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How to set Facebook privacy settings

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Hide personal information

Facebook is a treasure trove of information, assuming you allow it to show such things. The About tab provides the bulk of the information, from your work and education to your family members and favorite quotations, all easily accessible from your Timeline. However, users can specify which facets of the About tab they wish to share, restricting access to a selected audience of their own choosing.

To adjust who sees the information within the About section, click the About tab below your cover photo while viewing your Facebook Timeline. Afterward, click the gray Edit button in the top-right corner of the section housing the information you wish to edit, followed by the audience selector located directly to the right of the information. Then, select your desired audience from the resulting drop-down menu and Facebook will automatically save the changes when finished.

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Hide your friends, followers, and following lists

As previously mentioned, Facebook essentially defines “public” as something that can be seen by people who are not your friends. Your public information on Facebook can also be viewed through other media, including other sites on the Internet. Facebook also considers publicly available information to include your friends list, list of followers, and list of people you follow. Privacy advocates worry that much can be gleaned from said lists, but there is a way to hide one or all three, if you’re worried.

To make lists private, click the About tab below your cover photo while viewing your Facebook Timeline. Scroll down to your friends list, click the pencil icon in the upper-right corner of your friends box, and select Edit Privacy from the drop-down menu. Afterward, choose whether you’d like your friends list to remain public, only visible to your friends, or only you. You can even specify individuals using the Custom option. Repeat the process for your followers and things you follow.

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Hide or de-authorize third-party applications

Quizzes and games are fun, but you must first authorize each to access your profile information prior to use, even if you have made that available only to your friends. Furthermore, Facebook users who can see your info can also bring it with them when they use apps, adding a social component to various activities. You should probably keep mobile-based apps you use regularly, such as Facebook or Twitter, but most others can be de-authorized or simply hidden from the public eye.

To de-authorize or otherwise adjust app settings, navigate to the Privacy Settings and Tools panel and select the App tab from the menu column on the left side of the page. Afterward, select a specific app from the list of authorized apps and adjust its various privacy settings in the drop-down menu beside Visibility of app, adhering to the aforementioned privacy levels, or click the “X” button to de-authorize the app and purge its activity entirely.

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To restrict which personal information you share with others, peruse the list of personal data below the list of authorized apps and uncheck the box beside each option you’d rather not share – e.g., your birthday, bio, hometown, links, photos, etc. When finished, click the blue Save Changes button at the bottom of the section. Remember that applications can access your public information no matter what.

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Blocking Facebook users and content

Whether someone is spamming or merely hassling you, there are countless reasons to block someone on Facebook (temptation included). Once done, blocking prevents both parties from viewing one another’s Timeline, and additionally prevents them from messaging, tagging, and otherwise communicating with each other. Blocked users will not be allowed to friend request you and will not be notified of the action. Furthermore, users can block an app and event invites from specific people, along with specified apps entirely. No more Candy Crush Saga requests.

To block a Facebook user and specific content invites, navigate to the Privacy Settings and Tools panel and select the Blocking tab from the menu column on the left side of the page. Next, add specific user or app you want to block in the appropriate field, and if you entered a name, select the specific person you want to block from the resulting list. Then, click the blue Block button if applicable.

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Update your friends list

The average, adult Facebook user has 338 friends. But many people interact with a much smaller group when commenting on status updates, photos, and links. So it doesn’t hurt to occasionally review your list of your friends to get an idea of who should view your status posts, vacation photos, and funny links you’ve shared over the years. Don’t feel obligated to add anyone as a friend, even if that person adds you first. For a professional acquaintance you don’t want to snub, send them to a LinkedIn profile you can set up. Some workplaces and schools have rules about Facebook interactions between bosses and employees or students and teachers.

To unfriend a friend, click the About tab below your cover photo while viewing your Facebook Timeline. Afterward, scroll through your friends list (located at the bottom the page), hover over the Friends button to the right of the person you wish to remove, and select Unfriend from the resulting drop-down menu.


Create custom friends groups

If you have friended a lot of people, sort them. Think of the groups you interact with in real life – co-workers, college buddies, girlfriends, grandma, and grandpa – and organize your Facebook friends into these groups, too. Doing so allows you to set differing levels of access for each group, granting individuals restricted access to status posts, photos, and other content.

To create a custom friend group, click Create Group beneath the Group section located on the left-hand side while viewing the News Feed. Afterward, click the grey Create New Group button at the top of the page, name it appropriately, and begin typing the name of the friend you wish to add to the group. Continue adding all desired group members in a similar fashion and select one of the three group privacy options (Open, Closed, or Secret). When finished, click the blue Create button at the bottom of the window.

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Use Timeline review

No matter how careful you are regarding what you share on Facebook, sometimes the guilty culprit is someone else. That said, the posts that your friends tag you in, automatically appear in the News Feed, search, and other places on Facebook (including your Timeline). As part of your activity log, Facebook’s Timeline review allows you to choose whether posts you’re tagged in appear in your Timeline and elsewhere on the site. Although posts strangers tag you in will automatically go to Timeline review, users can enable the utility to encompass all posts – thus ensuring no tagged posts appear on your Timeline unless authorized.

To enable Timeline review, click the down arrow in the upper-right corner of the main Facebook toolbar and select Settings near the bottom of the resulting drop-down menu. Afterward, select the Timeline and Tagging tab within the left-hand navigational menu and click the blue Edit link directly to the right of Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your Timeline? Then, select Enabled from the resulting drop-down menu.

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Let your friends know you have boundaries – in person

Many of us have woken up on a Sunday morning to find that an overzealous friend has posted dozens of photos from that wild party we barely remembered – the good, the bad, and the really bad. Chances are, they didn’t do this to embarrass you (although if they did, you have bigger problems). Rather, they probably don’t know that you don’t want these photos posted. Sure, you can tweak your photo privacy settings on Facebook. But if someone starts snapping pictures of you at a party, ask them to check with you before posting it anywhere.

Note: Never assume complete privacy

Even for the most tech-savvy person, unflattering photos, incriminating text messages or angry status posts about work have a way of worming their way out in the open. Just saying.

This article was originally posted by Dena Cassella on 12-30-2009 and has been updated to reflect numerous changes to Facebook privacy settings and policies.

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