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Taking care of your Facebook Privacy Settings

by Geoff Searle

Most people are fairly careful when it comes to their email. Most of us have learned that clicking a link in an email from the cheerful fellow in some far off country, offering you free money, is probably not a good idea. We’ve all got a spam filter, use a virus scanner, and update them both with moderate regularity. However, this is something that has come with time and familiarity.

Social Media platforms like Facebook have grown very rapidly in a very short time, and the creators are still tackling issues relating to security and privacy. At the same time, most of us are also still coming to grips with these new ways of communicating. Facebook is designed primarily to share information among users and it is a great tool for doing so. But it can lead to difficulties in knowing what you are sharing and with whom.

Facebook doesn’t make privacy that simple either; there are over 170 different settings and controls. It can get complicated, and just when you think you have it all set, they change something. A full tutorial on Facebook privacy might be a little tricky to digest so here are some key points that will help you get started.

To begin with, be aware your name, profile picture, gender, networks and username are available to everyone since it is all considered essential information by Facebook. I recommend a quick read of the Facebook Privacy Page which gives a brief run down on the settings for controlling how you share information for photos, apps and websites; as well as an explanation of block lists.

Account > Privacy Settings > Sharing on Facebook
Facebook provides some preset settings as basic options to get started: You can share content with Everyone, Friends of Friends, or Friends Only. This can be a good way to set your default preference on how you will share information, before beginning to customise further.

Account > Privacy Settings > Connecting on Facebook > View Settings

Once you’ve selected your base settings for how you connect with people, this is the first page you should visit to begin to customise your privacy settings. It is also worth taking note of the ‘Preview my Profile’ button on this page which will let you view your profile and see what it looks like to other people.

Friends > Edit Friends > Create a List
Sometimes you don’t want everyone in your entire friends list to see the same post or your latest family photo snaps. Filtering with ‘friend lists’ can be one of the best ways to manage who sees what information you are making available on Facebook. For example you can create lists for ‘Work’, ‘Family’, ‘Close Friends’ or ‘Uni Mates’, just to name a few. Once created these lists can be applied to any posts, comments and uploaded photos, etc. While it can be a bit time consuming to set up lists initially as you assign existing contacts to them, they do provide a great deal of control over your information. There are a number of Facebook FAQs for using lists available.

Account > Privacy Settings > Sharing on Facebook > Customize Settings > Edit album privacy for existing photos
it’s a good idea to go through and check the settings on your pre-existing photos and albums, and apply your new lists to them.

Account > Privacy Settings > Sharing on Facebook > Customize Settings > Friends can check me in to Places
Another area of concern is allowing friends the ability to check you in. Essentially this lets your friends tell people where you are. If you want to change this then the above trail of links is the place to find it and enable or disable it.

Account > Privacy Settings > Apps and Websites > Apps You Use
Clearing out access permissions for unused apps and sites is also a good idea, though you should be coming back here on a regular basis and cleaning up some of those that have accumulated again.

Those are just some basic tips for finding and taking advantage of some of the more common Facebook privacy settings. A bit of digging into the documentation available in the Facebook Help Pages will turn up many more customisation options.

While not strictly a privacy control, I recommend setting your account to take advantage of secure browsing. You can find it by selecting the ‘enable’ check box here: Account > Account Settings > Account Security > Secure Browsing (HTTPS)

Finally, a couple of useful tools for checking things after customising your settings: Privacy Scan for Facebook is currently awaiting a new update but is a handy tool that can provide some insight into exactly what you are sharing with your current privacy settings on Facebook, while Zesty will show you what Facebook is publishing about you and your friends.

One comment

  1. Jack Cola says:

    If you want more of an in-depth read on Facebook privacy, I suggest checking out MakeUseOf.com’s free Facebook Privacy eBook which you can download here http://www.makeuseof.com/pages/downloads#fbprivacy

    and also this article on how to protect your privacy using Facebook pages http://www.jackcola.org/blog/122-how-i-protect-my-personal-and-online-identity

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