7 Essential Facebook Settings for Law Enforcement

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Tony Moore is a Deputy Sheriff with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD). His expertise is in social media and Internet investigations, crypto-currencies, emerging Internet trends, and public information. He is a 2015 Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles County (POALAC) Centurion Award recipient for “Excellence in Innovative Communications.” Here, he lays out his essential tips for making your agency’s Facebook page safe and secure. 

I am often asked, “What are the best settings I should have for my Facebook account?” Of course, I reply, “the worst settings are no settings at all.”  I don’t know if that helps much, but it does make a valid point. If you don’t take the time to review your account settings, on any social media platform for that matter, then you run the risk of account compromises and clones.

Tony Moore
Tony Moore

Running a Facebook page for your agency or police association is no easy task. If you don’t know what settings to use, things get even more complicated. The last thing you want to do is make setting choices that makes your agency look like it’s not being open and transparent. Get the setting wrong and you might unknowingly block the public’s public access to the very information you are trying to share. The last thing you want is for your department to be dragged into litigation because of restrictions you placed on your agency’s Facebook account.

So, here are my recommended Facebook settings for your agency or association’s account.

SECURITY SETTINGS: Make sure you have “Login Notifications” set to “Email” or “Text Message.” You want to be notified any time your account is accessed, even if it is just you. I set a “Rules” in my Outlook, and they go straight to my FB notifications folder.

LOGIN APPROVALS: Use Facebook’s Two-Factor authentication system. The caveat to this is that you must have a cellphone added to your profile account. If you are issued an agency phone, go ahead and add that one. I choose to use the Facebook code generator instead of text messages.

REVIEW BROWSERS AND APPS: This feature will give a clear indication of what systems are currently logged into your account or what systems have logged into your account in the past. If you do not recognize a system, you can immediately shutdown access to your account by clicking, “End All Activity.”

PRIVACY SETTINGS AND TOOLS: WHO CAN POST ON YOUR TIMELINE: Set to “Only Me.” You don’t want anyone posting to your timeline that could be construed as an endorsement by either you or your agency. And . . . I’ll leave it at that.

WHO SEES TAG SUGGESTIONS: Set to “Off.” When someone uploads a picture of you to Facebook, based on facial recognition, it will suggest your name for that photo. If you are an official spokesperson for your agency or association, putting a name to your face is quite easy. However, I still recommend turning this option off.

FOLLOWER SETTINGS: For official law enforcement profile accounts, I used to recommend that if a person friends you, you should friend them back. This was before Facebook implemented the “Follower” feature. This works very similar to the Google+ “Subscriber” feature. What I like about the “Follower” feature is that you no longer have to friend a person back. If you do not accept a friend request, basically ignoring the notice, that friend request will turn to a follower.

If you are asking, “Why not friend them back?” the reason is if someone wants to set up a fictitious account for the sole purpose of scamming Facebook users, they will often follow as many law enforcement public profiles that they can. Once they do this, your profile picture is now front and center on their profile page in the “Friends” box for everyone to see.

DON’T GET SPOOFED: Finally, my last tip deals with security and protecting your account from spoof attacks. The primary goal for anyone to spoof your account is to gain credibility for their nefarious scheme. The scammer needs victims, and who better else to victimize than your innocent followers. How do they know who your followers are? Because they are publicly displayed on your profile page in the “Friends” box. So let’s turn that option to “Only Me.”

To get to the edit option for this setting, go to your profile page and in the box to left labeled “friends,” hover your mouse pointer to the upper-right-hand corner of that box and a pencil will appear. Click that icon and select, “Privacy Options.” Select the “Only Me” option. Now, only you will see your friends’ list when you are on your profile page.

The bottom line here is when you want to secure your account while at the same time remaining open and accessible to the public, it can be difficult. I treat my social media platforms just like being on patrol. During your shift, you must be accessible to the public and assist in whatever way possible. That doesn’t mean you must compromise your safety along the way. At the end of the day, it’s all about ending your shift safely and that includes your travels on the internet.

Have suggestions for other settings? Email them to info@apbweb.com.

For more information on managing social media for law enforcement, check out www.lawenforcement.social.

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