How to Control Facebook Privacy Settings

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With the rise of online shopping and user-generated content, online privacy issues have been thrust to the forefront of any discussion about social media and information sharing available on the Internet. Naturally, Facebook lies squarely at the center of controversy of the way social networks treat users’ personal information, even though it’s the actual users themselves who have decided to share it. Happily, as Facebook usage begins to feel more and more like a right and not a privilege for many, the company has taken many steps to allow users at least some semblance of control over the information they are sharing, even though that very information is the lifeblood of the company’s astronomical value.

The trouble: Many don’t realize how to control their Facebook privacy settings. So while you may choose to share daily status updates and a constant stream of photos and check-ins to your Facebook timeline every day, it’s important to remember: There are steps you can take to keep that information as private as you’d like it.  Here’s a look at the different ways you can control your personal privacy details, and which data you’re sharing with strangers.  Some of these tools are pretty straightforward, but others contain Inception-like layers of settings within settings that can make it difficult to find the precise on/off switch you’re seeking unless you know exactly what it is you’re looking for.

To begin, access the “Privacy Settings” menu from the top right of your Timeline.

Facebook Privacy Settings: Controlling When You Post

You may not realize it, but you can control who can see your status updates, photos, check-ins and other information when you post.  There’s an option within every post to allow you to control this flow, unless you’re using certain apps like Facebook for Blackberry devices. Within the Privacy Settings menu, you can set your default settings for each of the different updates to be seen by friends, the public, or only me.  This is the most basic level of Privacy Setting available, and one to which most are already attuned to.

 Connections With Others

In the “How You Connect” section, you can control your settings for how you can be found, who is allowed to send you friend requests and who can send you messages.  Decide if you want everyone to do these actions, or just limit them to friends of friends.  In the case of receiving messages, many also limit that to just friends and direct connections as well. 

Being Tagged

In the “Profile and Tagging” section of Facebook’s privacy settings, you control information that others can post using your profile.  The first basic selection controls whether you will allow others to post on your wall or not.  Most of the time, unless you’re a public figure, it’s fine to let others post on your wall, as the friends in your network are not likely to post something inappropriate.  But if you’re nervous about that happening, simply don’t allow others to post on your wall, and the only time anyone might complain about unwanted posts is on your birthday.

Privacy Settings also provide another layer of protection against those worried about posting material to their profile that they can’t control. If you still want to allow this activity, you can select to let no one see information others post except you, or you can make it visible to friends, friends of friends or everyone. You can also do the same for photos and check-ins you’re tagged in.

In this section, you also have a couple more options when it comes to how Facebook will treat and notify you when you’re tagged.  You can choose to approve any tags featuring you inserted by others, and also control whether Facebook’s facial recognition software can suggest you as a potential tag to your friends who are posting pictures.

Third Party Access – Ads, Apps and Websites

This section is at the crux of many of the privacy concerns when it comes to Facebook.  According to the company’s Privacy Settings page, “On Facebook, your name, profile picture, gender, networks, username and user id are always publicly available, including to apps.”  The reason for this, the company says, is to make this information more social.

Beyond that, you can control how all of your other information is shared with these third-party software programs, which is extremely important because they are made by separate entities that have different privacy policies than Facebook, and because it’s going to happen – these apps get access to information on users as well as information on THEIR FRIENDS whenever someone uses an app.  So it’s important you regulate what information can be shared, such as your bio, birthday, photos, status updates – pretty much anything you’ve updated on Facebook.  If you don’t want apps and websites to access these, you can uncheck them all, or even better turn of all games and apps.  The only drawback then is you can’t use any yourself, but surprisingly that is not that difficult for most.

In this section, you also control whether you carry your Facebook info with you when you visit other websites, and if you can see if your friends have done the same. Facebook calls this Instant Personalization.

It’s also within here that you can find a preview of your page as someone who is not friends with you who can see it.  It’s a good idea to check this out from time to time, especially if you’re trying to restrict the information you’re making publicly available.  Sometimes a tagged picture from a friend who has different privacy settings than you may make it through.

Past Posts

In this section, Facebook has made it really easy to change the privacy settings on all previous posts in one fell swoop.  If a change of heart or life event has made you suddenly become more private, this is a simple way to “lock down” everything instead of having to change the settings post by post.

Blocking

If someone is harassing you or you don’t want to be connected to them for some other reason, you can add them to your “Block” list, which prevents them from sending you Friend Requests or  app and event invites.  You can also block specific apps here, although it’s also easy to do these straight from your timeline so you know longer see invites from the latest ‘Ville game or SocialCam spam.

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About author

Johner Riehl

Johner Riehl is a freelance writer focusing on families, technology and online safety. As founder and editorial director for FamilyFriendlyApps.com and FamilyFriendlyVideoGames.com, sites that provide reviews and recommendations geared towards families, he examines hundreds of family-friendly games and apps every year. He’s also host of Parent Savers, a podcast aimed at helping parents of newborns, infants and toddlers. TWITTER: @FamilyTechDad

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