Your personal information on Facebook has likely been skimmed by some bad guys. What does it mean and what should you do?

Now we know. Rather than the 50 million Facebook users whose information was taken by Cambridge Analytica, the social network says most Facebook users have, at some point, had their personal information “scraped by malicious actors.”

Malicious actors, we’ll simply call them bad guys. They’re the people or organizations that piece together the information they gather online in order to make money from someone’s data. They may sell that information to advertisers or on the dark web to companies that send malware or ransomware or use the information for identity theft or credit card fraud.

The thing is, these ‘actors’ don’t have to hack someone’s Facebook account. They can get most of what they want or need by simply going to a Facebook user’s public profile. Unless you’ve made changes to your privacy settings, these ‘malicious actors’ can see your name, phone number, address, family members, photos and anything else you’ve posted to the social network.

If this concerns you, there are three things you should do as soon as possible to lock down your account.

Go to your Facebook settings and click on “privacy”. This is a snapshot of what someone sees, even if you’re not friends on Facebook.

Your future posts? If it’s set to public, anything you put on Facebook including photos, is visible to someone, even if they’re not on Facebook. You can change that to Friends. You should also limit the audience for older posts. If you’re not crazy about the idea that what you’ve posted can be seen by anyone other than your friends, change that to friends.

Facebook said some of the ‘malicious actors’ scraping information used email addresses and phone numbers to look people up on Facebook. Maybe they got the numbers and addresses from somewhere online, perhaps a hacked account. Right now everyone can look you up using a phone number or email address but you can change that here too. You can also prevent someone finding your Facebook account through a Google search.

Go back to the main page and click “public posts”. Here you can see what information of yours can be seen by anyone on or off Facebook.

The posts visible here were all posted publicly so anyone can see them. If you go back and change past posts to friends only, then barely any information is visible to people who aren’t your friends.

Facebook requires your name, gender, profile picture, age range and cover photo to be public record; you’re not required to share anything more.

But if everyone locks down their account, how will that affect the enjoyment of the Facebook experience? Will it be the same?

It might be more difficult for an old friend to find you on Facebook if they’re not already a Facebook friend. Otherwise, communicating with your current Facebook friends won’t change at all.