10 Solid Tips to Safeguard Your Facebook Privacy

Mahendra Palsule 13-09-2009

10 Solid Tips to Safeguard Your Facebook Privacy facebook logo1Facebook 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.


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!

Related topics: Facebook, Online Privacy, Virtual Identity.

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  1. josh
    January 14, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    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

  2. Facebook Application Developers
    January 6, 2010 at 5:43 am

    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

  3. frenky
    January 3, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    please do a guide like this with the new privacy settings

    • Mahendra Palsule
      January 3, 2010 at 7:54 pm

      @frenky: Thanks, a follow-up post is on the cards! :)

  4. inkblob
    January 2, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    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
      January 2, 2010 at 9:15 pm

      @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.

  5. inkblob
    January 2, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    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
      January 2, 2010 at 7:40 pm

      @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.

  6. LANE
    December 18, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Wow! Thanks for the info. I get lost with all the privacy settings on FaceBook as I'm sure hundreds of others, so this was great!

  7. Vitaly Makarkin
    December 7, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Brilliant post about FaceBook privacy.

  8. Patti
    November 26, 2009 at 12:51 am

    I was told that there is a way to check who has visited your FB page. Can anyone inform me how this is done?

  9. jean
    November 24, 2009 at 12:49 am

    If I post a video and restrict it to my Friends Only, but then tag someone in it, can their friends see that video and comment on it? Or do I have to open my restrictions to Friends of Friends?

    (I don't really want ALL my friends of friends to see it, but I don't see the point in tagging someone if just his friends can't see it.)

    • Mike
      November 24, 2009 at 6:28 am

      It wouldn’t suprise me if settings changed automatically once tags are applied! To be honest I think the only way of knowing what is seen by someone else is to actually visit the site on a different computer as ‘someone else’ and try each of the settings to feel or pysically see what they actually do restrict.

      It is really confusing relying on terms like ‘friends of friends’. The show me my profile as (type a name) link seems pretty vauge when you’ve probably been cookied beyond belief past the log in stage.

  10. Mike
    November 14, 2009 at 5:39 am

    Really annoying because I had to sign up to facebook just to see some invites and have a look round it but I have discovered the following........

    There seems NO WAY to stop anyone from...

    1) Sending me messages through the facebook portal (rather than a conventional email) - this means I have to annoyingly log on and visit facebook anytime someone sends a message that they could have otherwise just sent as bog standard easy to read conventional email.

    2) It is Impossible to cloak or prevent other users (that facebook call my friends) from actually seeing my other 'friends', my basic info, my personal info, status and links, or wall posts, on my own profile. there is NO setting for "only me" to see these. Only Education Info, Work info, photos tagged of me and videos tagged of me can be wholly and completely cloaked by using the only me setting strangely only provided for these.

    Remember "It's NOT the FACE you have to f***; It's the f*** you have to FACE, If you can't FACE the f***, then DON'T f*** the FACE!!!!

    Stick to grooming dogs....don't let "personal websites" evolve into these membership only social engineering con tricks!

  11. Chris
    November 13, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Suppose an old enemy starts befriending some of your facebook friends. Now you have mutual friends with your enemy. Every time you and a mutual friend comment in the same thread, your enemy can see your comments. What can be done to prevent this? The only thing I can think of is to block your mutual friends, which is not desirable.

  12. Robin
    November 4, 2009 at 11:37 am

    is there a way to tell who tagged me in a picture?

  13. lfabris
    November 3, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    There is a facebook app that helps protect privacy. i haven't tried it -- have you? I read about it in this article about facebook apps for parents. scroll down in the article to see the list of apps.

  14. sweeny
    November 2, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Hi- Brilliant post very useful and have shared with my friends.
    I'm still a little confused by photo privacy. Is it possible to restrict which of my friends can (1) see a specific photo that has been uploaded by a friend in which I am tagged, or if that is not possible then only allow friends to see photos of me that I upload...but not to see the photos in which I'm tagged in other peoples albums? I cant see how to do either of this. Thanks

    • Mahendra
      November 3, 2009 at 6:55 am

      @Sweeny: Yes you can. In Privacy Settings > Profile Privacy > Photos Tagged Of You will allow you to specify who is allowed to see photos uploaded by your friends in which you are tagged.

  15. roberto c
    October 25, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    I need you please put some were on the mail (next) mail to read past to the next

  16. Big Geek Daddy
    October 21, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    This is a really useful and informative checklist for Facebook privacy and security. Thanks for publishing. I plan on sharing a link to this page with my Fans!

  17. thomas whyte
    October 19, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Great stuff,,,,brilliant,,,very helpful,and easy to follow,,,,,,Thanks,,,,,

  18. D
    October 15, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    a lot of great info here, but

    for some reason when I choose "customize" in the drop-down menu (see step 2) I do not get a "some friends" option in order to use the lists I just created - it does show when I choose "customize" for the photo sharing

    can anyone explain this to me??

    • D
      October 17, 2009 at 2:36 pm

      to clarify, it allows me to chose who CAN NOT see my info (on an individual/list basis), not who CAN, as shown in your instructions (which would be much more convenient) -did their design change since your article was published?

      • Mahendra Palsule
        October 17, 2009 at 9:51 pm

        D: You have not specified for which drop-down menu you are selecting, but I think I get your point.

        To clarify, the "Some Friends" option is NOT available for Profile, Basic Info, and Personal Info sections. For those, you can use Friend Lists in the "Except" list.

        The "Some Friends" option to let you specify which Friend Lists CAN see info is available for Status and Links, Photos, Videos, Wall Posts, Education and Work Info.

        Hope this helps!

        • Saleh
          November 6, 2009 at 5:58 am

          1- I set the privacy on my Album01 to viewable by my friends ONLY.
          2- One of my friends (Friend01) commented on one of the pictures.
          3- Another friends (Friend02) was tagged in one of the pictures.

          - All friends of Friend01 who can see his comments can now see the picture and the entire album.
          - All friends of Friend02 who can see his tagged photos can see the photo and the entire album.

          THERE IS NO WAY TO MAKE FACEBOOK SECURE. I was able to see very private pictures and albums via "comments" and "tags".

  19. layton
    October 8, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    thanks for the info.. one question.. after fiddling with my privacy settings it seems (after viewing my profile from a friends perspective) my wall itself is completely blank.. seems like an easy fix but can't seem to find it. thank for your help :)

  20. Bause
    October 7, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    good shyt maynard. keep up the good work!!!

  21. carl
    October 6, 2009 at 2:00 am

    Is there a setting were i can vet everything posted on my facebook? Like i get an email showing me what has been put then i can ok it?

  22. neha
    October 5, 2009 at 3:19 am

    Many online marketing companies are rendering Facebook to promote their business and generate traffic to their site. But doing excessive activities can result in getting your profiles banned. Let’s know what “not-to-do” when marketing via Facebook

  23. Silke
    September 23, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Excellent, thank you.

  24. Jose
    September 23, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Excellent post. I really enjoyed it and it should be read by everybody before signing in Facebook.

  25. Jen
    September 21, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    How can I stop other people from seeing my photos when my friend has been tagged in them? She does not have any privacy settings enabled over who gets to see photos of her. Will this automatically mean that just about anyone can view my photo albums?

    • Mahendra Palsule
      September 22, 2009 at 9:09 am


      If you mean your friend has uploaded photos of you and tagged you in them, you can untag yourself from the photos, so they are no longer linked to your profile.

      As long as you are not tagged in the photos, nobody can view the photo from your profile. The photos will be visible to those browsing your friend's profile, however they will not be tagged to your name and profile on Facebook.

  26. Ana
    September 21, 2009 at 4:38 am

    Thank you for these tips. I would like to follow your counsel of grouping my friends in lists, but I cannot find the "Lists"!

  27. Penny P
    September 19, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Awesome! Thanks for this helpful post. I have been looking for something like this for a while.

  28. Mahendra Palsule
    September 17, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    @Ujjwol: Unfortunately, not yet. Making the profile public activates a beta version of the "Publisher" (the module used to update your status). If this beta is later released to everyone, we *may* be able to do what you wish.

    @Sydney: In Settings > Privacy Settings > Profile, for “Photos Tagged Of You”, just select "Only Me" and "None of my networks".

  29. sydney
    September 17, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    @Mahendra: I understand that, but the problem is, people may tag me in photos, which show up on my wall, etc., before I've logged on and had a chance to untag them! So they may be sitting on my page for the world to see before I had any say in the matter.

  30. Ujjwol
    September 17, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Mahendra, I want to choose a custom list every time I update your status or share a link but not losing my profile privacy. Is that possible ?

  31. Hirschberger
    September 17, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Interesting that privacy on Facebook bothers not only its users but also people who are seriously involved in scam - fraud - identity theft research, see here: [Broken Link Removed]

  32. Mahendra Palsule
    September 17, 2009 at 7:11 am

    @Sydney: In Settings > Privacy Settings > Profile, you can select who can see "Photos Tagged Of You". Also, you can go and untag yourself from those photos as well.

    @Ujjwol: See my response to Alex above.

  33. Ujjwol
    September 17, 2009 at 6:40 am

    Is there any way to prevent some friend list seeing my specific status updates ?

  34. sydney
    September 16, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Why isn't there a way to approve tagged pictures before they appear on your page, or in your photos added by others section????

  35. Melinda
    September 16, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Great article. I'm hoping I absorbed enough to control the info I send and receive. Had no idea there was so much to evaluate. Social networking can be a valuable tool but an enemy as well.

  36. Vitezslav Valka
    September 16, 2009 at 8:03 am

    We were discussing this two days ago. Great article, thank you for that! The groups feature really rocks and saves headaches ;-)

  37. Jason
    September 15, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Great post, but this site needs a add to facebook button, and what's with the two comments via email checkboxes?

  38. CrazyTed
    September 15, 2009 at 2:40 am

    Yowza, had no idea that facebook could be using your photos for their ads. Thats crazy! Gotta go turn that stuff off, and maybe not upload so many pictures...

  39. Internetagentur
    September 14, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Great, I have known all of them, except Nr.8, which I need so much. Thank you.

  40. Todd Randolph
    September 14, 2009 at 11:21 am

    great post! I have written a few blog posts about creating and using friend lists to stay in control of how much various people see, but I think I missed the photo album privacy tweak (#3).

  41. Hartmut Rast
    September 14, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Many thanks for this important note just in time after a friends account on facebook got hacked. You safe people many inconveniences with your contribution and show sophisticated ways to protect oneself against these computer-nerds who feel satisfied when they can harm others.

  42. Mahendra
    September 14, 2009 at 9:37 am


    Hover your mouse (don't click) on "Settings" in the top menu. You will get a drop-down in which you can select "Privacy Settings". On that page, you can select "Applications".

  43. S. Anders
    September 14, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Could you clarify number 8 please? I can't find that particular set of options in privacy settings anywhere. Thanks!

  44. Andrew Blanda
    September 14, 2009 at 6:06 am

    For item #6, you CAN restrict who see the posts to your wall (Stories Posted by Friends -> 'Who can see posts made by friends' section) - it's done through the Settings -> Privacy settings -> Profile -> Basic -> Wall Posts. Even though it doesn't explicitly state this, the exceptions you put in here do carry over to the wall -> settings link you mentioned in #6 - you just can't edit these exceptions from your own wall.


  45. awahid
    September 14, 2009 at 5:32 am

    Thanks... They were very helpful

  46. subcorpus
    September 14, 2009 at 5:07 am

    lucky for me i dont use facebook much ...
    and have less than 100 friends ... hehe ...
    anti-social ... ??? guess not ...

  47. Phil
    September 14, 2009 at 4:15 am

    This is a godsend, I posted a link on my wall so that others can benefit too.

  48. Alex
    September 14, 2009 at 2:35 am

    if I want to share a story or a link with only a couple of friends, this is not possible?

    • Mahendra
      September 14, 2009 at 3:49 am


      You can do this in two ways:

      1. Create a custom Friend List and use it for the Settings>Privacy>Profile>Status and Links option. However, with this method, you can't choose a custom list every time you update your status or share a link.

      2. Make your profile public. Go to Settings>Privacy>Profile and set Profile to Everyone. After you do this, you will see a lock icon below the status box. Using this, you can select a custom list each time you update status or share a link. However, this puts your profile information on the Internet and is not recommended.

      • Alex
        September 14, 2009 at 6:54 am

        If, for example, only today, I want to share a message with you. I customize privacy settings each time, for any change

        • Jeff
          September 14, 2009 at 3:50 pm

          You can just send a private message to the person or persons.

      • Shah
        December 23, 2009 at 1:12 pm

        Hi Mahendra I have a really big issue with #5. I dont want people on my friends list to be able to see the comments I make on other friends walls and photos but it shows up on my wall everytime I do. I tried looking for the menu you pictured but I cant find it. Pleasssssssseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Helppppppppppppppp

        • Shah
          December 23, 2009 at 1:14 pm

          Oh and I meant my comments that show up as "Recent Activity" on my wall. Thanks

        • Cyngold
          January 14, 2010 at 8:26 pm

          This is how facebook screwed us badly: I have the same concern but there is nothing we can do about it. Facebook posts the following warning:

          Information about Recent Activity

          Whether we display a story on your profile is now controlled by the privacy of the content itself, rather than an additional setting. For example, only people who can see both your Wall, and the Wall to which you posted would be able to see a story about you writing on a friend’s Wall. You cannot completely turn off recent activity stories anymore. However, if you want to remove a particular story that currently shows up, simply click the “Remove” button that appears to the right of the story after you move your mouse over it. Learn more about privacy here.

        • faisy
          February 6, 2010 at 5:20 pm

          Dear this does not solve the problem.. although its deleted from recent activity list on my profile page.. but it remained as it was earlier, on my friends home page..
          I'm also facing this issue.. i need to post comments on my friend's pix but dont want that the whole lot of friendz are notified that what i have commented.. plz.. assist in this problem.. thanx..

  49. claire
    September 13, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Thanks, this was very helpful!

  50. Alex
    September 13, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    as I can, for example. Published today, a photo for my family, tomorrow, for my colleagues. You can not choose on board, but you can not

  51. Hammad
    September 13, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    great tips....thanks alot. this helped alot.