10 Solid Tips to Safeguard Your Facebook Privacy

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Facebook statistics show that it has 250 million active users each with an average 120 friends. More than 1 billion photos are uploaded every month by its users, over 70% of whom use applications like games and quizzes in Facebook. Unfortunately, most users don’t know the implications of entering personal information, making friends, and playing games on Facebook.

This guide will show what you can (and cannot) do to safeguard your Facebook privacy.

1. Organize Friends in Lists

What do you do when your boss, mother-in-law, or a casual web acquaintance sends you a friend request on Facebook? Use Friend Lists. Friend Lists are the foundation of your Facebook privacy settings. Select Friends from the top menu, and use the Create link to create friend lists like Co-workers, Family, College Friends, etc. Your friends can’t see your lists, so you can name them whatever you like.

facebook privacy

Tip: On your left sidebar, all your friend lists may not show up by default. Click More to see all of them, and drag and drop those you want above the separator.

2. Customize Profile Privacy

Click Settings > Privacy Settings > Profile. Select which parts of your profile will be seen by whom.

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facebook privacy Profile

If you choose Customize in the drop down, you can be more specific. This is where the Friend Lists you created before become really useful.

facebook privacy Customize

Also go to the Contact Information tab and choose how you want your contact information to be shared on the Internet.

3. Set Facebook Privacy Level of Photo Albums

On the Photos tab of your profile page, click Album Privacy. Here again, you can use your Friend Lists to set the privacy for each photo album.

facebook privacy - Albums

Note that your profile pictures go into a special album that is always visible to ALL your friends.

4. Restrict Search Visibility

Click Privacy > Search to set your visibility when someone searches Facebook for people. This is an important way to safeguard your Facebook privacy.  You can also select what will be visible in the search results.

facebook privacy - search

5. Control Automatic Wall Posts and News Feed Updates

Your actions in Facebook such as comments, likes, appear as highlights on ALL your friends’ home pages. You cannot use friend lists here, only turn them on or off.

Privacy News Feed

Go to Privacy > News Feed and Wall and choose whether you want your boss or ex-girlfriend to know that you’re in a relationship.

6. Set Facebook Wall Privacy

Go to your profile page, click Options > Settings under the status box.

Wall Privacy

Here you can control whether your friends can post to your Wall, and who can see the posts made by your friends.

7. Avoid Appearing in Advertisements

Facebook has two types of advertisements: third-party and Facebook. Third-party advertisements are currently not allowed to use your pictures, but there is a setting to disallow it if it is allowed in the future. Go to Privacy > News Feed and Wall > Facebook Ads tab to turn this off.

Privacy Third Party Ads

The Facebook ads shown to your friends are about “˜social actions’ like becoming a fan of something. You can turn this off at the bottom of the page.

8. Protect Yourself from Friends’ Applications

Go to Privacy > Applications, and click the Settings tab and uncheck all the boxes. These settings control what information about you is visible to applications installed by your friends. By default, these are set to visible. This means that your religious, sexual, and political preferences, pictures, etc. are readily available to one of the million worldwide Facebook application developers, each time any of your friends takes a quiz, plays a game, or runs any other Facebook app. This is obviously a Facebook privacy issue.

Privacy Applications

This is the most commonly misunderstood aspect of Facebook privacy. These settings control what applications installed by your friends can see about you, even if you don’t install the application yourself.

Why is this important? Because these settings will not change anything about what you are sharing with the applications you install yourself. For that, go to the next step.

9. Privacy from Your Applications

There is no way to control what applications see about you; it is an all-or-nothing affair. Take this quiz developed by the American Civil Liberties Union to check what anonymous application developers can know about you and your friends each time you take a quiz.

The Burton Group’s Identity Blog features the Facebook Privacy Mirror, an application that you can use to find out what applications know about you and your friends. If you really want to see exactly what profile data of each of your friends is visible to application developers, Privacy Mirror shows it in detail.

The only thing you can do is to authorize only those applications you require and trust. Go to Settings > Application Settings from the top menu. Change the drop-down from Recently Used to Authorized. Here you can see all the applications you have authorized to get access to ALL your profile information. Remove the ones you no longer need.

Authorized Apps

Also check the list of applications Allowed to Post and Granted Additional Permissions to remove unwanted ones.

10. Quitting Facebook? Delete, Don’t Just De-Activate Your Account

You can easily deactivate your account in Facebook from the Settings page. But deactivation will retain all your profile information within Facebook, including pictures, friends, etc. If you want to permanently delete your Facebook account, click here to submit a deletion request. Note that:

  1. There is an unspecified delay between submitting your delete request and actual deletion.
  2. If you login to Facebook, your deletion request is automatically cancelled.
  3. There doesn’t seem to be any way to confirm that your request was completed.
  4. Even after permanent deletion, Facebook says that copies of your photos may remain on their servers for technical reasons.

Also, note that once in a while, there is news of a Facebook hack or leak that can expose your information on the Internet. It is better to be safe than sorry by avoiding using Facebook for anything that may embarrass you.

I hope this article gives you a better understanding and insight into Facebook’s privacy. Have any questions or concerns? Liked the post? Please tell us in the comments!

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Comments (67)
  • josh

    12 months ago i broke up with my wife, and she is to say the least storking me. When i upload photos she seems to be able to see them even though i have the albums set to friends only, we did have some muteral friends but none that i would expect to give her access to my profile, can she get access to my albums any other way, if a comment is posted by one of my friends who is friends with one of hers, but now with her, can she get access via this way. It is just very strange she knows so much about my facebook

  • Facebook Application Developers

    hii i want to know how to hide any thing i do like or comment on some thing in friend profile i dont wnat it to show in my profile that i do this or to show in my friend’s home can any one tell me how pls thnx

  • frenky

    please do a guide like this with the new privacy settings

  • inkblob

    I’ve done a bit more digging since I made my post, and thanks for your speedy reply Mahendra.

    I’ve logged into another account in our house and items that I removed from my wall’s newsfeed using the ‘Remove’ button would still show up in friend’s newsfeeds. These would include photos and links I’ve commented on or liked from personal profiles and groups. The person who can view them dosn’t have to be friends with the original poster or be part of the group, removing just removes them from your own personal wall feed.

    The most recent barrage of privacy changes didn’t phase me too much until I came across this, I think this is a major step backwards and comes across as kind of disingenuous as to how the site now functions and what is accomplished by these flimsy settings. I believe that fb wants to have more social interactions and traffic but this maneuver is going to curtail my actions on the site to a large degree, which you wouldn’t think was their goal right?

    • Mahendra Palsule

      @inkblob: You’re most welcome, and thanks for the additional information. This is indeed a step backwards for privacy for sure.

      You are not an ordinary user of Facebook given your awareness of privacy issues. The majority of users are not aware of these changes, so the few users like you who may reduce Facebook activity are more than sufficiently offset by the gains they make on search traffic with other users.

  • inkblob

    with item #5, automatic actions being piped to friends’ news feeds, I can’t seem to find this setting in the current privacy rules? I know that at some point I had it, but checking in on a friend’s account today, yes, all the photos I’m commenting that are on a group are showing up in the friend’s feed, and they are not subscribed to that group. Did they tuck that setting somewhere else and I’m just not seeing it or is it now transparent by default and we can’t change it…?

    • Mahendra Palsule

      @inkblob: After the recent Facebook privacy changes, the option to turn off Recent Activity posts from your Wall is no longer present. The only think you can do, is to individually remove them when they appear.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.