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Adjusting Your Facebook Privacy Settings

How to Customize Facebook Privacy Settings to Meet Your Needs


Man working by computer
lina aidukaite/ Moment/ Getty Images

Facebook’s Privacy Settings allow you to specify who can see which types of information you’ve posted or shared in Facebook.

In Facebook Privacy Basics, I explained that there are only a few levels of privacy provided by Facebook:

  • Everyone
  • Friends of Friends
  • Friends Only

In some areas of Facebook, you can also set your privacy to Only Me.

Using Friends Lists for Facebook Privacy Settings

One little known way you can further refine your Facebook Privacy settings is to create one or more Facebook Friends Lists and then share certain information only with those in a specific list of friends, such as your immediate family. If you're not sure how to create Friends lists in Facebook, I strongly recommend you read How to Create a Facebook Friends List and then come back here before making any further adjustments to your privacy settings.

Accessing Your Privacy Settings in Facebook

To access your Facebook Privacy settings:

  1. Log into Facebook.
  2. At the upper right of the page, click Account and select Privacy Settings. The Choose Your Privacy Settings page displays.

The Choose Your Privacy Settings page in Facebook is split into several areas:

  • Basic Directory Information – Where you control the visibility of your profile, getting found in Facebook search, who can send you Friend requests and messages and who can see your Friends list within Facebook, your education and work and your interests, which allows others to search for new friends based on these factors. Settings in this area are generally intended to allow Facebook to do what it needs to do in order to be considered “social” and allow people to easily connect with one another.
  • Sharing on Facebook – This is the meat of your Facebook Privacy settings that includes who can see what, who can comment on your posts, who can post on your wall, etc.
  • Application and Websites – Includes privacy settings for applications, games and websites used both within Facebook and sites that partner with Facebook, such as those that use a Like button and more.
  • Block Lists – Allows you to block specific people on Facebook by name or email address, block invitations to use or share applications from specific users, and block event invitations from specific users.
  • Controlling How You Share – This is an information section that includes Facebook’s Privacy Policy and some suggestions for maintaining your privacy while still enjoying social interaction Facebook.

Basic Directory Facebook Privacy Settings

In Facebook, your name, profile picture, gender and networks are always open to everyone regardless of your Facebook Privacy settings. If you don’t want to make this information public, you probably don’t belong on Facebook.

In addition, Facebook suggests that you leave the remaining settings in the Basic Directory Privacy area set to Everyone because doing so allows other people to find you and become Friends. You may or may not agree, and Facebook gives you the ability to change those settings.

To change the Privacy settings follow the steps listed in Accessing Facebook Privacy Settings and then click View settings under Basic Directory Information.

The Privacy settings in this section are fairly self-explanatory, and for each item, available selections can vary between Everyone (the default in this section), Friends, Friends of Friends or Customize. Not all of these choices are available for every item.

The Customize option (on items where it's available) allows you to select specific people who can see or specific people who cannot see each type of information in this settings area. That means you can include your Friends List you created earlier to limit certain information to just your closest friends and family, or you can choose just one or two specific people.

Your current Privacy settings are shown on the button with the padlock, to the right of each item. To change a setting, click the drop-down arrow on the right of the corresponding padlock button to access the list of available settings for that item.

Using a Friends List for Facebook Privacy Settings

Anywhere the Customize selection is available, you can specify that only Friends who are included in a Friends List be allowed to have access to a specific type of information on Facebook. Here's how to use a Friends List with customized Facebook Privacy settings:

  1. Click the drop-down arrow to the right on the padlock button for that security item.
  2. Select Customize. The Custom Privacy box opens. (See Image 1.)
  3. From the These People list, select Specific People….
  4. In the box just below Specific People, start typing the name of your Friends List. If you just want to include or exclude one or two friends, start typing their name and then select them as they appear.
  5. A list of selections is made available as you start typing. Select your Friends List - or specific friend(s). (See Image 2.) Your Friends List (friend) is added. There’s an X next to the list so if you add the wrong list you can easily remove it.
  6. Click Save Setting.

Sharing on Facebook Privacy Settings

The Sharing on Facebook privacy settings area works the same way as the Basic Directory Information settings. For each item, you set the level of privacy you want. After you’ve created one or more Friends Lists you can easily set your privacy to only those in the list you’ve selected.

Once you’ve customized some of your Facebook Privacy settings, you’ll see an additional column in the Sharing on Facebook section of the Choose Your Privacy Settings page – Other. (See Image 3.)

Facebook Privacy Settings for Pictures

When you post pictures that you can create privacy for your photo albums, sharing them only with Friends, or with Friends of Friends, or with Everyone. Or with specific groups of people that you’ve created through one or more custom Friends Lists.

Once you have your Facebook privacy settings in place, you can feel safer about what you are sharing online. And, because you can limit who sees your most private information, there’s really no need to provide false information on your Facebook profile.

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