The Inside Facebook Guide to Protecting Your Privacy on Facebook

Now that everyone from family to colleagues are connecting on Facebook, how do you continue sharing freely while maintaining your privacy and reputation in the years to come?

Facebook allows users to customize their privacy settings at a granular level, but a surprisingly low percentage of users actively manage their privacy settings. Many users who complain about the lack of privacy on Facebook aren’t even aware of the privacy configurations available to them. Below, Inside Facebook guides you through all the steps you need to know to protect your privacy on Facebook.

1. Segmenting Your Friends

Clicking on “Friends” in the top menu of any page brings you to the new Friends page where you can create Friend Lists. Lists can be organized by geographic area, relationship type, etc. – however you like. They will come in handy when managing your privacy settings.

As you’ll see, the most effective lists are created for two main groups of friends: those you plan on being completely transparent with and those you want to share information with at a minimum level.

2. Your Privacy Settings Dashboard

To access your Facebook privacy settings, click on “Settings” on the top menu bar and then choose “Privacy Settings” in the resulting drop-down. You’ll be taken to a page where you see the following menu of privacy options:

3. Choosing Privacy Settings for Your Wall

Your Facebook Wall contains lots of personal information about you, so it’s important to think through who you want to give access to.

A friend of mine completely disabled her Wall after her friend wrote a Wall post alluding to a job transition that she had not yet announced. While shutting down your Wall (select “Only Me”) is an option, you can also avoid this risky situation in a less dramatic way, simply exclude particular Friend Lists from viewing your Wall. Below, I’ve allowed all my friends to see my Wall, except those on my Work list:

4. Choosing Privacy Settings for Photos

Similarly, say you’re sensitive about pictures that you’re tagged in, but feel comfortable allowing a subset of your friends to view them, you can also make that happen. Here, only friends in my Besties list have access to my tagged pictures.

The above setting only applies to pictures you’re tagged in, not to photo albums you may have created. To edit these, visit the Photos tab of your Profile and click on the link “Album Privacy” toward the bottom.

When in doubt, you can always view your own Profile from any friend’s perspective. You can also block a friend: this is equivalent to temporarily removing them.

5. Choosing What Kinds of News Feed Stories People Can See About You

You can determine which of your actions get published to the News Feed and your own Wall by tailoring your Recent Activity settings. With Facebook’s new open stream API, it makes more sense to let your Wall posts to friends appear in mutual friends’ News Feeds, while broadcasting a change in relationship status may be less preferable.

6. Choosing Whether You Want To Appear in Facebook’s Social Ads

In addition, you can choose whether or not you want to appear in Social Ads, Facebook’s ads that show your friends which ads you’ve interacted with. Do you want your friends to know that you’re a fan of Cuddling? You may want to think about it.

7. Choosing Who Can See Which Fields on Your Profile’s Info Tab

Within the Profile Privacy settings, the following fields in the Info tab of your Profile are within your control:

You can choose who can see each of these fields on your Profile based on Friend Lists, just like you can the Wall. Don’t want people you met at conferences or parties to know your phone number? Only allow it to be visible to best friends.

8. Choosing How You Want to Appear in Facebook Searches

The Search privacy settings section is where you can make sure that you’re comfortable with how people search for you, both inside and outside of Facebook. Within Facebook, either everyone, mutual friends, or only friends can search for you, depending on how you configure your search settings. You can then decide what pieces of information you want to be included in your search results (picture, friends, links to add you as a friend/send a message, and Pages that you’re a fan of).

9. Choosing How You Want to Appear in Google Searches

Outside of Facebook, you can give Facebook permission to create a public search listing of your Profile, or you can opt out of this by simply un-checking the “Create a public search listing for me” box.

Many users don’t know that this box is automatically checked, meaning that a limited version of your available is indexed in Google’s search engine – the implication being that anyone can crawl your name, profile photo, and other basic information about you like Pages you’re a fan of on Facebook.

10. Choosing Application Privacy Settings

Facebook does a good job of making it clear whenever you’re authorizing applications to access your personal information. You’ll always be given a prompt to choose whether or not you want to allow an application to have access to your Profile.

To change your application settings, find the Applications start menu at the lower left corner and click “Edit.” For each application, you can permit (or prohibit) the application to access data/send emails/publish one-line stories to your Wall, as well as who can see the application on your Profile if you choose to display it as a box or tab.


As Facebook becomes a site where friends, family, and colleagues all come together, users’ willingness to share and be open with each other will depend on how knowledgeable users are about their privacy rights on Facebook, and how diligent they are about actively managing their privacy settings. People often complain that there’s no privacy on Facebook, but this is only true for users who aren’t aware of the privacy configurations available to them.