ➊, which maintains your settings across shots and shows the exposure adjustment indicator ➋ near the upper left at all times. Tap that indicator to display the exposure adjustment slider ➌ below.

Mirror Front Camera

By default, when you’re taking a selfie with the iPhone’s front-facing camera, the preview shows you what you’d see in a mirror, but the eventual photo instead displays what someone looking at you would see. This is most noticeable when there’s text in the shot. Some people want the photo to look exactly like the mirrored version without having to edit the photo and flip it. iOS 14 now makes that possible with a Mirror Front Camera switch in Settings > Camera. It affects only the photo you take, not the preview, so you won’t see any change while composing the shot. In the examples below, the left-hand image shows the Camera app’s default behavior, and the right-hand image shows what you get if you enable Mirror Front Camera.

If any of these new features sound compelling, take a few minutes to see if you can work them into your regular shooting.

(Featured image based on an original by Element5 Digital from Pexels)


Need to Save Bandwidth on Your iPhone? Try Low Data Mode – IT Services LA

Even as we get 5G cellular connectivity and high-speed Wi-Fi networks, there are plenty of times when you might want to reduce your data usage. Perhaps you’re trying to avoid running over a data cap while traveling, or maybe you’re sharing a Wi-Fi network with a very slow Internet connection. Either way, you can prevent your iPhone from using more data than necessary by enabling Low Data Mode. For cellular, find the switch in Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options. For Wi-Fi, in Settings > Wi-Fi, tap the i button next to the network you’re using. In either case, make sure to turn Low Data Mode off once you no longer need it to avoid getting confused about why background sync tasks don’t complete.

(Featured image by Hilary Clark from Pixabay)

5 New Year’s Resolutions That Will Improve Your Digital Security – Los Angeles IT Support

Happy New Year! For many of us, the start of a new year is an opportunity to reflect on fresh habits we’d like to adopt. Although we certainly support any resolutions you may have made to get enough sleep, eat healthy, and exercise, could we suggest a few more that will improve your digital security?

Keep Your Devices Updated

One of the most important things you can do to protect your security is to install new operating system updates and security updates soon after Apple releases them. Although the details seldom make the news because they’re both highly specific and highly technical, you can get a sense of how important security updates are by the fact that a typical update addresses 20–40 vulnerabilities that Apple or outside researchers have identified.

It’s usually a good idea to wait a week or so after an update appears before installing it, on the off chance that it has undesirable side effects. Although such problems are uncommon, when they do happen, Apple pulls the update quickly, fixes it, and releases it again, usually within a few days.

Use a Password Manager

We’ve been banging this drum for years. If you’re still typing passwords in by hand, or copying and pasting from a list you keep in a file, please switch to a password manager like 1Password or LastPass. Even Apple’s built-in iCloud Keychain is better than nothing. A password manager has five huge benefits:

  • It generates strong passwords for you. Password1234 can be hacked in seconds.
  • It stores your passwords securely. An Excel file on your Desktop is a recipe for disaster.
  • It enters passwords for you. Wouldn’t that be easier than typing them in manually?
  • It audits existing accounts. How many of your accounts use the same password?
  • It lets you access passwords on all your devices. Finally, easy login on your iPhone!

A bonus benefit for families is password sharing. It allows, for example, a married couple to share essential passwords or for parents and teens to share certain passwords.

In short, using a password manager is more secure, faster, easier, and just all-around better. If you need help getting started, get in touch.

Beware of Phishing Email

Individuals and businesses alike frequently suffer from security lapses caused by phishing, forged email that fools someone into revealing login credentials, credit card numbers, or other sensitive information. Although spam filters can catch many phishing attempts, it’s up to you to be on your guard at all times. Here’s what to watch for:

  • Any email that tries to get you to reveal information, follow a link, or sign a document
  • Messages from people you don’t know, asking you to take an unusual action
  • Direct email from a large company for whom you’re an anonymous customer
  • Forged email from a trusted source asking for sensitive information
  • All messages that contain numerous spelling and grammar mistakes

When in doubt, don’t follow the link or reply to the email. Instead, contact the sender in some other way to see if the message is legit.

Avoid Sketchy Websites

We won’t belabor this one, but suffice it to say that you’re much more likely to pick up malware from sites on the fringes of the Web or that cater to the vices of society. To the extent that you can avoid sites that provide pirated software, “adult” content, gambling opportunities, or sales of illicit substances, the safer you’ll be. That’s not to say that reputable sites haven’t been hacked and used to distribute malware too, but it’s far less common.

If you are concerned after spending time in the darker corners of the Web, download a free copy of Malwarebytes or DetectX Swift and scan for malware manually.

Never Respond to Unsolicited Calls or Texts

Although phishing happens mostly via email, scammers have also taken to using phone calls and texts. Thanks to weaknesses in the telephone system, such calls and texts can appear to come from well-known companies, including Apple and Amazon. Even worse, with so much online ordering happening, fake text messages pretending to help you track packages are becoming more common.

For phone calls from companies, unless you’re expecting a call back from a support ticket you opened, don’t answer. Let the call go to voicemail, and if you feel it’s important to respond, look up the company’s phone number elsewhere, and talk with someone at that number rather than one provided by the voicemail.

For texts, avoid following links unless you recognize the sender and it makes sense that you’d be receiving such a link. (For instance, Apple can text delivery details related to your orders.) Regardless, never enter login information at a site you’ve reached by following a link because there’s no way to know if it’s real. Instead, if you want to learn more, navigate manually to the company’s site by entering its URL yourself, then log in.

Let’s raise a glass to staying safe online in 2021!

(Featured image based on originals from Tim Mossholder and Jude Beck on Unsplash)


Overwhelmed by Apps? Use iOS 14’s App Library to Manage Your Home Screens – LA IT Consultants

Many of us have been using iPhones for years, and apps we bought or downloaded long ago molder in corners of our Home screens. Even if you haven’t played Flappy Bird in years, its pixelated icon still stares glumly at you every time you peer at its Home screen, and it’s far from alone. To find out how many apps you have, go to Settings > General > About and look next to Applications. So where are they all?

Unless you’re one of those highly organized people who keeps every app in a folder (we’re jealous), you probably have quite a few Home screens holding all those apps. The first one or two may be nicely laid out, with your most frequently used apps close at hand. But after that? We can never find little-used apps on the fourth or sixth Home screen. Instead, we search for such apps—swipe down on a Home screen and type a few characters from its name. But wouldn’t it be nice to see an alphabetically sorted list of all your installed apps?

That’s what iOS 14’s App Library provides, though it may not be evident at first glance. (Sadly, the App Library isn’t available in iPadOS 14.) A new screen to the right of your last Home screen, the App Library collects all your apps into folders. At the top, Suggestions includes four suggested apps based on time, location, or activity, and Recently Added shows the apps you’ve downloaded lately. The rest of the folders organize apps by category. In a folder grid, tapping a large icon opens that app, while tapping the group of four small icons in the lower-right corner opens the folder. When in jiggle mode, you can also drag an app out of the App Library to a Home screen or tap the X badge on an app icon to delete it.

Since you can’t rename any of the App Library folders or move apps between them, most of them aren’t that useful for finding something quickly, though you may enjoy browsing in them. However, if you tap the App Library search field at the top, it displays a lovely alphabetical list of all the apps installed on your iPhone. Finally! You can tap a letter on the right to jump to that spot in the list (D in the left-hand screenshot below), or enter a couple of characters to filter the list by name and category (which is why a search for “Flight” also finds travel apps like Kayak and Expedia in the right-hand screenshot).

Perhaps most important, you need to understand that the App Library always contains all the apps installed on your iPhone. If you delete an app from the App Library, you’re deleting it from your iPhone.

Now that you know what the App Library is, what does it enable you to do?

Remove Apps from Your Home Screens

Because all apps are accessible from the App Library, they no longer need to be on a Home screen. That means you can take seldom-used apps off your Home screens and access them from the App Library. To do this, first touch and hold an empty spot on any Home screen to enter jiggle mode. Tap the minus sign – badge on any app ➊, and then tap Remove from Home Screen ➋. That’s effective but slow, since you have to remove apps one at a time.

Here’s a faster approach. In jiggle mode, start dragging an app with your thumb. Then, with another finger, tap other apps to add them to the stack. Once you’ve collected all the apps you want to remove from the Home screen, drag them to the right (or swipe left on the Home screen with another finger) until you get to the App Library. Then lift your thumb.

If you’d rather sweep your apps under a virtual rug, you can hide entire Home screens. They still exist; you just don’t see them until you reveal them again. (You could also create a Home screen that contains just travel-related apps and show it only when you’re on vacation.) When in jiggle mode, tap the lozenge that indicates the number of Home screens (➌ above) and then tap the circle ➍ under each Home screen thumbnail to show (checked) or hide (empty) it. Tap Done when you’re finished.

Organize Your Main Home Screens

Before the App Library, creating focused Home screens was a nightmare because you had no idea where the apps you wanted to bring together might be located. With the App Library, that’s no longer an issue. Try these steps to create a new Home screen that contains a particular subset of your apps.

  1. In the App Library, tap the search field to display the alphabetic list of all apps.
  2. Touch and hold the app you want to add to a Home screen.
  3. Keep your finger down without moving; you should feel a tap of feedback and a menu will appear.
  4. Continue holding down on the app without moving your finger; a second or two later, iOS will display the rightmost Home screen.
  5. Lift your finger to drop the app; it will show up in a few seconds.
  6. Swipe back to the App Library and repeat these steps.

That approach is effective but a bit slow. Here’s a faster way. Enter jiggle mode, go to the App Library, navigate into a folder, and start dragging an app with your thumb. iOS will immediately send you to the last Home screen, but use another finger to swipe left so you go back to the App Library. Then navigate into a folder and tap desired apps to add them to your stack. Once you’ve collected everything, swipe right with your other finger to return to the last Home screen and lift your thumb to drop all the apps.

Once you’ve populated the Home screen with your desired apps, rearrange them as desired while still in jiggle mode. Remember that you can also create folders by dragging one app onto another, and put apps in folders by dragging them in.

Focus on Newly Downloaded Apps

The App Library also addresses the problem of what to do with newly downloaded apps. Previously, they’d show up at the bottom-right of some Home screen, but you couldn’t always predict which one. In iOS 14, you can now control that behavior in Settings > Home Screen. If you select Add to Home Screen, iOS will continue to add apps that you download to a Home screen. But if you prefer a clean screen, select App Library Only instead.

In the latter case, newly downloaded apps appear in the Recently Added folder on the main App Library screen, with the three most recent apps represented with large icons. Remember that you can tap the large icons to open the associated app or tap the four small icons to open the folder. The folder shows only the eight most recently downloaded apps, sorted alphabetically. And, of course, all the new apps also appear in the App Library’s alphabetical list and in the appropriate category folders.

If you’ve been suffering under the cognitive load of numerous unorganized Home screens, think about how you can use the App Library in iOS 14 to streamline your iPhone experience. You might even find that you like having just a couple of Home screens and leaving everything else in the App Library.

(Featured image by Eugenio Mazzone on Unsplash)


Take a Few Minutes to Lock Down Your Facebook Privacy Settings – Los Angeles IT Services

Even beyond its often controversial behavior in the 2020 US presidential election, Facebook continually makes news headlines for its numerous privacy and security problems. Most notable, of course, were the 50 million Facebook profiles gathered for Cambridge Analytica for the 2016 election. Closer to home, the company pushed a VPN service in the Facebook iOS app that collected all your mobile data traffic for Facebook. After pressure from Apple, Facebook pulled the VPN but reused it for the Facebook Research program, which paid users as young as 13 for their data. Apple caused that to be shut down too.

Facebook has also silently shared user data with other tech giants, received confidential health data from other apps without users’ informed consent, and stored hundreds of millions of Facebook and Instagram passwords in an unencrypted form, among much else. The criticisms of Facebook go on and on.

Because of this, many have encouraged Facebook users to delete their accounts. That even includes the billionaire co-founder of the WhatsApp messaging service, which Facebook bought in 2014. If you’re done with Facebook, you’re welcome to deactivate or even delete your account. Facebook provides instructions for both actions. Deactivating your account just makes you invisible on Facebook, whereas deleting your account may eventually (up to 3 months) result in most of the data being removed.

The problem is that Facebook can be useful. It may be the only connection you have with certain friends or family members, and many informal groups use Facebook for meetup logistics. For many, losing access to Facebook would hurt real-world relationships and activities. Plus, lots of companies have Facebook pages, and taking those down might result in a loss of business from customers who would find out about the firm only through Facebook. What to do?

If you’re a business, the most sensible approach is to keep your Facebook page but avoid relying on it. Remember, Facebook is not your friend. Back in 2018, Facebook said it would be prioritizing posts from friends and family over public content, which is a nice way of saying that Facebook is deprecating business-related posts. So make sure you have a Web site that you control, and make sure that customers can easily find it and contact you through it. It’s also a good idea to offer customers multiple ways to contact you, particularly via email.

On a personal level, there are two ways to think about privacy on Facebook: limiting the information you share with other people on Facebook and limiting the information that you’re willing to provide to Facebook. If Facebook doesn’t have data about you, it can’t sell it to the highest bidder, let it be harvested by hackers, or use it in ways you might find creepy.

Facebook’s Privacy Checkup walks you through many of Facebook’s privacy settings:

  • On the Mac, sign in to the Facebook website, click the down-pointing arrow button on the top-right corner of the page, click Settings & Privacy, and click Privacy Checkup.
  • In Facebook’s iOS app, tap the hamburger button in the bottom-right corner, scroll down to and expand Settings & Privacy, tap Privacy Shortcuts, and then tap “Review a few important privacy settings.”

For each of the five tiles in the Privacy Checkup, work through the steps to make sure you’re comfortable with the settings. Although all of them are important, pay special attention to “Your data settings on Facebook,” which lets you control what apps could leak data about you, whether Facebook can use facial recognition to identify you in photos and videos, and if Facebook can know your precise location.

If you don’t want to go through the entire Privacy Checkup just to check a single setting, look at Facebook’s Privacy Settings and Tools in the overall Settings collection (accessible from that dropdown menu on the Mac—choose Settings & Privacy > Settings > Privacy, or from the iOS app’s hamburger button—tap Settings & Privacy > Settings > Privacy Settings). This page also provides a link to help you review the posts you’re tagged in, removing those that you don’t want on your timeline.

Beware that you could also be sharing information about everyone you know—Facebook loves to know who you know, even if they don’t have Facebook accounts. You can prevent this, but doing so requires two steps, one on Facebook’s Manage Your Invites and Uploaded Contacts page and another on Messenger’s Manage Your Uploaded Contacts page. Just delete them all. Otherwise, you’re giving away your contacts’ personal information without their permission.

To ensure that contact uploading doesn’t happen again, in the Facebook iOS app, tap the hamburger button, scroll down, and then tap Settings & Privacy > Settings > Upload Contacts (at the bottom) and make sure the switch is off. In the Messenger app, tap your avatar in the upper-left corner, tap Phone Contacts > Upload Contacts, and make sure it’s off.

Also, in the iPhone Facebook app, tap the hamburger button again and then Settings & Privacy > Settings > Location, and turn off all the settings. Facebook doesn’t need to know everywhere you go.

If you’re perturbed by the way Facebook’s iOS app is trying to capture your contacts and locations, you could delete it from your devices and rely instead on the Facebook website, which can’t access as much information about you. To make it easier to open, in Safari, visit facebook.com, tap the Share button, and then tap Add to Home Screen in the share sheet.

Let us leave you with one thought. Always assume that anything you post to Facebook or allow Facebook to have access to could end up in the hands of companies who want to exploit you or on the front page of your local newspaper… or the New York Times. Nothing on Facebook is ever private—Facebook has shown that it isn’t trustworthy or reliable—and the best way to ensure confidential or embarrassing information doesn’t leak inadvertently is to avoid posting it to Facebook in the first place.

(Featured image based on an original by Michael Treu from Pixabay)