Facebook privacy and security controls
Facebook is the world's largest virtual gathering place. You're probably using it to connect with over 100 friends from your past and present, with people you've worked with, gone to school with, met a few times via other contacts. How much of your information you share, and with who, is up to you.
If you're not keen on your boss viewing Friday night's photos, or you're a concerned parent who wants to restrict the content shared by your children, this guide should help you to set the right privacy settings and keep your content safe.
Let's get started
Go ahead and open up the main account settings for your Facebook profile, by clicking on the little drop down arrow in the top right hand corner of your Facebook home page.
Now select 'Privacy Settings'. We're going to show you how to optimise these and control who sees your personal information and content.
Control Privacy When You Post
Change your default sharing setting to 'Friends' or 'Custom' to limit what strangers and acquaintances can see.
Here you can see the standard status update window. Next to the 'Post' button is a drop-down to select who you wish to share this status update with. It's important to note that if you select 'Friends', for instance, this setting will remain for every post you make from now on, unless you change it.
If you're posting something personal, and your boss or your mum are on Facebook, you might want to select 'custom' and untick anyone you don't wish to share with, then switch it back to your usual sharing group for the next post. Generally avoid public posting unless you want the whole interweb to know your thoughts.
How You Connect
This is a very important security setting. It allows you to control your connection to people you know, by limiting who sees your information, who can send you private messages and who can send you a friend request.
This is usually the first thing people look at when it comes to editing privacy settings, as your connection settings typically default to 'Everyone' or 'Friends of friends'. We recommend that you limit your connection settings to your immediate contacts, or your wider network, in order to prevent strangers from accessing your content or sending you requests. This is particularly important if you are a parent managing your child's Facebook account.
Timeline and Tagging
Your Facebook profile page is known as your 'Timeline'. This privacy setting allows you to control how other people add content, posts and links to your Timeline, as well as who can see the posts others make on your profile. It's important to pay particular attention to the 'Review Posts/Tags' settings. If you have friends that are keen on tagging you in everything they post (for instance photos, posts or location information) turning these options on will allow you to regain control over where your name appears on Facebook. Turning off tagging means that nobody sees suggestions for tagging your face in photos, and friends have to manually tag you in photos, then send you confirmation requests.
Ads, Apps and Websites
This is probably the most important setting to get right. These controls dictate how Facebook shares your personal information with apps, adverts, and external websites that interact with Facebook.
- Apps – using the 'Edit Settings' button, remove any that you don’t make use of, as they still have access to your information. For those you use, check what they access, and limit this where applicable
- How people bring your info… - this controls what information about you can be passed along to apps that your friends use. Uncheck all for high privacy
- Instant personalisation – not currently used in the UK but this may change
- Public search – controls whether your timeline is visible via search engine results
- Ads – controls how your profile information interacts with Facebook’s advertising
Limit the Audience for Past Posts
This allows you to “tighten up” the visibility of your previous Facebook posts. If these were previously set to 'Public' or 'Friends of friends' then these will change to Friends visibility. Individual posts can then be further edited to allow a wider audience should you so choose.
Blocked People and Apps
This section controls how Facebook users and applications can interact with you. You can stop specific users from sending friend requests, invitations and app invites. You can also restrict individual users’ view of your posts, so they will only see things you post as publicly viewable. Applications can be blocked here, and this will stop them from accessing your non-public information through Facebook. If you continue to get emails from apps you block, you will have given them your address and you will need to unsubscribe via the link on the email. Any users or applications you block will be listed with a link to unblock them should you change your mind.
That’s the privacy settings area taken care of. There are, however, a couple of other areas to pay attention to before you are finished. The Timeline and Tagging section of the privacy settings does not control what personal information of yours is visible to others via your Timeline. Head over to your Timeline and you will find a button labelled 'Update Info'. This enables you to check and update all the information about yourself that you share, and you will also see a dropdown menu in each section that allows you to specify who can see that particular type of information. Editing these will ensure you control your personal information appropriately.
Finally, look at your photo albums...
You will see a dropdown menu to the right of the album name. Clicking here will allow you to choose who sees that album. When you create a new album by uploading pictures, you have the option to choose the visibility of that album.
So there we are. Facebook gives you the ability to be very selective over who sees what, but by default the settings are rather on the public side. By being vigilant, and investing a little time to go through the options, you can make your profile as private as you wish whilst still being able to share specific things with those you choose.