Sara’s Tech Tips: Important Facebook Privacy Steps

June 9, 2010 at 10:01 am , by


Addicted to Facebook? Me too. But you may have seen the mega social networking site in the news a lot lately because they’ve changed their privacy controls several times in the last few months leaving many users confused about how to keep their personal info under wraps. It’s important to take a few steps to make sure you’re only sharing your photos, email address or even phone number with people who you trust. I’ll walk you through each step and why it’s important.

Step 1: Friend Lists
These days many of us are Facebook friends with everyone from old high school boyfriends to family members to bosses. With such a mixed bag of people, you probably want to limit the information you share to these different groups of people. To do this you divide your friends into categories such as family, friends, and colleagues. Although it may take awhile, you only have to do it once (and I assure you it’s well worth it). These categories can serve as distribution lists whenever you want to send information to a specific group (like a book club meeting or reunion information). You can also limit photos to friends or family without your boss or work colleagues seeing them, or keep your work-day status updates (“Is it lunch time yet?”) out of the news feeds of your professional network.

How To: Log into Facebook. When you’re on the home screen, go to the left hand side of your screen and click on “friends.”  Then click on the “create list” button at the top of the page. A window will pop up and ask you to name the list and then you click through your friends to add them.


Step Two: Account Settings
Know them. Love them. CHANGE them! Facebook’s default settings can leave your profile wide open. Even if you thought you had your profile locked down, you may be sharing more than you think because they’ve changed the privacy controls several times in the last few months. The good news is that there are lots options to control what people see—but you have to do it manually. What you select in this area is all about your personal comfort level, but if you’re confused by the options you can select “Friends Only” from Facebook’s default settings and at least limit everything from your photos to your phone number to people you’re friends with. We suggest taking your time and going through the options, though.

How to: Go the the upper right hand side of your screen and select “account.”  From the drop down menu, click on “privacy settings.” (You’ll see the screen pictured above.) Now that you have friend lists, this part is much easier. Click on “customize settings” (it’s in blue and has a little pencil next to it). Then work your way down the list of things you share, things others share, and your contact info, selecting which of your friend groups you’re comfortable sharing each category of information with (like your posts, religious views, photos, phone number, etc.). If you’re confused about these options and what they mean, Facebook has a comprehensive Privacy Guide (with screen-shots) available here.


Step Three: Application Settings
Getting involved in social games like Mafia Wars or FarmVille is fun, but did you realize that you’re also granting companies access to your personal information? I’m not saying you can’t play games, but if you have old applications that you no longer use hanging around your profile, delete them because as long as they are there, you are granting access to your account.

How To: Go the the upper right hand side of your screen and select “account.” From the drop down menu, click on “privacy settings.”  Then, select “applications and websites” on the bottom right. Under “what you’re using,” Facebook gives you the option to “remove unwanted or spammy applications.” That’s where you get rid of the old apps. In this area you can also choose who sees your game and application activity in their news feeds and what people see in a public search (this is a biggie and it’s tucked away at the bottom!).

Facebook is now working with partner sites like Yelp and Pandora to instantly personalize those sites with reviews from friends, songs your friends are listening to, and other personalized information from your friends (while you’re on those other sites and not in Facebook). If you’re not comfortable with this level of super-sharing, click on “edit settings” for “instant personalization” and uncheck the box that enables this feature.

14 Responses to “Sara’s Tech Tips: Important Facebook Privacy Steps”

  1. Thank you so much for all the info….I want to sdtay safe amd play…the info was very helpful…thanks again

  2. Your a life saver …. THANKS for making it so easy to understand.

  3. Thank you for this information. I am wondering if I made an error on creating lists? The lists were saved, but do not contain just the “friends” I selected… Everyone is in them! How do I “delete”?

  4. Sara, Thank you for explaining who to create restrictions on Facebook. I really liked the information on creating friend categories and it was so easy! Thanks again.

  5. Thank you for the info. It is excellent and it really wasn’t that difficult to adjust the settings. I will pass this along to all my friends.

  6. Sara, thank you so much. I have shared your site with my family and close friends to help them protect their information as well. Shame on me for not reading all those emails from Facebook over the last few months.

  7. Sara thanks so much for the info it was helpful. However, still a little unsettled about why I need a friends list and a privacy setting. What is a friends list? For example when I accept someone as a friend on my fb page i will assign them a number 1-4. Again, I dont know why, but these are the choices. So I would like for you to talk a little more about the friends list.

  8. This is valuable information explained in an easy, understandable manner. Not all of us are tech savvy – thank you very much.

  9. Thank Your Sara for your help and it was so easy 2 understand

  10. Thank you Sara. Great information and very easy to follow directions.

  11. Ditto! Thanks for the info and easy steps to follow!

  12. thank you so much. I have also shared with friends
    watch Today – everyday…

  13. Great tips and so easy to understand. I have had many people try to explain all this to me, but you are the only one that has truly made it understandable. Thanks.

  14. Appreciated ur facebook 101.
    very easy 2 follow
    thank u