How to Protect Your Privacy with Facebook’s New Privacy Settings in 17 Easy Steps

Facebook’s new, more public privacy settings are here to stay. And there are a lot of details that you should make sure you’re clear about. Otherwise, you may be exposing (or not exposing) the information you intend to.

The company has spent a lot of time communicating about the changes, and it has also been working to upgrade its help pages so people can find exactly what they’re looking for. You may already be familiar with the settings and the changes. But this comprehensive, step-by-step guide to 17 key settings might help you quickly spot what changes Facebook has made, and what changes you should make as a result.

If you haven’t been following the changes, here’s a quick explanation of what Facebook is doing. Facebook has always had pretty strict privacy rules by default. The service originally started on college campuses, and gradually branched out and grew. Today, more than 350 million people are active on Facebook each month around the world. The company’s methods of managing privacy have changed, as well — you used to need to use your college’s email address to join, for example, and you used to need register with a regional network. Both of those features, and others, have been removed or heavily altered as the company has grown. Facebook’s overall strategic direction has been, for several years, to become more open. The latest changes pushed users to share their information more widely. Every single person on the site was asked to go through a step-by-step review of their privacy settings in early December, as we covered, with some features, like status updates marked to be open to more people than what users have have previously designated them.

Facebook also changed some information, like friends and some demographic information, to be public by default. Developers and marketers stand to benefit by being able to access Facebook data, because they can do things like tailor applications and campaigns to specific types of users. Real-time search companies, for example, could use Facebook status updates to show the latest news and the biggest trends. But users need to make all this information publicly accessible for the rest of the web to benefit.

The company has seen other companies, like Twitter, benefit from open data services, and it intends to make itself a key part of the entire web. But it needs users to make more of their data open to access this value, hence the changes. At the same time, it needs to try to preserve the privacy that many users have long found to be a key part of their reason for using Facebook in the first place. This is a monumental problem to try to solve. Facebook’s efforts have been criticized by some members of the press and privacy groups. They believed Facebook pushed too much data open without appropriate consent from users.

So here’s our list of the 17 steps to make sure you have your settings set right.

1. Editing My Privacy Settings

There are two ways to get to your privacy settings. In the upper right-hand corner of your Facebook page there’s the Settings drop-down menu that allows you to edit your Account Settings, Privacy Settings and Application Settings. Privacy may be accessed by selecting that option on this drop-down menu or clicking Manage on the Account Settings option for Privacy.

How you choose to set your Privacy Settings depends largely on who you are and how you want others to know you. For many professionals, or aspiring ones, keeping private thoughts and moments of bad judgment out of the claws of the Internets’ cache is extremely important. Whereas for others, either meeting people or getting your name out to as many people as possible is more important than privacy. In either case, Facebook’s new privacy settings are capable of serving your needs in very specific ways, with some fine-tuning.