In honor of national Data Privacy Day, we’ve decided to list some of the most important things that users should know about Facebook Privacy. We’ve covered the topic extensively over the past couple years (including our new Facebook privacy guide), but there’s never a bad time to remind people of how to protect themselves online. In this article you will learn some of the most useful ways to protect yourself on Facebook and some of our most important guides.
Facebook’s Granular Privacy Settings
Facebook uses a system called “granular privacy settings” to give Facebook users complete control of their information. The way that the system is supposed to work is that users can control the visibility of anything they publish on the site. While there is ongoing debate about certain information which is not completely private, there are plenty of settings users can use to limit the visibility of their content. As pictured to the right, the basis of Facebook privacy is five core settings that you will see throughout the site:
- Everyone – Everyone literally means everyone. This content will be visible to everybody on the internet. While companies and organizations want their content to be completely public, a lot of users prefer to have their content restricted. By selecting everyone you will have no restrictions on your information or content.
- Friends and Networks – This setting will only be visible if you are part of a university or professional organization. If you are not a member of a specific network, this will not be visible. By selecting this option, your information will be only be visible to your friends and members of the networks that you are part of. If you are not a member of a network, there’s no need to worry about this option.
- Friends of Friends – I’m not sure why you would want to select this option, however some users want to restrict content to a partially restricted network. While not everybody will be able to see your information, anything to decide to apply this setting to will be visible to your friends and all of their friends.
- Only Friends – This setting is pretty straight-forward. Any user that is your friend will be able to see the content you are selecting this for.
- Custom – Want to manually select individual friends that can view your information? By using the custom option, you will be able to select individual friends that can and cannot see your information.
You can now go through the privacy settings area on Facebook and you will be able to apply these settings to any of your personal information.
Understanding Friend Lists
While we previously published a guide to Facebook friend lists, we thought it would be useful to remind users about friend lists. While only a fraction of users take advantage of friend lists, the feature is extremely useful when trying to separate your various social or affiliation groups. For example, you may have work contacts, family members, and close friends all connected to you on Facebook. As we previously wrote:
The purpose is to easily group your friends, set custom profile settings based on your connection, and to be able to more effectively browse the site.
There are two primary places to view your friend lists: the homepage and the friends page. By default, Facebook applies any networks you belong to as friend lists. They then allow you to create your own lists. In the image to the right, you can see a few of the friend lists I created for myself. The “American” list was automatically generated by Facebook and displays all of my friends who attended American University. I created a list “AllFacebook” to signify that I met the user through this blog. Members of that list are then limited to accessing specific contact information (I don’t want someone I met on my blog to know my home address).
I grew up in Arlington, Virginia. As such, I have a number of friends that I went to elementary, middle, and high school with. I have grouped these individuals into the “Arlington People” list. I have relatively unrestricted privacy settings for members of this list as I am personally close to the majority of them. If you want to take the time to configure your own friend lists, definitely check out our friend lists guide.
Protect The Content You Publish
Whether it’s the photos, videos, or status updates that you publish, you have the ability to control the visibility of all that content. While we go into extreme detail in our new Facebook privacy guide about protecting your content, it’s important to highlight the publisher privacy settings. Any content that you publish via the Facebook publisher (pictured above) has privacy settings applied to them using the granular settings highlighted earlier.
For many users this has become “Everyone” by default so it’s important to take note of this setting with every piece of content you publish. You can also configure the settings for photos and videos you are tagged in via the profile privacy settings page. We’ll avoid going into too much detail here as it has been explained for the most part but if you want more information about restricting the visibility of the content you publish, check out our new Facebook privacy guide or one of the articles listed below.
Make Your Contact Information Private
One of the most important things to protect is your contact information. Your phone numbers, email addresses, and even home addresses can be stored and used for malicious purposes. If you want to protect yourself on Facebook, limiting the visibility of your personal contact information is probably the single most important thing you need to do. There are two places to control your the visibility of your contact information: the contact privacy settings page and the info tab of your personal profile.
From the contact privacy page, you can customize the contact settings as much as you’d like. I would tend to restrict those individuals you don’t know well from viewing your contact information. Facebook has a default “Limited Profile” list (as pictured below), however you may have other custom friend lists you’d like to apply. I’ll let you determine who you’d like to limit your information to.
A best practice that I use is to not store your home address on Facebook. Also restrict those people you don’t know from viewing your email address and phone numbers. If you modify your privacy settings from the info tab of your personal profile, you will be able to select privacy settings for every contact item (pictured below). This gives you complete control of your information.
Our Most Important Facebook Privacy Articles
While there are many Facebook privacy settings that you can configure, we’ve highlighted the most important ones in this article. If you want to learn more about Facebook privacy, we suggest you check out some of the following articles we’ve written over the past year. The best way to protect yourself online is to get informed, so here are some of the best articles to learn about Facebook privacy:
- 10 New Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know
- Video Of Our New Facebook Privacy Guide
- How To Control The Visibility Of Facebook Wall Posts
- How To Stop Facebook From Publishing Recent Activity To The News Feed
- How To Avoid A Facebook Photo Tagging Disaster
- How To Manage Your Facebook Relationships With Friend Lists