In December, Facebook sent out a message to all users about a change in privacy settings. There was some controversy about this because while Facebook claimed to be giving users more control over their privacy, they also seem to be suggesting that we reveal more personal information to marketers. The best way to control your privacy information on Facebook is to methodically go through your privacy settings. It's not as fun as looking at photos of your old high school sweetheart, but it does mean you can rest a little easier. I jokingly call Facebook "the giant peephole," because it gives a glimpse into its users lives. You just want to make sure people can only see as much as you want them to see.
Keep this post up in one window, and open a new window in your browser. Call up Facebook. Now you can read these instructions while making changes to your Facebook profile.
OK, first let's go up to the top of the Facebook page, and click on "settings." Let's go to "privacy settings," probably the least fun and most important category. Let's start with "profile information." Click on this category, and you'll see a list of information about you. You should be in control of who can see these things. The first topic, "about me," refers to the little box on the left of your profile page. This includes my birthday, networks, relationship status and other private details. I only want my friends to see this, so I toggle this to say "only friends." But I have one friend who I don't want to see any of my information. (Don't ask.) So after I've chosen "only friends," I also click "custom." Then I type in the name of the friend I don't want to see this information. Now only my friends, with the exception of this one friend, can see my "about me" box.
I can now do the same operation on each of the things on this list. For almost all of them, I want only my friends to be able to see my profile information.
There's a little category here you might want to tweak. See the category "birthday"? Besides making this so only friends can see the information, I also want to hide my birth year from everyone. (Vanity.) So I can go to my profile, click on "info," click on "edit," and toggle my birthday options to say "show only a month and day in my profile."
Now lets go back to privacy settings, and continue to choose who can see the categories of your profile information. On this list is something I want to shut down: the photos and videos that other people tag me in. I don't want anyone to see these. I want people to see the photos of me that I post, not the photo of me that some friend posts, probably without my approval. Otherwise, the photos "of me" taken by other people are the first photos anyone sees of me on Facebook. They see other people's photos of me, not the photos that I choose to post. So I toggle this category "photos and videos of me" to the option "only me." So no one can see the photos other people post of me, except me.
Below this is the category "photo albums." I choose to "edit the options" here, to edit who can see the photos I post to my profile. You want these photos grouped in albums, rather than all thrown in together. Here's why: I don't mind if friends of friends see my profile photos, but I don't want them to see the photos of my kids. And I want everyone to see the pictures I've posted of me with famous people, because I'm proud of those. So I can adjust the privacy settings for all these albums.
Now let's go back to privacy settings, where we can control who can post to our profiles. I have a few pesky friends who have been overly opinionated on my wall. I need to shut them down. So on the four categories of who can see and comment on my posts, I customize the settings to say only friends can do this, with the exception of the pesky friends.
That's all for the profile information of privacy settings. Let's move on to the next category, contact information. At the top of the page click settings, privacy settings, contact information. I don't want everyone or even all of my friends to see my mobile phone number or my address, or my e-mail. So I toggle those switches to include a friends list I've made of "close friends." Contact information might be the category or friends list comes in most handy. If you don't know how to make a friends list, see this post for instructions. This allows you to share your personal contact information with a small group of people who you want to see it. I do want everyone to see my website, so I toggle that switch to "everyone." I also want everyone to be able to send me a message, so I click that to "everyone."
Now let's take a look and see how a friend can see our profile. See the box "preview my profile" at the top of the "contact information" page? Click on that, and it will take you to your profile. You can type in a friend's name and see how they see their contact info.
Let's go back to our privacy settings and click on "applications and websites." This has been a controversial area, and might be the most important one for you to understand. See the category of what your friends can share about you? This is a red flag.
When friends enable applications, those applications and outside developers can see information about you, even if you don't use that application.If that makes you feel uncomfortable, it should. Why should some outside developer be able to access your information when you're not even using their application? Let's shut this down right now. Click "edit settings." Now we can control what information our friends can share about us when they dabble in outside applications. (Again: creepy.) The only thing that I want these applications to be able to see is my website, because I want that to be publicized. (I'm marketing to the marketers, heh heh.) But I don't want these applications to have access to anything else here, because they're not even my applications, so I just want to shut them down. So the only box I check is "website." The fine print above the boxes reminds you that everyone can see your publicly available information. That's why we controlled it in the previous section. Save this information and let's go back to applications and websites.
I've chosen to block applications that popped up on my wall too often as friends engaged in Mafia wars and other games. On the block applications tab I can see what I've chosen to block. The next tab, "ignore application invites," lists the friends that I've shut down from inviting me to do certain applications. (I have a few who've gone overboard.)
Let's go back to our privacy settings page, and click on "search." I don't mind if everyone on Facebook can search for me, because that allows real-life friends to find me, and friend me on Facebook. (But again, I did shut down what information people can see about me in the previous section. Aren't you glad we did?)
I've also chosen to allow public search results, from search engines like Google. That's because I work in social media, and I want potential clients to be able to see what I do. But if you don't want people to be able to Google your Facebook page, say no here.
Let's go back to the privacy settings page and click on our last category, "block people." There are two strange robot profiles who bugged me some on Facebook. I've blocked them here. You might have more serious stalker problems. If there's someone out there who you don't want to be able to find you on Facebook, put their name and/or e-mail in here.
We're done! This is like going to the dentist: It's unpleasant, but it's a lot better than the repercussions if you don't do it. Aren't you glad to know that not everyone out there (including marketers) can see all that information about you? That friends can't post unflattering pictures of you? That third-party developers can't harvest your info simply because a friend is using their app?
I know I do. Thanks for going through this with me.