Talking tech since 2003

With over three-hundred and fifty million users, there is no doubt that Facebook is a huge useful social networking tool.  I personally find that Facebook makes it incredibly easy to keep in touch with friends and colleagues alike.  Thus, it is no surprise that many of Facebook’s users intentionally share a wealth of information via the site.

However, sometimes you don’t want everyone to get your status updates or to have access to your pictures.  For example, you wouldn’t want your boss to see your weekend party pictures and your Monday morning “I’m hungover” status.  There are a lot of situations where posting a status or uploading an album could potentially fringe relationships and get you in trouble with schools, universities, employers, and family.

A lot of people are not aware of the amount of privacy settings that Facebook provides, and that with a few clicks of a mouse you can control what information people can and cannot see on your profile.  For example, the Facebook group entitled “I was gonna post a status, Then I remembered I have family on faceboook..”, which has over a half of a million fans at the time of publication.

The first step in setting up advanced privacy is to create “Lists”.  Lists allow you to categorize your friends into specific groups.  For example, I have a group that consists of family members, another that consists of people at my workplace, etc.

  • The first step in setting up lists is to navigate to the “Account” button in the upper-right hand corner, and select the “Edit Friends” option.
  • Once you are in the “Edit Friends” section, navigate towards the top of the page and click the button labeled “Create New List”.
  • In the dialog that pops up, entitled “Create New List”, you will want to enter a name for the category you are creating.  Once you have entered a name, select the people to assign to the list by clicking on their name in the portion below.
  • Once you have selected the people to be put into your list, select the “Create List” button at the bottom of the dialog.
  • Repeat the above steps as necessary in order to create as many lists as you need.

Once you have lists enabled, you can select the lock symbol next to the “Share” button when updating your status.  From there you can click “Customize”

  • From the “Custom Privacy” dialog that pops up, you can select to either make a post visible only to a specific list or lists (or persons), or to everyone but specific lists or persons.  You can even combine the two (e.g. everyone in the “Family” lists except for…) for a more fine-tuned privacy setting.

The same restrictive concept that I explained for your status can also be applied to specific photo albums.  Privacy settings for photos are done on a per-album basis, and allow you to decide who can and cannot see the pictures within an album.

  • Simply go to the “Your Photos” page (available from your profile), and select the “Album Privacy” button.
  • This will bring you to a page that shows a list of your albums.  Next to each album is a privacy drop-down similar to the one that I demonstrated for status updates.
  • Use the drop-down to select “Custom”, and make your changes as necessary in the dialog that appears.
  • Again, repeat these steps as needed for all of your different photo albums.

Additionally, you can configure which aspects of your profile (e.g. “About Me”, “Personal Info”, “Birthday”, “Religious and Political Views”, etc.) people can see.

  • First click on the “Account” button in the upper-right hand corner, and select the “Privacy Settings” button.
  • From there, you will want to select the “Profile Information” button.
  • Within the “Profile Information” selection, you will be presented with a list of drop-downs.  Again, like with the status updates and lists, configure these aspects as needed.
  • Additionally, the “Profile Information” selection has a “Preview My Profile” button, which allows you to see how your profile looks to the standard Facebook users (one that is not on your friends list), and also gives you the option to preview what specific people will see when they visit your profile.

One of the last things that you may consider doing is making your “friends” list unavailable to non-friends.  This allows you to ensure that only your friends can see your friends list.

  • To do this, view your profile by selecting the “View My Profile” button on the main page.
  • From your profile, navigate to your friends list on the left-hand side, and select the edit button (shaped like a pencil).
  • Lastly, uncheck the “Show Friends List to everyone” button.

All in all, proper privacy settings on Facebook allow you to maintain personal space where you see fit.  A lot of people do not take Facebook privacy seriously and do not realize the impact that social networking can ultimately have on their lives.  This can ultimately lead to things (be it photos, status updates, etc.) getting into the wrong hands, and causing substantial consequences.

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