Facebook is one of the most popular sites for sharing photos with friends and family, but unless you have the right settings checked, you could inadvertently be sharing those pictures with everyone. Here’s how to control the privacy of your Facebook photos in a few simple steps.
I like to share family photos, particularly of my rapidly-growing child (seriously, I think she grew two clothing sizes last weekend alone). At the same time, I’m leery about sharing personal photos on the social network, when there’s a chance — however slim — it could get into the wrong hands. Besides all the creeps out there, no one wants to see their photos plastered all over town in bus stop ads or, perhaps more commonly, sharing embarrassing photos with colleagues and potential employers.
That’s where these Facebook settings come in. You can limit viewing of your photos and other status updates, individually or in one fell swoop.
Choose the Privacy Setting When Posting Individual Photos or Albums
You probably already know about this one, but it’s the most immediate way to specify who sees a photo or bunch of photos you upload to Facebook: That little dropdown in the lower right corner of the status update box. Up until recently, the default sharing group has been “Public,” meaning anyone could see it; if you wanted only your Facebook friends to see the photo or post, you had to change that option to something else.
Facebook is changing this so going forward the post will be shared only to your friends by default. Facebook remembers your last sharing setting, so if you change the sharing on one post from friends to public, posts after that will be set to public until you change it again.
To change who gets to see an individual photo or set of photos you upload, use the dropdown box to select the appropriate group: Public, Friends, Only Me or your own custom friend list, such as “co-workers” or “family.”
Change the Default Privacy for All Future Photos and Posts
What if you don’t want to bother adjusting the sharing group for each and every photo you post? There’s a setting for that. Click on the padlock icon in the top navigation menu to jump to your Facebook privacy settings. Under “Who can see my future posts?” click the dropdown box to change the default group from public to friends or another list.
This changes who will see any posts you make in the future, including photos and photo albums you upload.
Unfortunately, you can’t set a default for just photos and videos and have a different default sharing setting for other kinds of status updates. To fine-tune specific photos or updates, you’ll need to do them on a case-by-case basis.
Change the Privacy Settings for Existing Photos
Updating your settings only changes who can see your posts going forward. For the tons of photos already in your timeline and profile that you might want to hide from public view, you’ll need to change a different setting.
To change the privacy settings for each individual post, photo or photo album, click the lock icon next to it in your timeline. Depending on how active you’ve been on Facebook, this can take anywhere from a long time to forever.
If you want to change the privacy settings for all of your posts (since the beginning of your Facebook history), there’s a nuclear option. Click on the dropdown arrow at the far right of the top navigation bar, select Settings, and click on the Privacy link in the left menu. Then, under “Who can see my stuff?” look for the “Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public?” section. (Very clear isn’t it?)
Click the “Limit Past Posts” link then the “Limit Old Posts” button to change all of the content on your timeline — photos and all — from Public to Friends. This change is irreversible — you can’t make those posts or photos public again. If you don’t want some posts shared with the world, you may be better off changing the photos individually, tedious as that might be.
Navigating Facebook privacy settings isn’t always clear cut or intuitive, and the settings are changing all the time. Even Randi Zuckerberg, sister to Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg, fell into the “I-didn’t-know-this-privately-shared-photo-was-public” trap when a family photo she posted on Facebook was spread beyond her network. The culprit? A hidden setting that shares photos or posts to “friends of friends” who are tagged in the post. For example, tag your friend Bob in a photo where you’re both doing something crazy, and everyone who’s friends with Bob might also have access to that photo. To avoid this, choose “Custom” in the sharing menu and then uncheck the “Friends of those tagged” option.
If in doubt, or if you truly want photos hidden from the majority of the world (or ones your kids, when they’re older, will not be happy you shared), the safest bet is to not post them at all. Otherwise, the settings above should limit the audience — as much as currently possible.