Meep Meep

August 19, 2010

Adjusting Facebook Privacy

Filed under: Facebook — meepmeep @ 9:09 pm +0000
By default, Facebook categorizes people into two lists: “friends” and “everyone” (everyone else other than “friends” — the general public).  You can control, what each of these lists can access in your profile, via the maze that is Facebook’s privacy settings (more on this later).  Facebook has this nice feature where you can create additional friend lists, where you can assign individual friends to one or more of these lists.  This is useful, because each friend list can be given permission (or denied permission) to access different parts of your profile.  In addition, you can individually control which friend list can view a given status update; for example, if you want, you can restrict some status updates to be viewable only by a select few, but other updates can be viewed by all of your friends.

As an example, here are the lists that I currently have (this is just an example — I’m not necessarily recommending that people do this):

  • “family” — all of my family and trusted friends are in this list.  They get to see virtually everything in my profile. This includes status updates with locations of where I am and where I’ve been (“places”, basically).
  • “inner” — Everyone in “family” is in this list, plus a few others.  These get to see almost the same things as “family”, except that they don’t get to see status updates with locations.  I have everyone in “family” in this list, because most Facebook clients only allow you to specify a single list when specifying who can see a status update; they don’t allow you to specify “family” and “inner”.
  • “friends” — All other friends.  These don’t get to see my address, along with a couple of other things, although they do get to see my google voice phone number and email addresses.  I don’t mind giving out my google voice number because I can always turn on call screening and blacklist a problem phone number.
  • “other” — This is a special “exclusion” list. When allowing friends to view parts of my profile, I often allow “friends” but exclude people in “other”.  I have very few people in this list (in fact, I think I have only one person there).  Basically, I accepted someone as a friend, and I have absolutely no idea who they are.  I think they’re a friend of other friends, but I’m not sure; it might be just some person trying to friend themselves to everyone in a stranger’s friend list.  I probably shouldn’t have accepted them, but I did.  They get to see a little more than the general public, but really not much more.
So, the first step in Facebook privacy controls is to create additional friend lists, and assign your friends to one or more lists, depending on how much access you want to give them.  Note that you don’t have to assign a friend to a list; if you don’t, they fall into the default “friends” list.

To create a new friends list:
  1. Go to “Account–>Edit Friends” (“Account” is in the upper-right-hand corner in the FB web interface).
  2. In the left-hand column, under “Lists”, you’ll see “Friends”; click on that.
  3. Your list of friends will appear.  At the top of the list, you’ll see the button, “Create New List”.  Click on that to create a list and add friends to it.  Note that, after you’ve created a list, you can later add additional friends to one or more lists using the “Add to List” button at the far right of their name.
Once you’ve organized your friends, you now get to delve into the nastiness that is Facebook privacy.  There are at least four separate and different areas from which privacy is controlled; to get to three of them, use “Account–>Privacy Settings”.

From here, the first area is under, “Basic Directory Information” — click on “View Settings”.  For me, I’ve only restricted the bottom three (“education/work”, “current city/hometown”, and “interests/other”).  For these, I choose “Customize” for the privacy setting, and then “Make this visible to” everyone in “friends” but “hide this from” everyone in “other”.  This gets shown as “Friends only; Except: Others”.  I should probably restrict the viewing of my friends list, but I currently don’t.

The second area is under, “Sharing on Facebook”, and I chose “Custom” for that.  There is a link at the bottom of the table, called “Customize Settings”.  Once you click on that, you can set permissions for all sorts of things.  For me, most of them are set to the same custom setting as above: “Friends only; Except: Others”.  I do have my birthday restricted to myself only, but only because I’m paranoid (and hate having my birthday celebrated).  NOTE: Facebook just added some new settings related to the new Places feature, and you need to change them, because the defaults can cause nasty privacy issues.  Here’s how:
The third area is under, “Applications and Websites”; click on the “Edit your settings” link just below that. From here, you’ll probably want to uncheck or disable just about everything.

The fouth area is the photo albums.  The easiest way to set the privacy for albums is by:
  1. Click on “Profile” at the upper-right.
  2. Click on the “Photos” tab.
  3. Just above your photo albums, you’ll see a link called, “Album Privacy”.  Click on it.
  4. Now, you can adjust the permissions of which list can access which album.  Note that permissions are controlled at the album level; you can’t specify permissions for each individual picture.
There is a free iPhone app for changing your privacy settings:
I don’t think it yet supports the new “Places” feature, and so you should probably use the above link for that.

Update August 23, 2010: you should also configure Facebook to tell you whenever a “new” PC/Mac or device accesses your account. This can be useful for being notified if your account gets hacked. To find out how, see here:

Note that you do need to logout and log back into Facebook, for all of your devices, in order to register them.


1 Comment »

  1. i just found this out last week myself…. just by “accidentally” hit the key above the tab, trying to switch apps…. then i switched chrome windows and i was like YESSSS!!!! nice post previous to this one.nthats y i really came here.

    Comment by jolynnmaddox13004 — April 8, 2016 @ 3:16 am +0000 | Reply

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