Updated Facebook privacy: How to privatise your profile

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

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  • Make it so nobody can add you as a friend?

    Hi there, thanks for these tips - good stuff. In
    the past - we could make it so that nobody can add
    us as a friend in Facebook. Now, it seems the
    only options are "Everyone" and "Friends of
    Friends" - is there no longer an option to make it
    so that nobody can add you as a friend? I've
    deactivated my Facebook account until I figure
    this out.
    • The only way...

      Is to lock down your profile so you can't even be searched for, using the steps in the guide. At least this way it'll make it more difficult to find you, even if they type in your email address. Granted, it's not perfect, but there's no other way of doing it I'm afraid.
    • Why?

      That's the entire purpose of Facebook. It's not a
      business tool, it's not for secure, private
      conversations - it's for connecting people.
      • It's hardly a business tool?

        Facebook is for friendship; what LinkedIn is for business.
    • Block Unwanted people

      Basically if you want to limit the people who can add you as a friend you can do the following.

      Lock down your search privacy so people can't search for you.

      Limit the people that can add you to "Friends of Friends"

      Then block anyone who you don't want that manages to get through.

      realistically I do like to have some privacy with Facebook but I recognize it is a tool to connect people together so it makes sense for the privacy settings to be skewed towards making it easier rather than harder to make friends.
  • RE: Updated Facebook privacy: How to privatise your profile

    This is a joke - there never has been any privacy on Facebook - just look at all of the reports of hacked accounts and hijacked friend lists. The developers of all of those cute games and polls have complete and full access to any and all information about everyone. You may think that you're only sharing information with your friends, but when you post on Facebook, you're sharing with the entire world.
    Steven J. Ackerman
  • RE: Updated Facebook privacy: How to privatise your profile

    I can understand making the -default- more social-friendly, but -entirely nuking the option- to be anti-social was a really bad idea. Not everyone with a FB account is there to be social, even when they're there for reasons that are beneficial to FB -- instead, they facilitate -other- people being social. For example, the official owner of a small-business or website-related "page," who doesn't actually log in, themselves, except occasionally, but who provides a place for "fans" to gather, while someone else does admin for the page. Why on earth shouldn't someone like that have the -option- to turn off the "add friend" link completely?

    I can tell ya right now that at least some fan "pages" wouldn't exist at all, if their otherwise-occupied owners hadn't been lured, kicking and screaming, onto FB, simply to officially create their pages, with the understanding, based on the prior settings, that they wouldn't have to deal with friend requests.

    The -option- should be there, even if it's hidden somewhere in the settings, so that only people who really do need it will bother to find it.
  • Friends List and "Pages" still unable to privatize.

    Zach - maybe you have a solution but my 2 issues with FB are this:

    1.) Entire friends lists visible:
    I've hid myself from public searches so you must be logged into Facebook to even find me, but once you are logged in and even if you are not a friend of my friends, you can view my entire friends list by getting my profile uid and formatting it into a URL:

    2.) 'Pages' I'm a member or fan of are unable to be hidden.
    Even non friends of friends can still see every page I'm a member / fan of.

    To me, both of these are unacceptable to not have an option on. I can only assume that it can't be extremely difficult to offer the exact same options on these two items as we have for every other thing in our profile or related to our profile.

    Here is where this could pose a potential problem and is just one extreme example :

    Let's say I have a certain lifestyle choice that my conservative boss doesn't agree with. I don't make it a point to flaunt my choices but I become a member of xyz group on Facebook. If my employer is on facebook, he can see my affiliation even without being friends or a friend of my friend and I open myself to potential problems.

    Another example : Let's say I work for an employer that has a diversity and inclusion policy. Let's say I'm not 'tolerant' of a certain lifestyle choice and join a page that shared my views. Now anyone who is a member of Facebook and can find me sees that I'm a member of xyz group and now I become the target. While I may not be vocal about my disdain for their choice at work, they now know that I don't approve and bait me in an attempt to get me fired.

    These are both extreme examples, but valid ones. I shouldn't have to un-join myself from fan pages out of concern of the lack of privacy. I should have the choice if I want to make that info public.

    Why has Facebook not given us the same options for our Friends List and Pages/Fan Pages?!
  • RE: Updated Facebook privacy: How to privatise your profile

    Also disturbing is that we no longer have the option of NOT posting a "story" in friends news feeds. My friend, who also sits next to me at work, is now notified in the feed everytime I like a photo, comment on a wall, or comment on photo of another person who is NOT a mutual friend of ours! She can even click on this link in her feed and see these people's entire profiles, photos, status, etc....she is not their friend. I find it hard to believe that these 3 people whose pages she could access all have their settings set to "Everyone".
  • RE: Updated Facebook privacy: How to privatise your profile

    How can I have my picture show up as "generic" when people search me? I was able to have a picture for my profile for my friends and have the generic for when people searched for me. Now I can't. Help!! Thanks.

  • Applications

    Since yesterday my friends aren't able to see applications on my Wall for example posts. Well they can see the "stories" from the app, but can't get/see the rewards of the application. It's basically like that for all the applications on my wall. How can I fix this or is there a "problem" with Facebook itself?
  • RE: Updated Facebook privacy: How to privatise your profile

    I use one app that I've created a list in the friends section and called it that app name. The good part is I am able with the settings omit that list from all my normal family & friend postings, but the question I have is: How do I get to post and see postings from only that one list when I play that app, it's a more friends you have the better you are at the app and your friends send tools to you as well as other things to assist you in further progressing in the game. Is there any way to 'turn off the normal and turn on the list?'
  • Article Print Function S*CKS

    Would be really nice and helpful to be able to print this article EASILY but the cr*ppy print function built into this site only allows printing of what is on the current page. I'm open to suggestions because I haven't found a way to print this entire 6 page article - to PDF or anything - without having to print, then move forward in the article, then print, and so on...

    FIX IT!
    Buck S.
    • money money money

      Yes, it is irritating. ZDNet does this to
      monetize their pages. They tout "page views" to
      advertisers -- so they break one article into 10
      pages so they can tell advertisers they have a
      gazillion million "page views".

      First thing I do when I go to a news site is
      look for the "single page" or "print page"
      options so I can read the article in peace
      without having to click "next", "next", "next"
      and have the web pages load again and again just
      to read one article.

      NY Times is good at having the "singe page"
      option and others like Newsweek and BusinessWeek
      have great "print" functions where you can read
      the entire article on one page.

      Yes, ZDNet fails at this -- because they want to
      maximize "page views".
      • Hadn't thought of that...

        I don't mind READING articles by going page to page but I like to print articles like this so I can have them next to the 'puter while I go thru and use them as instructions for reviewing my own situation, make changes, etc.

        I'm sure some folks would do it just to avoid clicking forward but it would be really helpful to the rest of us who want to use the articles as guides.
        Buck S.
  • RE: Updated Facebook privacy: How to privatise your profile

    If they would just force an SSL login I would be pleased. I hate it when websites that you have to log in with any kind of credentials don't make you use a fully encrypted SSL page. How retarded......
  • RE: Updated Facebook privacy: How to privatise your profile

    I was looking for the more tricky information like:
    - how to hide your profile picture from non-friends (e.g. if someone shuffles through a friend list of a friend of mine)
    - how to hide the groups (fanpages) from the limited profile friends list
    At the moment everyone of my friends friends list can see my profile picture (I've got a fake name to avoid to many workmate friend requests) and the groups I'm in. It's easy for them to see it's me :-(
    Is there a way to hide these two things as well?
  • RE: Updated Facebook privacy: How to privatise your profile

    Thx a lot! This was very helpfull for me. :)
  • Block app posts?

    Is there a way to block my app posts from a certain person (or group)? I play Farmville and don't want those posts going to a group of people. They typically are people who have tried FV in the past but don't touch it anymore. I don't want them seeing all my posts every time I "hatch a mysterious golden egg".
  • RE: Updated Facebook privacy: How to privatise your profile

    There is nothing what you can do about this. But if you put your next "mystery egg" message online, you can tell your non FV fans to select the "Hide" button on the top right of your posted message and than "Hide FarmVille". This will hide all FV messages for them in the future until they "unblock" the application again.