How to Manage Your Facebook Privacy Settings


Privacy has always been a major concern for users of what's become the world’s most popular social network, Facebook. Users might think pictures and wall postings always stay within their circle of friends, but this expectation is not realistic. The security of personal information and the risk of identity theft are of great concern to many users. Facebook has made it known that it's aware of users’ privacy worries, and it provides a broad set of tools and setting for beefing up the security of your personal information. It's up to you to make use of them.

Profile Privacy

  • Log in to your Facebook account. Click on your name, located at the top right of the page or near the top left under the word "Facebook," to go to the main page of your profile or timeline. On that page, click on the small “About” text beneath your profile picture and.

  • Choose the privacy setting for the elements in your timeline. Click the "Edit" button to the right of the first element you wish to edit sto open up a window in the foreground.

  • Select the small down arrow next to each piece of information in the window. You can choose a setting from “Public,” “Friends,” “Only Me” and “Custom” for everything contained in that element. You can also designate that only people on certain lists can see a particular bit of information. Custom settings allow you to manually choose which individuals in your friends list can see that item.

  • Repeat Steps 2 and 3 for each element to check and adjust its privacy settings to your preferences.

Account Privacy

  • Log in to your Facebook account and click on the down arrow button at the top right of the screen. An account-settings menu appears.

  • Click on “Privacy Settings” in the account-settings menu. A new page loads with several high-level options for controlling the visibility of your Facebook account.

  • Set your default privacy for Facebook applications that lack item-level audience selection. Under the heading “Control Your Default Privacy,” choose from “Public,” “Friends” and “Custom.” For example, if you select “Friends,” everything you post to from a smartphone Facebook application will only be visible to your friends, by default.

  • Click on “Edit Settings” to the right of the “How You Connect” heading. A small window opens that allows you to adjust various visibility and connection settings. You can limit your visibility in Facebook searches, prohibit strangers from sending friend requests and restrict who has the ability to post on your wall. The search visibility setting is one of the most effective privacy features, because people can't find your profile even if they search by your name. Simply change the first "How You Connect" option to "Friends" to ensure that strangers can't make contact with you.

  • Click “Edit Settings” for the category “Apps, Games and Websites.” Third-party applications and games have a lot of access to your profile information by default, but you have the power to restrict this access. Under “Apps,” you can remove any applications you don’t want. Selecting “Turn Off All Apps” will prevent applications from accessing friends’ data. “How People Bring Your Info to Apps They Use” is another powerful privacy feature. These settings allow you to limit the ability of your friends to share your information with third-party apps and games. If you’re concerned about your data being used for marketing purposes, this is an important setting to consider. When you click "Edit Settings," a window opens with a list of check boxes related to your personal information. Remove all the checks and none of your friends will be able to share your information with their apps or games.

  • Set the visibility for your status updates and each item you post on friends’ walls. In the bottom-right corner of the status-update box is a drop-down list to select the audience who will see that update. Choose from “Public,” “Friends,” “Only Me,” "Custom” or one of your "Lists." Your "Lists" are groups of people such as family members, fellow alumni of a college, people within your geographic area or a custom list of your own creation. When you choose the custom option, you can select individual people or groups that you want to see or not see your post. You can always change your mind about the privacy setting for an individual item after it’s posted.

Tips & Warnings

  • Facebook is a constantly evolving social network with a global reach. The company updates its policies and the look of the user interface on a regular basis. To ensure maximum privacy, stay abreast of changes to the privacy policy and study how changes to the network infrastructure may affect your personal information. When a change to the network creates a vulnerability, log in to your account and make appropriate adjustments in response. For example, the introduction of the "Timeline" has meant that old, forgotten posts are now easily accessible. Some users have felt the need to examine their Facebook history and delete old posts and pictures with which they are no longer comfortable.
  • Realistically, there is no way to create a completely private Facebook account. Your friends are always free to copy and share items that you share with them. As observes, “[t]he only sure way to keep something private on Facebook is not to post it to Facebook.” The safest approach is not to post anything you wouldn’t mind your boss or family members seeing or reading.

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