Everyday I receive emails from people about how their account was hacked, how a friend tagged them in the photo and they want a way to avoid it, as well as a number of other complications related to their privacy on Facebook.
I figured that many people would benefit from a thorough overview on how to protect your privacy on Facebook. Below is a step by step process for protecting your privacy.
1 – Using Friend List
I can’t tell you how many people are not aware of their friend lists. For those not aware of what friend lists are, Facebook describes them as a feature which allows “you to create private groupings of friends based on your personal preferences. For example, you can create a Friend List for your friends that meet for weekly book club meetings. You can create Friend Lists for all of your organizational needs, allowing you to quickly view friends by type and send messages to your lists. You can configure your friend lists by visiting the http://www.facebook.com/friends/ of your Facebook.
2 – Remove Yourself from Facebook Search
There are numerous reasons that individuals don’t want their information to show up in search results on Facebook, and it’s simple to turn off your public visibility. Here’s how to do it:
1- Visit your search privacy settings page http://www.facebook.com/privacy/?view=search
2- Under “Search Visibility” select “Only Friends” (Remember, doing so will remove you from Facebook search results, so make sure you want to be removed totally. Otherwise, you can select another group, such as “My Networks and Friends” which I believe is the default.)
3- Click “Save Changes”
3 – Remove Yourself From Google Search
Facebook gets A hundred and thousands of traffic from displaying user profiles in search engines. Not all of your profile is displayed though. Currently the information displayed in the search profile is limited to: your profile picture, a list of your friends, a link to add you as a friend, a link to send you a message, and a list of up to approximately 20 fan pages that you are a member of.
By visiting the same search privacy settings page listed in the previous step, you can control the visibility of your public search listing which is visible to Google and other search engines. You can turn off your public search listing by simply unchecking the box next to the phrase “Create a public search listing for me and submit it for search engine indexing” as pictured in the image below.
4 – Avoid the Infamous Photo/Video Tag Mistake
At the least, a tagged photo/video can result in personal embarrassment. So how do you prevent the infamous tagged photo or video from showing up in all of your friends news feeds? It’s pretty simple. First visit your profile privacy page and modify the setting next to “Photos Tagged of You”. Select the option which says “Customize…” and a box like the one pictured below will pop up.
5 – Protect Your Albums
There is a specific Photos Privacy page from which you can manually configure the visibility of each album (as pictured below). This is an extremely useful configuration option and I highly recommend that you take advantage of it. This way you can store your photos indefinitely on Facebook yet ensure that the only people that can view your photos are the ones who you really want to see them.
6 – Prevent Stories From Showing Up in Your Friends’ News Feeds
There are a number of ways to control how your relationship status is displayed. The first thing that most people should do is uncheck the box next to “Remove Relationship Status” in the News Feed and Wall Privacy page. In the rare instance that a relationship does uncomfortably end, you can avoid making things more uncomfortable by avoiding a friend notification about it.
Second, your relationship status falls within your “Basic Information” section of your profile. You can control who can see your basic information next to the “Basic Information” setting on the Profile Privacy page. Keep in mind that other relevant profile information like your gender, birth date, networks, and other settings are visible within your basic information section.
7 – Protect Against Published Application Stories
This one is a little more tricky to manage but I’ll explain the issue at hand. Frequently when you add an application, a news feed item is immediately published to your profile. One way to get instantly embarrassed is to visit the “Have Sex!” application (found here). This application has no purpose besides telling your friends that you are interested in having sex with them. Without taking any action, the application will post a news feed story to your profile which says the equivalent of “Nick just published to the world that he is having sex!”
8 – Keep Your Contact Information Private
The contact information is my personal email and phone number. It’s a simple thing to set but many people forget to do it. Frequently people we don’t know end up contacting us and we have no idea how they got our contact information. Your contact privacy can be edited right from your profile. If you have chosen to enter this information, you should see a “Contact Information” area under the “Info” tab in your profile. If it displays, you simply click “Edit” and then a box will show up.
9 – Avoid Embarrassing Wall Posts
Within your profile page you can control who can view wall postings made by your friends. To do so, click on the “Settings” icon on the wall in your profile page.
In addition to controlling who can view wall postings published by your friends, you also want to control which friends can post on your wall. Not everybody needs to do this, but occasionally you simply want to prevent some people from posting on your page. If you visit the Profile Privacy settings page, there is a section labeled “Wall Posts”.
10 – Keep Your Friendships Private
While it’s fun to show off that you have hundreds or thousands of friends on Facebook, some of your friends don’t want to live public lives. That’s why it’s often a good policy to turn off your friends’ visibility to others. I’ve had a number of individuals visit my profile and then selectively pick off friends that are relevant to them for marketing purposes, or other reasons.
Whatever the reason they are doing it, just know that they are … it’s part of what makes Facebook so addictive: the voyeuristic nature. Also, your friends are frequently visible to the public through search engines and exposing this information can ultimately present a security risk. To modify the visibility of your friends, visit the Profile Privacy page.
Navigate down to the setting which says “Friends” and then modify the setting to whatever is right for you.