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Time to lock your Facebook settings and private profile information. Facebook doesn’t make this easy, however; features are constantly added and the default for each new one seems to favor transparency instead of privacy.

This Facebook privacy guide outlines everything you could ever want to know about locking down your privacy on Facebook, and a few things you probably didn’t even know you wanted to know. There are a bunch of important but not so obvious things regarding Facebook privacy.

If you use Facebook you should read this guide, if only to understand how public most of your information is.

Table of Contents


§2–Using Facebook’s Privacy Settings

§3–Managing Friends With Lists

§4–Fundamental Privacy Controls

§5–Managing Applications and Websites

§6–Further Considerations


1. Introduction

To fully understand privacy on Facebook, and how it’s likely to evolve, you need to understand one thing. In short: Facebook executives want everyone to be public. As the service evolves executives tend to favour open access to information, meaning as time marches on information you think is private will slowly become public.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be private if you want to; Facebook gives its users the option to lock things down. But users need to be aware of the controls, how to use them and how to prepare for future Facebook privacy changes. Facebook hasn’t, and won’t, make this information obvious, and that’s where this guide comes in.

1.1 A realistic look at privacy online

Think about the reality of your information online. Information about you is already available in many places, so you need to remain aware of the whole picture in order to keep yourself, your friends and your family safe.

Ensure that the information you put online can’t be collected to put yourself or anyone you know in danger. For example:

If your name and address appear in the phone book, don’t publicly tell people on Facebook when you’re going aw ay for the weekend.

A basic way to guard your privacy is to behave as if every piece of information online is already public. Given this premise, try not to add anything to a picture that allows a stranger to know exactly where you will be, where you live or puts you in danger in any way.

It’s a good idea to understand the many ways in which your privacy could be breached online. It’s not always what you might expect.

Your friends might share your information without knowing you wanted to keep it private. For example:

• Putting photos of you online or tagging you in photos (especially those which make it clear where you were at a given time).

• Sharing your phone number, address or child’s name.

• Mentioning publicly that you are going away for the weekend.

• Excitedly sharing news you only wanted a few people to know.

• Accidentally sharing a screenshot that shows your private information.

Someone might deliberately share your information. For example:

• After a relationship break-up or a fight between friends.

• Because of jealousy or rivalry (love triangles, classmates, co-workers, siblings).

Someone might be tricked or coerced into showing your information as they see it.

Someone else might have a security breach (virus, left account logged in).

People might lie about who they are to get your trust (or someone else’s).

Default privacy settings may change.

Someone might hack into your data.

Police might legitimately ask to access your data (or a friend’s data), exposing your actions to a public court case.

There may be a glitch that exposes information.

A hacker or ex-friend may deliberately spread misinformation about you.

You get the idea: human error and technical glitches can and will occur, while some people may hurt you deliberately.

The best defence? Be careful what is online in the first place. Privacy settings help, but that’s it. Don’t ever trust the settings to protect you entirely.

If there is anything you specifically want to keep private for any reason, make sure your friends know what it is and why. For example:

• You may work in a profession where it is prudent to keep your true identity obscured (teaching, law, military secrets, mental health care).

The trick with setting your privacy settings is to consider all possible privacy breaches, then use the privacy settings to minimise the possibility of a breach (or reduce the damage caused by a breach). For example:

• If you never put your sexy bedroom photos on Facebook, then a Facebook glitch will never accidentally be make them public. Better still: don’t take any.

• Set your privacy settings so that photos of you are, tagged by other people, are seen only by a specific list of friends. This means unflattering party photos taken aren’t seen by everyone you know.

• Filtering, so that your co-workers can’t see comments on your wall, will limit their exposure to personal comments made by your friends.

Hopefully we’ve got you thinking about what you need to control, and why. The rest of this guide looks at how, so let’s get started!

2. Using Facebook’s Privacy Settings

Let’s take a look at the privacy settings, shall we?

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The Account>Privacy Settings page shows a quick table overview of your current privacy settings. Most privacy setting changes can be accessed through this page. There is a “Customise Settings” option in the middle, and at the top and bottom you can also see links to privacy controls for directory information, applications, block lists and learning more. These are all important privacy navigation links.

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2.1 Customise and Preview Settings

To customise your basic settings, click on “customise settings” in the lower part of the page:

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On the “customise settings” page, the current privacy level of each setting is shown to the right of each option. Clicking it will reveal a menu where you can choose an option. These are your basic privacy controls.

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While you’re learning about privacy settings it’s good to check that you understand everything. There is a tool here that can help: “Preview my Profile”.

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This preview shows you what a normal visitor to your profile will see. If you type a friend’s name in the search box it will show you exactly what that person sees when they view your profile.

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This will come in very handy when you start experimenting with controlling privacy information.

2.2 Levels of Privacy

You’ll notice, as you change these settings, that there are four main levels of privacy available.

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Here’s what they mean:

Everyone – Absolutely everyone, on Facebook or not. Includes your ex-boyfriend, grandmother, future boss, stalker, strangers, etc.

Friends of Friends – The people your friends are friends with but you haven’t directly called a friend yourself. Includes people at the same party as you last week, best friend’s co-workers, your high school friend’s aunty, etc.

Friends Only – Just the people who you have called a “friend” on Facebook.

Customise – Here you can set a more fine-grained control over your privacy. Using names or friend lists, you can make things visible to only certain friends, limit access for certain friends or a particular setting viewable to “only me”.

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Don’t forget: “Posts by me” includes your status updates, links you share, photos you upload and anything else you might “post” to your wall from applications. There are good reasons for limiting all of your “posts by me”, including:

• Ensuring your basic privacy is maintained even if you forget.

• Not clogging up the news feed of people you don’t really know.

2.3 Who can see your information on Facebook

Let’s say it again: always assume everything is public. That being said, there are a few things that are always public, and a few that can be made a little more private:

Things that are always public (ie, beyond your control) include questions, comments on Facebook help pages, comments on application help pages, showing up as an attendee at a public event, your name and current profile picture, your gender and your networks.

Things that most people think is private (but are public by default) include Google search results, letting applications your friends use know your information, pages you “like”, allowing websites and applications you use know your information, instant personalisation by Facebook partner sites, ability to add you as a friend, ability to send you a message, status updates, bio & favourite quotes, current location, hometown, interests, relationships and family.

Things which friends of friends can see or do – which most people want to change to “friends only” or make even more private – include photo albums, photos and videos you’re tagged in, see your wall posts made by your mutual friends, religious beliefs, political beliefs, education, work history and your birthday.

• Things which your friends can see or do – which most people want to change to a subset of friends or make entirely private – include status updates, showing people which applications you use (and which ones you’ve used recently), posting responses on your posts, email addresses, IM details, phone numbers, address, posting to your wall, tagging you in photos, seeing your entire friend list, inviting you to events, inviting you to use applications and searching for you on Facebook.

You may also wish to block a particular user, meaning they can’t see anything about you.

2.4 Regarding Minors

Under-18s have a little more protection on Facebook. Even if they change their settings to be public, Facebook will ensure they do not show up in Google searches, and their information is only visible to friends of friends or their networks. What is still public to all is their name, profile picture, gender and networks.

This means that if a teenager has joined a high school network, that network information is viewable by everyone. This is a big security concern; it means people know where they will be on a regular basis. Teenagers should also be reminded to check their security settings before they turn 18: the protection expires then.

2.5 Friends Only: A Quick Universal Setting

Overwhelmed already? Well, if you don’t want to spend a lot of time messing around with settings, the “Friend’s Only” option is a great first step. Make this change and only people you’ve allowed to see your profile will be able to do so.

Browse to Account > Privacy Settings, then click on “friends only” on the left hand side followed by “apply these settings”.

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This is the quickest and easiest way to protect your basic privacy needs on Facebook. There are many other important security features and privacy concerns to note, but this is decent, quick solution.

On the other hand, you can’t necessarily trust your friends to not share information. Always be careful about what you write online.

2.6 Search Results & Google

By default, all adults can be found in search results within Facebook and via search engines such as Google. If your basic privacy settings are set to “Friends Only” you’re already covered; if not, there’s a simple fix.

2.7 Remove Yourself From Facebook Search

Go to Account > Privacy Settings, then choose “View Settings” from “Basic Directory Information”.

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Under “Search for me on Facebook”, choose “Friends Only” to be as secure as possible or “Friends of Friends” if you prefer. Either of these options will remove you from public Facebook search results, as well as Google search results.

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2.8 Remove Yourself from Google Search Results

If your Facebook search availability is set to “Everyone” you can still choose to remove yourself from Google search results.

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To remove yourself from Google search results, go to your Account > Privacy Settings and choose “Applications and Websites”. Choose the “Public Search” section, then “Edit Settings”.

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Deselect the option to “Enable Public Search”.

2.9 Controlling “Places”

Facebook Places is Facebook’s geolocation feature. When it was deployed, all Facebook users were automatically set to publicly reveal their location. Not only that, but friends are able to tag users as being at a certain location, meaning even users not intending to tag themselves could suddenly find their location is public on Facebook.

Go to Account > Privacy Settings, then change your setting for “Places I check in to” to whatever you’re comfortable with.

Then uncheck the option to “Include me in ‘People here now’ after I check in”.

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3. Managing Friends With Lists

Friends lists can be used to filter your news feed, choose who you want to chat with, make event invitations easier and filter your updates and personal information from certain people. They’re extremely useful and best set up as soon as possible, so that you can add friends to the right lists as you connect with them on Facebook.

From the home page, click on the “Friends” application. Then, at the top you’ll see “Create a List”.

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A few lists you’ll probably want to make:

• Relationship to you: Friends; Family; Professional; Acquaintance.

• How much you like them: Best friends; People you want to hear from; People you don’t want to chat to often.

• How you know them: Clubs & Associations; School/University; Conference; Mutual Interest; Social Circle.

These groups are just recommendations; you’ll discover what’s useful for you as we continue.

3.1 Changing privacy settings for certain friend lists

Almost every privacy setting and update on Facebook can be fine-tuned to be controlled by friends list. It’s a very powerful privacy tool.

For example: whenever you update your status, add photos or add a link you should see a little padlock. Click this to set the security level for just that update, overriding general privacy settings.

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Then choose “specific people”.

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You can then choose who CAN see the update and who CANNOT see the update, using lists. This means that people you’ve forgotten to add to the appropriate lists can’t see the element in question by default, but that’s better than a message going out to everyone!

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Note that the method for filtering privacy settings by friend list is much the same as it is for an update.

When you save the settings you can continue to post the update as normal. Click on the padlock if you want to re-enter the settings we’ve just been through.

Once posted, you can check the settings by hovering over the padlock symbol.

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3.2 Viewing filtered news feed & editing lists

Go to the Friends application from your home page, then click on the list you need to edit. Note that this is also how you view filtered news feeds.

Click “edit list” in the top right and click on whoever you need to add to or remove from the list.

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3.3 Using friends lists to manage chat privacy

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Facebook Chat is handy, but if you have 500 friends you might not want all of them demanding access to your brain. Manage it all with lists. To edit your lists, click on chat then click on “Friends lists.”

If the window pops up and you’ve run out of space, the hack to get around this is to pop out the chat window. Go to options, then choose “Pop out window”.

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From there, simply ensure the lists you want have ticks next to them. Decide who you want to talk to most, who you will only talk to if you’re bored and chatty and who you’d like to filter out on occasion. For example: Best friends; Family; Professional contacts; Overly chatty people.

Re-order the lists.

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Drag them around and click “Finished Re-ordering”.

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Now you can be online to some people and offline to others.

To the right of each list is a green symbol – click to appear offline to all on the list.

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The grey symbol means that you’re now offline for those people.

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4. Fundamental Privacy Controls

Setting up Facebook can be confusing, especially if you don’t know what’s going on. For example, you’ll be asked if you want to search your IM and email contacts:

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Before you enter anything, be aware: Facebook will remember all your contacts and use that information to suggest connections.

Also, Facebook doesn’t make you enter your password in order to upload your contacts. It will find contacts from whichever account you’re logged into,regardless of which email address you enter in to Facebook. Sneaky, huh?

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The first page is a list of contacts found in your webmail account that are already on Facebook. It’s worth looking through the list carefully, rather than clicking ”select all”, since it will also find people who you don’t really know but email from time to time.

The next page is everyone else in your address book. De-select everyone RIGHT NOW. This will send a friend request from you to everyone you’ve ever emailed from that webmail account: ex-boyfriends, old co-workers, teachers, administration staff, tech support, mailing lists…everyone. There may be a few people you want to invite, but de-select everyone first!

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4.1 Privacy of your basic updates

When a Facebook user posts and updates, it shows up in the news feeds of friends. It also goes on the user’s wall, meaning visitors to their profile can see recent activity. Depending on the privacy levels chosen, an update can also be shown to friends of friends or beyond (ie, on networks and community pages.)

Tagging a person, using status updates, notes tagging, photo tagging or video tagging, will also make that update appear in that person’s profile and in the news feeds of their friends.

When you tag an event, group or page, not only will your friends see this on your wall and in their news feed: the update will show up on the wall of the relevant event, group or page and the news feeds of people following that group, event or page. Your privacy settings can offset this.

For example, the follow ing exchange was one I saw in my home feed. I knew the girl listed at the top as commenting on the status. I don’t know the person who wrote the original status or any of the people who wrote the other comments.

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Because this person’s status update was somewhat public, Facebook shared that with people like me: a friend of his friend. This post was obviously popular, so the Facebook news feed deemed this to be an important update.

When updating your status, keep in mind your privacy settings and the possibilities of who might see it.

4.2 Deleting a Status Update

To delete a status update, go to your wall (on your profile). Hover on the right hand side of the update and you will see a “remove” button. Click that and confirm the delete.

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When you delete it, the update is removed from your wall, your friends’ news feeds and from the “current status” display at the top of your profile.

There’s a similar function, which is a little confusing to new people: the “clear” link which sits next to the “current status” display.

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“Clear” won’t remove the update from your wall or news feed; it just clears the “current status”.

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4.3 Posting on other people’s walls

Consider wall posts to be the equivalent of sharing an anecdote in the middle of a cocktail party. All their friends and family are there – and yours are too. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in this crowded room!

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4.4 Photo Albums & Tagging

Not sure about your privacy settings? Don’t add a location or your photos might be shared with far more people than you think.

You can change the privacy of each album by editing the album and clicking on the padlock. Ev en if you have changed your privacy settings to “Friends Only” it will only apply to future photo albums. You need to change older albums manually.

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Facebook makes it possible to tag someone even if that person is not a friend of yours, or not on Facebook. Think carefully, or talk to the person, before you do this. Some people have very good reasons to not want their details, photos and names on Facebook.

It’s good practise to check with people before you put photos of them on Facebook (or anywhere on the internet) at all.

4.5 Events Privacy

You really want to set how public an event is BEFORE you start adding addresses or inviting your friends.

If you create your event through the publisher (home page or profile), it will be a public even by default. This means anyone can see it, search for it, see the address and see who is invited. Not good if it’s at your house!

It also goes straight to your update feed while it’s still public. So, make sure you don’t use this when the name of the event is something like “Surprise birthday party for Kelly”.

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If you create the event using the “What are you planning?” box of the home page you can set it to be public or private using the padlock.

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Or, when you edit the event, make sure you un-check the public box. I f your event is public it is not just seen by all of your friends: it is also public for everyone on Facebook.

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The other privacy option listed: to show or hide the guest list. For larger events, where the guests don’t necessarily know each other, it’s probably best to hide the guest list. Decide before you invite people.

Also, be careful with exact addresses and too many details. Don’t put private details into a public event!

4.6 Facebook Message Privacy

As with email, be aware when messages sent to a lot of people come in. The default reply option is to “reply to all”. Don’t click this unless you want everyone to read your reply!

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You can respond to just one person by clicking the word “reply” next to their name in the thread.

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4.7 Networks

Networks are groups of people (educational institution or workplace). You can adjust your privacy settings to allow or disallow people from your networks to see your various activities or information, so be aw are if you’re a member of any particular network.

4.8 Groups

Be aw are that anything you post to group walls and discussions (or tag with a group) will be viewable by the other people in the group (and potentially by your friends). This all depends on the settings of the group, and your privacy settings. Just consider it public and be careful what you say.

4.9 Pages

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By “liking” a fan page you’re showing appreciation for the blog, product, organisation, political figure, company, activity or sentiment. It will show up on your profile and you will see updates in your news feed and messages.

4.10 Questions

Question and answers are public, period. None of your security settings will stop these from being public.

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When you ask your first question you’ll be reminded of this:

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Note that you can unfollow your question at any time to stop getting notifications.

4.11 Controlling who can write on your wall

Not much control here: it’s either “Your Friends” or no one. Go to Account > Privacy Settings and choose “Customise Settings”.

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Then look for “things others share” and make adjustments as you see fit.

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4.12 Control who can comment on posts

You can control exactly who is able to comment about your status updates and other people’s wall comments. It’s possible to mark these as “friends only”, but when you have multiple circles of friends on Facebook that sometimes isn’t enough. What if your boss sees something one of your high school friends wrote? Or your grandma sees something one of your football friends wrote?

Not all things can be customised, but you can make an effort to minimise potential risk by using friend lists.

For instance, we can change who can “comment on posts” by customising the field.

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We can then choose the specific people who can comment on posts, and specific people who cannot.

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So, in order to keep things in order, we limit who can comment to just people we trust.

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A setup like this should prevent a lot of surprise comments.

4.13 Control who can see posts by friends on your wall

An added security measure is to control who can see updates your friends leave on your wall. This can be managed using friends lists, nominating exactly who can see your friends’ wall updates and who can never see the updates from your friends on your wall. Note they will still be able to see your updates.

From Account > Privacy Settings, choose “Customise Settings”. You’ll find the wall visibility controls under “Things others share” and “Can see wall posts by friends”.

4.14 Control who sees photos tagged as you

This is useful, and not just for keeping drunk pictures from your boss.

• What if your friend looks great in a picture, but you’re stuck mid-sentence looking awful?

• What if high school friends decide to upload old photos?

• What if a family member adds some pictures of you as a kid?

• What photos could an ex-boyfriend put up?

• What if someone tags a photo as you and it’s not you?

• What if someone’s just trying to get your attention and they’re actually selling an old bike?

• How about meme pictures with a page full of characters and one friend tagged for each picture? Are you likely to be “Mr. Messy”?

Who do you want to see all these pictures? Your boss? Old classmates? Your niece? People you’re trying to network with professionally?

You can no longer limit who is allowed to tag photos of you; you can only control who can see the tagged photos.

To do this, go to Account > Privacy Settings, then choose “Customise Settings”.

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The best way to use your filters to manage tagged photos of yourself is to have both a whitelist and a blacklist. Anyone who isn’t on one of the allowed lists will not be able to see photos tagged of you –a good default in case you missed anyone!

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The default privacy settings for photos you upload is controlled by “Posts by you” along with status updates, links and other basic updates. Previously uploaded photos can be locked dow n on an album-by-album basis; follow the link from the privacy settings page or go into the albums directly.

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4.15 Customise Settings

From Account > Privacy Settings, choose “Customise Settings” to see the many basic personal privacy settings you can change.

Almost all of these can be fine-tuned using friend lists. You should check most of them out.

4.16 Things you share

If you have confirmed family relationships, these can be seen by your Facebook contacts. Who do you want to have easy access to the Facebook profiles of your kids?

Also think about potentially volatile information. Do you want your workmates knowing your political preferences? Sexual preferences? And who should be able to see if you break up with your partner?

Don’t forget that “Posts by me” controls photo uploads, links and general updates. Lock this down to avoid accidental exposure and to avoid over-sharing information with people who don’t need to know.

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4.17 Contact information

Limit your contact information to just your good friends by using friend lists. Limit both who CAN see the information and who CAN’T see it. Do you want all your Facebook friends to know your phone number? Your address?

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Fine-tune exactly who sees your personal email, university email and work email addresses using friend list filters to show the address you want them to contact you on.

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4.18 Control who sees your friend list

There are a lot of reasons you might want to control who can and can’t see your list of friends on Facebook. Primarily, you may want to think of the privacy and safety of your friends.

Go to Account > Privacy Settings, then choose to “View Settings” of the Basic Directory Information.

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Choose your desired security level from the “See my friend list” drop down menu.

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Don’t forget that if you really want to lock things down, you can make the setting “only me” by using the “customise” option.

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This doesn’t necessarily stop people from finding out who your friends are. Friend connections are visible via your friends’ profile pages, and a determined sleuth would find friend connections by looking at mutual events, groups and comments.

4.19 Basic Directory Information

These are generally the things Facebook hopes you will leave more open, as it’s better for Facebook socialisation. However, some settings leave people a little more vulnerable than they expect.

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Things you can make more private in this area of the settings include:

• Search.

• Friend requests.

• Allowing people to send messages to you.

• Controlling who sees your friend list.

• Education and work history.

• Current location & hometown.

• Visibility of interests and fan pages.

Some of these could potentially be used to dupe you into thinking someone know s you when they don’t. But mainly, your privacy settings in these remaining areas just depend on what you think other people should and shouldn’t be able to find out about you easily.

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4.20 Allowing people to find you without being too public

If you lock your directory information down too far people you know won’t be able to contact you. Limiting friend requests to “friends of friends” is normally sufficient, and means most of your real friends can add you. It might make it difficult for your distant friends, though, so it’s worth allowing messages from everyone (at least to begin with) to compensate. If it’s a problem later on you can always lock it down further.

4.21 Block Lists

You can easily block Facebook users from the Account > Privacy Settings page.

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If you can’t find them, it might be that they’ve locked down their own privacy or they’v e possibly blocked you. You can still block them by contacting Facebook support, presuming you can tell the staff enough information to find them. This will stop them from finding you later if they choose to un-block you.

Also, it’s possible to quickly block and report someone via their profile page.

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Other forms of blocking stop them from sending you application and event invites.

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You can block any application here, whether it’s one you added yourself or an application a friend added.

4.22 Account Security

There are extra precautions you can take to protect your account on Facebook. To enable notification of logins from new locations, go to Account Settings and choose “Account Security”.

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Choose to have security notifications emailed or sent by SMS to you.

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When you log in next, you will be asked to register the computer as one you regularly use with Facebook.

4.23 Passwords

Be careful about passwords for security reasons. Don’t use a password you’ve used for another social network or online account. If those accounts ever get hacked, someone might try to use the password with your Facebook account, too.

4.24 Logging Out

Also in the interest of maintaining basic privacy, get in the habit of logging out after every time you use Facebook. The log out button is in the top-right of every page.

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Ev en if you entirely trust everyone in your house, this habit will prepare you for using public computers. It will also protect you from potential embarrassment if someone in your house innocently starts to use Facebook and thinks they are logged in as themselves. Would you like your friends to think your son’s comments were yours? Log out!

4.25 Quitting Facebook

For quick access, Facebook have a page with links and processes for deactivating, deleting or memorialising an account here.

4.26 Deactivating Your Facebook Account

When you want to leave Facebook, the quickest and easiest way to do so is to deactivate your account. You can do this through your account settings.

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Deactivating your account means that your profile and updates will not be available for anyone to view. Your information, however, is all still there, including your connections to friends and customisation. If you decide to re-instate your account later everything will be exactly as you left it.

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While deactivated, you can still receive invitations to events, applications and groups. If you don’t want to receive email from Facebook about these you will need to opt out as you confirm your deactivation.

If you really want to remove all memory of yourself from Facebook you need to delete your account.

4.27 Deleting Your Facebook Account

You can delete your account here. When you ask to have your account deleted Facebook will deactivate your account and schedule the deletion. Once deletion is requested, you must not use your Facebook account for two weeks. If you access your account in some way during the next two weeks, your account will not be deleted. This includes sharing links, using mobile devices, chat accounts which access Facebook chat and Facebook Connect login on other websites.

You could accidentally access your account by logging into a third party service using your Facebook credentials, such as blog comments, Digg or Spotify. Make sure you delete all your allowed apps from Facebook, log out of Facebook, delete all browser cookies and clear your browser cache.

Many people suggest that you should delete your personal information before asking for your account to be deleted. This includes photos,wall posts,links,friends, applications, notes, fan pages and interests, message, groups etc. Everything that connects you to other people and information.

Once your account is deleted, there is no option for recovery of the account. Facebook will delete all personal information associated with the account and will make photographs unavailable and not associated with the account.

4.28 Facebook After Death

When a Facebook user dies, friends or relatives can report it here and have the account memorialised. This means that status updates and personal information will be removed from the profile, but friends may still leave wall posts.

No-one will be given login access to the account. If required by law , Facebook will supply information from the account to authorities directly.

Immediate family members can request that the account be removed, however if someone else requests the removal it will only be memorialised.

4.29 Other privacy issues to be aware of

Here are a few things which compromise your privacy in ways you may not expect: When you send a message to someone they get limited access to see your profile.

• When your friends respond to your status update THEIR friends can see your status update (by default – not for more secure updates).

• If someone adds you as a friend and you haven’t said yes or no to them, they can see your updates in their home feed.

• If you (or someone else) logs in from an unexpected location, Facebook will ask for extra verification to prove it is really you using a security question or multiple choice answers to verify who is in a picture of your friends.

• In the UK, there’s an application called ClickCEOP which allows users to report suspicious online behaviour through the application.

4.30 General Advice

Don’t post personally identifiable information. If you don’t want a certain person to read it, don’t post it. Only post things you are happy for any stranger to read. Don’t use the same password for Facebook as you use for other social networks.

If you connect other logins (like Google) to your Facebook account then you risk further damage if someone hacks into those accounts.

4.31 Facebook Privacy in the Future

We don’t know exactly what Facebook will change in the future. All we know is that there’s a tendency towards making things more public, mixed with a track record for changing things drastically and seeing what people think after the fact. This means that you can’t rely on your privacy settings to remain with the same control as you have now. One day things just might be different – your settings may be overridden by a Facebook-wide security change.

The only way to be truly sure your information is private is to not put it on Facebook in the first place.

• Limit your interactions to things you’d be happy to share in a crowded café.

• Don’t list contact details if you would be upset to have them exposed.

• Don’t “like” fan pages unless you’d be happy for everyone you know to know about it.

This list could go on forever, but you get the point: assume everything is public.

4.32 Regularly check your privacy settings

Check Account > Privacy Settings and see how things are set up. Facebook might move things around, remove things or add in new settings. Keep on top of it by checking back regularly. Also, you may not have set things up quite as you remember, so actually look at which friend lists you have used to filter each setting and tweak them regularly.

Keep in mind Facebook’s privacy changes over the years and anticipate what is to come (see Facebook’s Privacy Evolution).

Facebook has official pages (like fan pages) for Security and Privacy. If you “like” these pages, you will see updates along with other pages you have liked. Also subscribe to the Facebook Blog. This should enable you to know about important changes as they happen.

Also read Facebook’s privacy information from the Account > Privacy Settings page, under “Controlling how you share”.

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5. Managing Applications & Websites

Applications come with a risk – not all application dev elopers have your best interests at heart. Developers have access to a lot of your Facebook information and that of your friends. They may use this information for marketing, or they could use it for something else entirely.

From Account > Privacy Settings, there’s a link to “edit your settings” for Applications and Websites.

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From there, you’ll need to access most of the options to change them from the default.

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Ensure “Game and Application activity” is “Friends only”. Then, click on “edit settings” for the “Information accessible through your friends”. Un-check all of the checkboxes as shown and save.

This will stop the applications your friends add from accessing your details. You never know who’s going to add a dodgy application.

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Facebook’s “Instant Personalisation” is not yet enabled worldwide. But, “edit settings” and deselect the personalisation option if possible. Note that it’s checked by default, so as soon as this is available in your area you’ll probably want to deselect it ASAP.

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5.1 Understanding Facebook Application Privacy Issues

The section called “What you’re using” gives you a quick overview of all of your applications, allowing you to delete them quickly.

The “game and application activity” section allows you to control which of your Facebook contacts can see your applications. It also controls who can see the applications you have used recently. So, who do you want to know that you’ve added a dating application? Should your workmates know you’ve been using Farmville recently? Lock this privacy setting down using friend filters.

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5.2 Managing Application Permissions

There are all sorts of apps: quizzes, games, apps for login and wall-posting apps. The login service is known as Facebook Connect and these apps will show up in your applications looking just like any other.

Head to the “Account” menu and choose “Application Settings”.

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This will show you all of the applications you have added (for whatever reason). Use the filter menu to show a subset of your applications.

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Click the cross to remove applications or use “edit settings” to control additional privileges you may have granted, such as seeing your information when you’re not logged in, sending you email or posting to your wall.

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5.3 Blocking and reporting applications

There are several things you can do to report an application. When reading your news feed, you can choose to “Mark as spam”. Facebook will add it to other reports to decide whether the user or the application is spam.

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Just like profile reporting and blocking, you can click through to any application’s page and report or block the application.

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If an application is posting to your profile wall, here’s a few options that help you work out why it’s happening and how to stop it (with various degrees of severity):

• Check to see if you allowed it to be imported, by looking at your Profile Wall and choosing “Options” then “Settings”.

• Check “Account Application Settings” page to see if you have granted permissions to this application. Edit settings to deny permission.

• If it has been posted due to an application your friend has added, remove permissions for your friends’ applications to know your details, block the application and report it.

• You can remove one occurrence (hover in the top right and click “remove”) then ask for the application to not be allow ed to post. Sadly, this won’t work if a friend has posted the update.

• Ask your friend to stop the updates or to remove the application. Remove your friend as a connection on Facebook.

• Change the viewing permissions for your wall, so you won’t be embarrassed by these updates when you haven’t yet deleted them.

• Ban all of your friends from posting to your wall (that will definitely stop it). Lobby Facebook to allow fine-tuning of who can post to your wall.

• Lobby Facebook to disallow applications which post to your wall via your friends’ actions.

5.4 Managing notifications from applications

It’s easy to cut dow n on the emails you receive from Facebook and its applications. Go to your Account Settings page and click on the Notifications tab to choose.

6. Further Considerations

There are numerous reasons why people want to retain their privacy online. It’s not up to you to decide for them where they draw the line.

Don’t post/tag photos of people unless it’s okay by them.

Always protect the safety of yourself and your friends. Don’t post addresses and phone numbers in places where they might be seen.

Don’t write embarrassing things on other people’s walls or in response to status updates.

Don’t do anything which might get someone fired, disowned or dumped.

6.1 Consider Your Updates

1. No drunken updates. They’re embarrassing – don’t do it!

2. Don’t update with anything you couldn’t show your grandmother, boss, or police. Ever.

3. Don’t overshare. People don’t often want to know the inner details of your nostrils/sex life. This includes checking what’s in the background of photos you post (see for other people’s mistakes).

4. Remember your comments on other people’s posts could be more public than you think.

5. Think for a little while before you become friends with your ex, a friend’s ex or family members on Facebook.

6. Learn when to move a conversation to a message, Facebook chat or a pub.

7. Avoid controversial topics (or proceed with caution): Politics; Religion; Activism.

6.2 Remember Your Privacy

Remember that nothing is REALLY private on the internet. Accounts get hacked, people take screenshots, people lie about who they are,mistakes happen etc.

Your secrets might accidentally be shared by a friend discussing something they saw/read about you on Facebook.

Don’t waste time on Facebook at work.

Don’t lie about anything and think you’ll get away with it. Calling in sick can get you fired if there’s photographic proof you were at a party.

Keep your workmates on a limited filter. Seriously.

7. Conclusion

Please share this advice with your friends as there are many people on Facebook who don’t realise there’s more they can do to protect themselves. Above all, keep learning. Facebook will change constantly – it changed several main features during the writing of this guide! The best you can do is to read the Facebook blog, keep an eye out for articles relating to Facebook (especially from and keep a close watch on your settings to see what is changing. Good luck!

Additional Reading

Guide Published: November 2010

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  1. Emelda Mercurio
    March 26, 2017 at 12:08 am