Updated Facebook privacy: How to privatise your profile

Summary:Facebook's December 2009 privacy settings refresh has had many people confused. This guide walks you through the settings you need to check.

Facebook has caused a massive storm this past week with the revamp in privacy settings. Now it is far easier to publish something to everyone on the web for anyone to read. Many blame Facebook, I took the high road and blamed the user. Regardless of who is right or wrong, many are still confused at the settings.

Most users would have, or will see this notice when they sign into Facebook. It'll allow them to alter their settings accordingly to ensure that your profile is as open as you want it to be.

This isn't enough as many people are thoroughly confused. This guide will step you through the privacy barrier and ensure you know the basics and the advanced settings, taking into account my previous post of hidden gems the site still has to serve.

First and foremost, head over to your privacy settings and then we can begin.

At any point, you can leave a comment or question and I'll get back to you.

Changing exactly who can see what on your profile -->

This area of privacy settings which be most useful. The sooner you get your head around these basic levels then the easier it'll be in the long run.

You may be required to enter your password to edit the settings; this is a new feature. Whack in your password and it'll unlock your settings for you to edit.

Each section of your profile is compartmentalised and can be blocked off or allow to certain people, or everyone. Select the drop down box, and click Custom. From here, you can easily select which bits to keep visible and to whom, such as your entire academic network, work network or exclude your networks and just allow close friends.

Friends lists can be extremely useful when blocking a certain group of people from areas of your profile. To add or edit your limited profile list, read my previous article which should fill you in. Once you type in your limited profile list name into the bottom box, this will exclude these people from viewing each section.

Once your done, select Save Setting and move onto the next item. Go through each one, including the photo albums settings (which are very similar to the aforementioned).

Changing who can contact you on Facebook -->

This section is almost exactly the same as the previous one. This list of settings, however, are more pertinent to you as an individual. It's where your most personal details are such as your phone number, house and email address, and who can actually be in contact with you.

Take time to really make sure the settings on here are perfect. Also, take advantage of the Preview My Profile at the top to ensure that what is there is what you want it to be.

You can control who can send you a personal message which lands in your Facebook inbox, as well as who can add you as a friend. If you are at university, it makes more sense to allow only Everyone as you'll be meeting many people from many places. Although, if you are more conscientious, select Friends of Friends to keep a smaller group of people.

It's wise that you allow everyone to send you an inbox message, as you never know what you may be missing out on. Remember that if you reply back, it allows that person to view your profile for a set amount of time. Be warned!

Changing application and website privacy settings -->

Facebook applications by nature sometimes need to access some of your information, such as your name, gender, where-abouts in the world you are, a friends list or profile picture - just to make the applications better aesthetically but also more functional.

Many worry about whether applications can harvest your data. This should make you leery of which applications you subscribe too. Also beware that some can steal data from you which can bite you on the arse in times to come.

These new settings allow you greater control over what can happen, and easily manage what already has.

You can change what your friends can share about you, such as statuses and photos, notes you have published and your birthday. If you want to keep certain elements about you from applications which your friends use, then uncheck them here.

Blocking applications is just as simple as it ever was, just made a bit more clear. You can still remove them if you decide to go back to the dark side.

And if one of your friends persistently sends you FarmVille or MafiaWars requests and you're just getting sick of it, you can block application invites from friends through your requests page where you would normally accept them. Here, you can remove them and manage them a bit better.

Changing who can search for you on Facebook -->

Facebook is like the Google search of the people world. Because so many people are on it, it's really easy to find old friends and acquaintances. But as we all know, sometimes we leave jobs for not so pleasant reasons, or we move away from old friends because it's a nicer way of saying, "I hate you, and never want to see your face again". I've been there.

There are two settings. If you want people to be able to search for you, message you and add you, instead of you finding them, then Friends and networks will suffice. However blocked friends will not be able to search for you still.

However search engine indexing has baffled many. It essentially means whatever is publicly available on your profile, search engines like Google will be able to cache them and add them to search results. Take it from me, it's a bad idea just in case someone frapes you still and you don't notice it.

Make sure the Allow indexing box is not ticked.

Completely blocking people, how and what it does -->

The block list is just as it was before with a few aesthetic changes. You can block a person by name by entering it into the Person field, check the search results for the right person and hit Block.

However if you want to make things that little bit more effective, any email address linked in with an account can be blocked also. Just whack in the email address of the person you wish to block, hit the blue button and it's done.

Be careful when removing people from the block list as it can take up to 48 hours to properly re-add them to the list of doom.

If you have a comment or question, I'll get back to you.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Browser, Collaboration, Legal

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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