I have a LOVE/HATE relationship with Facebook. I love that it allows me to keep in touch with friends and family that I would most likely not be able to any other way, but I HATE how I feel like an insignificant chess piece in their big online board game! I realize this is a “free” service I’m using, but I’m “paying” for it with the data that they are collecting and monetizing from my online behavior.
Recently I realized that my privacy settings, which I’ve never changed significantly since I started using the website, were giving them everything they could ever want! And apparently I’m not the only one. A recent survey found almost one in five U.S. adults have never made any changes to the privacy settings on their social media accounts.
I realize there is no such thing as true “privacy” on the internet, but there are things you can do in your Facebook settings to manage the way the #1 social network uses your data – and it’s worth giving your Facebook account a “check-up” to make sure it’s set up just how you want it.
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Here are 12 Facebook privacy settings you need to check now:
Search engine visibility
If someone does a Web search for your name, your Facebook page could appear in the search results. To prevent this, go to your “General Account Settings” page by clicking the triangular icon at the top right of the page and selecting “Settings” from the dropdown menu. Then click the “Privacy” tab on the left.
Next to “Do you want other search engines to link to your timeline?” click “Edit.” Uncheck the box next to “Let other search engines link to your timeline.” If you turn this permission off, it may take some time for your profile to stop appearing in Web searches.
Manage your timeline and your tags
You can control who can post to your timeline and who can see posts you’re tagged in. Inside your account settings, select the “Timeline and Tagging” tab. Next to “Who can post on your timeline?” you can either make posting available to your friends or restrict posting to just yourself.
Below that there’s the option to “Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline?” Enable this option to manually add posts to your timeline whenever someone tags you. If someone tags you in a post that you don’t want to be mentioned in, you can hide it from your page before it even has a chance to hit your timeline.
Who can see your past posts
If you’re cautious about strangers or the general public seeing your old posts, there’s a quick way to ensure that all your old posts are made private. Going into privacy settings, you will see the option “Limit the audience for past posts” near the bottom of the page.
Clicking this and selecting it will turn all your old posts’ privacy options from being viewed by the public & friends of friends to just your friends. Handy if you don’t have the time to go through all your posts manually.
Review old apps
During your entire time on Facebook, you have given permission for many apps to access your profile. Some apps may also have permission to make posts on your behalf. Chances are you have more apps authorized than you realize so it’s a good idea to get rid of the ones you’re not using any longer.
To see what apps have access to your profile, go into privacy settings, go into “Ads, Apps and Websites” and select “Edit Settings” for apps. You will be given the option to deactivate or delete apps from your account entirely.
Prevent your friends’ apps from collecting your information
Did you know apps your friends use can also see your info? When your Facebook friends use games and applications, the applications might collect some of your own info for personalization purposes, including your bio, birthday, photos, videos, hometown, and more.
If you don’t want apps and websites to access your information through your friends, start by visiting your privacy settings page and click the Apps tab on the left. Click Edit next to the second option, “Apps others use,” and uncheck the options you don’t want to share.
Instant Personalization grants certain websites access to your public profile information when you visit them. These sites then adjust their web contents to suit your wants and needs, thus creating a personalized experience.
If you feel uncomfortable that sites can extract and openly use your personal information and details, even if it is to improve user experience, you can easily turn off this feature by going to the privacy settings page and click on ‘Edit Settings’ under ‘Apps and Websites’ and then ‘Edit Settings’ under ‘Instant personalization’. Just uncheck ‘Enable instant personalization on partner websites’ and get peace of mind.
Avoid being an unpaid spokesperson
Sometimes when you see an ad on Facebook, you will also see which of your friends “likes” that advertiser’s page and vice versa. So, if you are a fan of a restaurant’s Facebook page, ads for that restaurant may tell your friends that you “like” it. It’s basically a testimonial, but not one you might want to make.
To prevent others from seeing your social actions paired with ads, click the “Ads” tab on the account settings page. Once you select “Ads and Friends,” in the drop-down menu at the bottom, choose “No one.”
See yourself as others see you
How can you ever really be sure that the wrong people aren’t seeing your private photos? With Facebook’s Timeline viewer, you can switch to the public’s view of your page and see for yourself. You can also select anyone on the Facebook network to check if they are seeing only what you’ve intended for them to see. This is great for checking on how your profile appears to your boss, family, or significant other.
Click on your name to get to your Timeline, otherwise known as your profile page. Underneath and towards the right of your large cover photo, you’ll see a few buttons – Update Info, Activity Log, and a little gear icon with a down-facing arrow. Click the down-facing arrow and then select “View As….”
Turn off Facebook chat for certain people
If you’re one of those people who is always invisible on Facebook chat because of a select few, you can adjust it so that you only appear online for certain people.
Simply go into advanced settings on chat and you can choose to exclude certain people or only appear for certain friends.
Create tighter friend lists
This one’s not a privacy setting per se, but it’s an important function to review in order to control other privacy options. Facebook automatically suggests some groupings for your friends based on things such as a shared alma mater, place of employment or city of residence. You can sort your friends into these groups or other groups you create. You may find the “Restricted” list useful. Assign people to one of these lists when you don’t want them to have full view of your Facebook page.
To add friends to a list, go to their Facebook profile page. To the right of their name, click on “Friends” and you’ll see a drop-down menu. Click “Add to another list” and select which list you’d like to add them to. It could be your “Restricted” list or a list of your college buddies — whatever works for you.
Most users don’t realize that they are sent dozens of messages every year that they’ll never receive. I had never checked my “Other” file and I had 99+ messages waiting there! The “Other Messages” folder has become a catchall for pretty much any message that doesn’t come from a friend.
Click the Messages icon in the top toolbar, then click Other in the drop-down window that appears.
Delete your Facebook search history
For many Facebook users, it might come as news that Facebook stores your search history at all – but it does, and tailors the results you receive accordingly. By default, Facebook stores this data, and it’s available to anyone who sits down at a PC logged into your account.
Delete this data entirely within your Facebook settings. Go to Activity Log (one of the options at the top of your Profile page), then select More, then Search. From this page, you’ll be given options to delete either individual searches, or your entire search history.
You may also want to look around your activity log in general for any other information you don’t want to be sitting around in your Facebook account forever.
One last tip…….
If you want to take control of your Facebook settings, it’s best done from a PC or Mac – Facebook’s mobile apps don’t offer the fine control that the browser version does.
Modifying your privacy settings for the first time can be a little confusing, but following these steps will help you take control of what you are sharing via social media, and who you’re sharing it with.