Facebook is simply massive, boasting around 2.28 billion active users. But as recent data scandals have shown, it’s not always a safe space. And the imposition of social media bans by countries like China has highlighted how access can be cut off in an instant.
With that in mind, here’s a quick guide to how to unblock Facebook, and how to stay safe on Facebook. The two topics go together like the sides of a coin. As we’ll see, using a VPN makes perfect sense in both cases.
Why would you need to unblock Facebook?
For many of us, Facebook is an instrumental part of everyday life. For instance, when we travel, we make arrangements to keep everyone informed via Facebook. And if you can’t access your profile, your friends and family could easily become concerned.
People might have to unblock Facebook for a variety of reasons. For starters, the social network is banned in some countries, such as North Korea, China, and Iran, while countries like Bangladesh, India, and Egypt have imposed temporary or regional bans.
Secondly, there are cases in any country where you may need to know how to unblock Facebook website profiles. For example, your college library might operate a Facebook ban via the local network.
So wherever you are in the world, there’s a chance that you’ll encounter Facebook restrictions. Thankfully, there should always be a way to leap over those barriers, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of your social media profile.
How can a VPN help you unblock Facebook website pages?
The first method is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). These tools create encrypted “tunnels” from your computer to servers located anywhere in the world. And they also provide users with anonymous IP addresses. When you add the two together, you can essentially become invisible to repressive governments (or school IT teams).
If you run into Facebook blocking issues, VPNs are extremely easy to use. Here’s how to do so:
- Find a reliable VPN from a list of the best around, and download their client onto your smartphone or computer. When choosing a VPN, pay attention to reviews noting whether it operates in your location, as some VPNs can be great in the USA, but lousy in places like China.
- When the VPN has been installed, you’ll probably have the option of purchasing a subscription or using a free trial version. If you’re using a school network, give the free version a try (but don’t expect miracles). But if you’re in a repressive jurisdiction, it makes sense to buy a well-regarded VPN subscription, as free versions rarely work and can be a security risk.
- Choose a VPN server to log onto. If you’re using Facebook, this should be in an English-speaking country (or somewhere that speaks your preferred language). If you choose a German server, Facebook will probably load in German. Remember, VPNs create a new, anonymous identity, and Facebook can’t tell where you’re really from.
- After you’re logged onto a server, load up Facebook and enter your login details. It’s as simple as that.
Can proxy tools that unblock Facebook be a viable alternative?
The other option (which we don’t really recommend) is to use a proxy. Proxies are essentially stripped down versions of VPNs. They anonymize your IP address and usually encrypt traffic from your browser, but are much more limited than VPNs. With a VPN, everything you do online is covered. By contrast, proxies tend to hide just a single browser or P2P client, leaving everything else unprotected.
However, if you want to unblock Facebook proxy tools can be a lightweight, user-friendly solution. For example, ProxFree claims to allow users to access Facebook via a proxy contained entirely within their browser – so there’s no need to buy subscriptions or download clients.
If you have limited system resources, this might be an option worth considering, but we’d advise users to stick to the more secure VPNs.
Why using a VPN can help you use Facebook safely
So far, we’ve looked at how to unblock Facebook, whether that’s due to government interference or corporate/school policies. But there’s another side to using VPNs with Facebook, and that relates to online security.
When you sign up with the social network, you don’t receive much guidance about how to stay safe on Facebook. But if you did, installing a VPN would be high on the list.
For one, VPNs allow you to post and read anything you like on Facebook without worrying about being identified by snoopers. This can be useful for political activists, but has general privacy implications for all of us, especially given the revelations detailed by Edward Snowden about the National Security Agency (NSA).
Secondly, VPNs prevent advertisers from tracking your personal preferences. When you surf Facebook and Google, an army of cookies could be analyzing everything you do. This is pretty unsettling, especially when their recommended ads follow you around the web. VPNs anonymize your identity, rendering cookies helpless.
Thirdly, cybercriminals often seek to harvest data about individuals via their Facebook activity. If you use smartphones or laptops on unsecured networks, it’s not that hard to take a look at your social media activity. But VPNs make it far harder to put the information together in a target profile.
Finally, Facebook itself has a track record of spying on users and making huge profits out of their data. A VPN can cut out the supply of information about who you are.
Should you use the Onavo Project to use Facebook securely?
Facebook knows all about the security worries of users, which may be why they have released their VPN. Named Onavo, the VPN aims to harness Facebook’s servers to protect users’ traffic. The idea is that by routing all of your web activity through Facebook’s servers, the company can minimize your exposure to malware and surveillance.
Sounds fishy? Well, tech commentators have rounded on Onavo, accusing it of “snooping” on users and creating “psychological profiles” from data that goes well beyond Facebook updates. You might also read our insights about this project in article: Facebook Onavo Project VPN – A Rotten Apple Finally Thrown Out Of The Store.
So be aware of this when choosing a VPN. We’d recommend giving Onavo a miss, even if it’s available free of charge.
What else can you do to stay safe on Facebook?
As we’ve seen, using a VPN can be a big help when unblocking Facebook and defeating data gatherers. But they aren’t the only thing users should do if they want to stay safe.
Fine-tuning your privacy settings on Facebook is just as important, and it’s something that relatively few people do. So to round things off, here’s a quick guide to doing so:
- Head to your Facebook home page and click the padlock icon.
- Choose the “Run Privacy Check Up” option.
- Now, go to the Posts section to make sure only people you know can see your posts.
- Go to the Apps section to make sure nobody can see your third-party app usage.
- Finally, go to the Profile section, and choose who can see your details. Either Friends or Only You settings are recommended.
When you’ve tweaked your privacy settings on Facebook and installed a VPN, you should be able to access the social network safely wherever and whenever you desire.