No, the world doesn’t care what you had for dinner last night. We don’t need to see a picture of your hotel reservation. And your cat looks the same as everyone else’s.
People post too many pictures on Facebook. Statistics suggest we upload more than 400 million photos per day. That’s just ridiculous.
Nonetheless, if you’re reading this article, you probably don’t care what I think. You just want to know how to sort out the privacy settings on your photos. As with everything regarding privacy on Facebook, the answer isn’t immediately obvious.
In this article, we’re going to look at why photo privacy matters, then explain how you can protect your images from the eyes of strangers.
Photo Privacy: More Important Than You Think
Keeping your photographs private – or at least restricted to a small group of friends – is more important than you think. And it’s not just because a stalker from your old high school is still fantasizing about marrying you.
Note: If you’re the stalker, check out our guide to asking a girl out on Facebook, you’ll have better luck.
So, what are some pitfalls of publicly accessible photographs?
- Theft: No, I’m not talking about identity theft. Despite the scaremongering, that’s difficult to achieve with just a photo. I’m talking about a physical burglary at your house. A picture of you on a beach, or even at a local restaurant, informs a would-be criminal that you’re not at home.
- Personal Details: Is there a picture of your driving license on the table in the background? Have you left your email account logged in on your computer screen? Is your car’s license plate in the shot? Information like this is gold dust to cyber-criminals.
- Location: Does your photo reveal where you are? If you’re at home, have you just revealed your home address to the world?
- Embarrassment: Has someone posted a snap of you in a compromising position? You probably don’t want your family or your boss to see it.
Facebook and Photo Privacy
Of course, the warnings above apply to all forms of social media. But in this article, we’re only going to focus on Facebook. How can you control who sees your images? Keep reading to find out.
Inline Privacy Controls
Let’s start at the very beginning. Even if the privacy of your old photos is a mess, it’s time to turn over a new leaf. Let’s make sure the privacy is correct for all your new photos going forward.
When you upload a new picture to Facebook, you can use the same privacy controls as you do for regular text posts. In the lower left-hand corner of the new post box, you’ll see a drop-down menu. This menu controls who can see the post.
You have six options to choose from: Public, Friends, Friends except (to exclude some people), Specific friends, Only me, and Custom.
Make your selection, click on Photo/Video to select your snap, then select Post.
Okay, so making sure your new photos are private is quite straightforward, but what about your old photos? Depending on your addiction level, we could be talking about thousands of images.
Luckily, it is possible to change the privacy level of your old snaps. You have three methods open to you:
Individual Photos: If you only want to modify the privacy setting of one photo, you need to locate it on your wall, in your Activity Log, or in your albums. Open the photo, and in the upper right-hand corner, you’ll see the same drop-down menu as you see when setting inline privacy. Just choose your desired audience.
Albums: If you want to change the privacy of an album, navigate to your photos page from your profile and click on Albums. Choose the album you want to alter, click Edit, and choose your audience. You can edit photos on a case-by-case basis in Profile Pictures album, Cover Photos album, Mobile Uploads album, and Timeline Photos album; other albums apply the same setting to all the photos within them.
Restrict Access to Everything: If you’ve taken a laissez-faire approach to Facebook privacy in the past, you might have too many pictures and too many albums to use either of the above methods. Instead, it’s better to change the privacy settings of everything you’ve ever posted to the network. This covers your photos, but also your videos, wall posts, comments, Likes, and other content.
Go to Settings > Privacy > Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public and click on Limit past posts > Limit Old Posts to make the changes. Anything you have shared with friends of friends or the general public will change to Friends only. The changes cannot be undone.
Pro Tip: Use the Activity Log
For a quick way of seeing which photos are shared with the public, you can use the Activity Log. It’ll save you the time of trawling through endless albums.
Click on the Activity Log link from your profile page and select Photos in the left-hand panel.
Next, at the top of the screen, choose Public in the drop-down box next to Shared With.
You can also change the On Timeline drop-down box to see which content is visible on your own wall.
Photos You’re Tagged In
Great, so that covers everything you’ve uploaded yourself, but what about photos other people have uploaded? How can you make those private?
Well, you can’t. They’re not your photos, and you don’t have control over them. But you can untag yourself.
To remove a tag, navigate to the photo in question, click on the small arrow in the upper right-hand corner, and select Report/Remove Tags. Click Untag Photos to complete the process.
Unfortunately, the photo will still be visible to other users on Facebook. As long as the image does not break the network’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, there’s nothing you can do. If you feel the image is abusive, you click on the Report link to let Facebook know. If the company agrees, it will remove the photo.
You can’t prevent other people from tagging you in photos, but you can stop your name being shown to them when they upload a photo. It means when someone uploads a photo, Facebook will not suggest your name to them as a recommended tag, even if it recognizes that the image looks like you.
To restrict tagging recommendations, go to Settings > Timeline and Tagging > Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded and change the setting to No one.
While you’re in the Timeline and Tagging settings, it’s also worth changing Review posts that friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline to On. It means no images will suddenly appear on your profile’s timeline without your authorization.
Does Photo Privacy Concern You?
I hope this article has both made you realize photo privacy is important and helped you to understand the steps you can take to ensure images of you aren’t accidentally in the public realm.
Let’s quickly summarize:
- Edit the privacy of new photos using the inline audience selector
- Edit old pictures by using the Activity Log or by changing the privacy of individual images or albums
- Untag yourself from friends’ photos
- Change tagging settings for new photos
Have you taken steps to make your photos private? Could Facebook be doing more to make it easier to manage your photos’ privacy settings?
If Facebook privacy concerns you, you should know about Facebook’s shadow profiles and take a look at our piece on privacy now being considered a luxury good. And for a deeper understanding of Facebook’s privacy violations, use these tools.
Explore more about: Online Privacy.