How to Set Your Facebook Privacy Settings

Facebook, since its mistakes with the Beacon advertising incident, has rolled out one of the most robust security systems for any social network, which allows users to control who sees what information about them with great specificity. Take a look at Facebook's privacy features and how to set yours.

  • Privacy Main Menu Now you're at the main privacy overview. It consists of four privacy controls: Profile, Search, News Feed and Wall, and Applications. Click on "Profile." It's a good place to start since it's your publicly facing site on Facebook. Start with the "Basic" tab.
  • Control What People Can See The "Customize" link also allows you to control access for specific people to view (or not view) your Facebook activities. The personal information on your profile includes things like your interests, favorite music and the "about me" section of your profile. Click "Customize" on the drop down menu beside that category "personal info"; a pop-up window lets you say all friends or networks "except these people." For instance, you might want to block colleagues or customers from seeing personal photos.
  • Who Sees Your Profile The "Basic" profile drop-down menu has four categories: My Networks and Friends, Friends of Friends, Only Friends, and Customize. A Network in Facebook is a group of people with a common interest (a city, university or workplace). So if you select "Networks and Friends" from the pull down menu, all the people in those networks you belong to can see your profile. "Friends of Friends" allows someone who is friends with your friends to see your profile. "Only Friends" gives just your friends profile access
  • Getting to the Privacy Settings After you log into Facebook with your e-mail address and password, scroll your mouse over to the top right side of the page where it says "settings" and hold the mouse over the "settings" button. On the new Facebook design, two options will drop down, "account settings" and "privacy settings" (highlighted in blue). Click on the latter.
  • Social Ads Click on the third tab, Social Ads. Choose whether your Facebook friends or "no one" can see your actions related to advertisements on the site. This relates specifically to the Beacon advertising controversy, when users found that actions they took on websites of Facebook advertisers were publicized for friends to see. According to Facebook, "Facebook occasionally pairs advertisements with relevant social actions from a user's friends to create Social Ads."
  • Customize Your Social Networks "Customize" lets you choose which of your Facebook networks can see your profile. Maybe you are comfortable sharing your information with your company softball team, but you aren't anxious to give the same kind of access to thousands of people in your company's Facebook network. Click "Customize" from the drop down menu; a pop-up menu allows you to select some networks to view your profile (like the softball team) while preventing people from other networks (like work) to see it without friending you.
  • Contact Information Click on the "Contact Information" tab under "Profile." Your contact information, which appears on your profile, can include your address, phone number, instant messaging screen name, website and e-mail address. The options for who can view each piece of contact information on your profile are the same as the "basic" tab (My Networks and Friends, Only Friends, Friends of Friends and Customize) plus another category: "No one." Use these settings to regulate which Facebook members can see about your contact info
  • Applications Go back to the main privacy menu and click on the "Applications." The first tab will give you an overview of Facebook's applications policy, which amounts to this: Installing an app on your Facebook account means it will be able to access all of your information and Facebook will not be liable for the consequences. The "Other Applications" tab (pictured here), allows you to control what information about you your friends can pull from with the applications they use. Check boxes to allow access, uncheck to limit access.
  • News Feed and Wall Settings Your Facebook "News Feed," keeps you up-to-date about your Friends' actions (Twitter updates, photos, new friends made and more) on the social network. Facebook privacy settings let you regulate what your Friends can see. At the main privacy settings page, click on "Newsfeed and Wall." Click on the tab "Actions within Facebook" and check boxes to designate which of your actions Facebook friends can see. Tip: Don't uncheck everything; it dilutes the value of Facebook.
  • Actions on External Websites Click on the tab, "Actions on External Websites." Here, you decide with a simple check box whether or not you want your behavior on participating websites to be shown to friends on your news feed (such as I read this article at a certain website). Don't forget to save your changes by clicking on "Save Changes."
  • Who Can Search for You Your Facebook profile is searchable on the Web, and Facebook now allows you to control how much Web surfers can find about you. Click on "Privacy" on the upper left to return to the privacy main menu. Then click on "Search." The default setting allows "Everyone" on Facebook to search for you. Pull from the drop-down menu to select which Facebook users can see your profile. Boxes also allow for public searches and how others can contact you.
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