News: The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings

The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings

Just how private is your Facebook profile? To some extent, that's up to you. Many Facebook users share and poke their days away, never knowing about the plethora of custom privacy settings that lie just a click away. Facebook's privacy menus can look a little complicated to the newcomer, so today I'm going to give you a basic look at what lies under the hood.

Full disclosure: I'm not a big fan of Facebook. Their policies towards users give me the creepies, and their features aren't quite my cup of tea. But I know that a lot of people out there really love Facebook and couldn't live without it. To each their own. I'm going to do my best to write an objective how-to and let you make your own decisions about which settings are right for you. After all, it's your information. Do whatever feels most comfortable.

Let's get started. Your Privacy Settings can be found in your Account menu.

The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings

Who Can Find You

The first section within Facebook's Privacy Settings is "Connecting on Facebook."

The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings

This lets you pick and choose who can search for you, send you messages, and see basic stuff on your profile. If you want to see how your profile looks to others, click the "Preview My Profile" button in the top right corner. Within the preview mode, you can see how your profile looks to both friends and strangers. You'll find this button on most privacy setting pages.

Who You Share With

At a quick glance, my Facebook friends are comprised of family members, my significant other, friends I see every day, long-distance friends I keep in touch with, former co-workers, and a few casual acquaintances. As I have vastly different relationships with all of these people, I don't want to share the exact same stuff with all of them.

I'm going to bet that you feel the same way about your Facebook friends. That's where your Facebook sharing permissions come in. You can find them in the main Privacy Settings menu.

The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings

If you want the same privacy settings for everything clear across the board, you can select "Everyone," "Friends of Friends," or "Friends Only" in the blue sidebar. But if you want a little more control, click the "Customize Settings" link at the bottom of the main panel.

The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings

Keep scrolling down and you'll find options for your photos, your wall, and your contact info. Each item lets you choose whether you want it to be shared with everybody, approved friends, or friends of friends. You can also choose to keep it private. And if you want to be really picky, you can even pick which of your friends are allowed to see something.

Start by expanding a drop-down menu and clicking "Customize."

The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings

From there, click "Specific People."

The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings

A text field will appear underneath the menu. Type a friend's name into the field. Add as many friends as you fancy.

The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings

You can also block people by adding their names to the "Hide this from" section.

Keeping Your Info Safe From Apps

Facebook is overflowing with free games, quizzes and virtual gift apps. But using those "free" apps often comes at a cost. Most third-party apps have access to everything you share -- your birthday, your spouse's name, where you like to hang out on Fridays. This info is typically passed along to advertising agencies.

Here's how you can see what info an app has access to. First, find the Apps and Websites section at the bottom of the main Privacy Settings menu. Click the "Edit your settings" link.

The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings

Next, click the first "Edit Settings" button, right next to "Apps you use."

The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings

From there, you'll get a list of all of your installed apps. By clicking the "Edit Settings" link next to any one of them, you'll be able to see what info they have access to. Let's look at Lexulous, a word game app.

The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings

So, Lexulous can send me emails when there are updates to my games. It can post game info to my wall, but only if I allow it to. And it can see the same basic stuff that anybody else on Facebook can see. I'm comfy with that.

Some apps, however, are more nosy. Here's one I installed (and uninstalled) for the sake of example.

The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings

As I said at the beginning of the article, what you're comfortable sharing is entirely up to you. If you've got concerns about how your info is being used by others, then you might feel better uninstalling apps like the one shown above.

Keeping Your Info Safe From Your Friends' Apps

Just because you've got your own security settings tweaked to your liking doesn't mean that you're out of the woods yet. Check out the next item within the Apps, Games and Websites menu:

The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings

That's right. By default, your friends' apps can see whatever you allow your friends to see. If that gives you the aforementioned creepies, click that Edit Settings button.

The Basics of Facebook Privacy Settings

Uncheck all those boxes and click "Save Changes."

Stay Informed

It's just about impossible to keep your online personal info entirely secret, especially if you're using sites like Facebook. But by being smart about what you install and what sharing permissions you allow, you can have greater control of what info is made public. Whenever you're considering a new app or a new opt-in Facebook feature, educate yourself about what it will actually have access to. Read the fine print. Most apps will have a "Privacy Policy" link at the bottom of their page. I think you'll find that a little bit of research is well worth the effort.

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