If you use Facebook there’s a strong chance the social network has more photos of you than your mother or father. Some users upload so many photos that they forget what they’ve posted, which can lead to awkward moments or even lost jobs. A picture is worth a thousand words, as the old saying goes; one photo can be enough to create an erroneous impression or let slip personal information you’d rather not share.
Facebook does offer privacy settings that give you significant control over how photos are shared, but it doesn’t enable many of those settings by default. You must take control of your account if you want to keep your photos away from prying eyes. Let’s take a look at the settings you should take a peek at and discover how to change them.
View Your Public Facebook Photos
Let’s start at the beginning. The first thing anyone seeking to take a more active role in patrolling their Facebook photos should know is what’s public and what’s not. Discovering this is simple, although you may be shocked by the sheer volume of photos that are public if you’ve never examined this before.
Log in to Facebook and find the tiny arrow in the upper right hand corner of the website. Click that and hit Activity Log in the menu that appears. Now, in the left sidebar, find the Photos link. This will take you to a timeline view of your photos only.
Now, at the top of the timeline view you’ll see a few drop-down menus. The one to the left can be used so that you see only publicly viewable photos. Hit that and you’ll see exactly what everyone else can see.
Change Who Can View Your Facebook Photos
What did you see when you took a look at your public photos? If you’ve never paid attention to privacy you may have seen literally every photo you’ve ever posted to Facebook. That could be hundreds, maybe thousands. Can you change who views them?
Yes, but the change won’t be easy to reverse. Go to Settings, then Privacy, and under Who can see my stuff? look for Limit The Audience for Old Posts on Your Timeline. This is a one-button operation that changes all old posts shared as Public to Friends. Note that I said posts, not photos. There’s no way to just change photos. And once you do this you can’t automatically change all Friends posts back to Public. It’s a one-way street.
One other way you can bulk-edit settings is through your albums. Open your profile and visit your Photos page to see your albums. Even photos you did not upload specifically as an album usually end up in a generic album like Mobile Uploads. In the lower right hand corner of each thumbnail you’ll see a small icon that controls the album’s privacy settings. Most albums can be edited in this way, though some can only be edited on a picture-by-picture basis. Those will show a gear icon by the thumbnail.
These are your only options for bulk editing photo privacy. You can change the privacy of any photo you’ve posted at any time, but Facebook doesn’t offer filters to handle this by date, person or location.
Change Privacy For Photos You Post
You can also change the way future photos you post are treated in this same area of the privacy settings. Under “Who can see your future posts?” you can change whether your updates are visible by everyone (Public), only by friends, or only by certain groups defined by you.
Note that once again Facebook is not providing you with a discrete choice here. This is for posts, regardless of whether they contain a photo or not. However, you can override this setting at any time while posting by selecting a different option from the drop-down menu that appears while you’re writing a new post.
Deal With Photos You’re Tagged In
Now you’ve handled settings for your own photos, but what about photos other people haven taken of you?
Unfortunately there’s no way to delete these photos from Facebook unless they violate the company’s terms of service. However, you do have some control over how those photos are linked to your account. You’ll find those controls under Timeline > Tagging Settings.
The first relevant setting is near the top under Who can add things to my Timeline? Here you can restrict anyone from posting anything, including photos, to your Timeline if you choose. By default only Friends can post; the Public can never post to your Timeline.
Below that is a setting which is even more relevant – it controls what happens when someone tags you in a post. This is an important point that’s easy to miss. If disabled, anyone who is a friend can post to your Timeline, but if enabled the post won’t show until after you review it. Your Timeline is basically the same as your Profile, remember, so denying a post effectively eliminates it from view when people visit your page. This is as close as you can come to deleting photos posted by others.
Last, but not least, is the How can I manage tags people add setting at the bottom of the menu. Here you can change whether to not people can add tags to your own posts, including photos, and who is added to the audience when a post is tagged. This is where you’ll want to look if you don’t want friends tagging your photos. Remember that if a friend tags your photo with their own name it may appear on their Timeline and in the Feed of people who are friends with them unless you change the default settings.
Reporting Harmful Photos
As mentioned, there’s no setting that lets you remove a photo posted by someone else from Facebook completely. You can report it as abusive, however, if constitutes harassment or if it violates Facebook’s terms of service.
To do this simply visit the photo and hover over it to show context options in the lower right hand corner. You’ll see an Option link. Hit that and then click Report. You’ll then be taken through short process which lets you lodge your complaint.
There isn’t a customer service number for Facebook, so this process is unfortunately all you can do.
The Options Are There, But Limited
As you can see Facebook’s photo privacy settings are a bit limited. You can certainly do a lot to keep the general public from seeing your photos, but users aren’t offered much precise control. A lot of settings are all-or-nothing choices that broadly apply to all posts rather than photos alone.
What do you think of Facebook’s privacy options? Are they good enough or would you rather see more discrete choice? Have your say in the comments!
Image credit: Shutterstock/Gil C