4 Simple Steps to Control Your Facebook Privacy

social media how toDid you know that Facebook automatically lets anybody see every video, picture, and status update you’ve ever posted?

Whether you’re using Facebook for business or personal reasons, the good news is that new privacy settings enable you to change exactly who sees what within Facebook.  And those changes impact every prior post you’ve ever made.

New Facebook Privacy Updates

Public outcry over Facebook’s complicated privacy settings hit a peak in the spring of 2010.  See this AP video below:

Facebook finally responded.  Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, describes the menu for their groundbreaking new privacy settings as the “Master Switch.”  He promises, “we haven’t removed anything in this update, we’ve just added a simple master switch to control all of your content at once.

facebook master switch

Master Switch: Control most of your settings quickly.

In just a few minutes, you can protect all the content you’ve ever posted, within the Facebook application at least.  There’s no perfect way to protect every bit of information online except not to post it at all, but in addition to the Master Switch controls, this post reveals Facebook’s deepest privacy settings (called granular settings) so you can easily navigate this jungle and take control of your content.

Facebook Privacy Video Tutorial

Watch this video to take control of your Facebook privacy.  Then follow the four steps below for added control.

Want more protection for your sensitive information?

Here are four more ways you can drill deep into your Facebook privacy settings:

#1: Disable Instant Personalizations

When you “like” or “share” a post anywhere online, Facebook puts it on your wall for you and your friends to see.  It also automatically sends this information to outside sites such as Yelp and Pandora, among others.  If you’d prefer to remain more private, do this:

  • Go to “Account.”
  • Choose “Privacy Settings.”
  • Choose “Applications and Websites.”
  • Choose “Instant Personalization.”
  • Click “Edit Settings.”
  • Uncheck “Allow select partners…”

#2: Take a Fresh Look at Your Photos and Videos

I recently interviewed a woman who lost a job because her Facebook profile picture showed a tattoo.  Another woman, a school teacher in Georgia, recently lost her job because her profile picture showed her holding a glass of wine.  Both people thought their privacy settings were enough protection, but Facebook still indexes pictures so that outside sites can search for them.

What’s the solution? Be more selective about your profile picture.  And while you’re at it, go through all photos and videos of you and untag those that you don’t want to share.  You can’t control which photos or videos your friends post, but you can remove your tag from them! Here’s how:

Go to your profile picture.  Just under it, you’ll see “View Photos of Me.” Click there and look at each photo.  If you want to remove a tag, click “Remove Tag” by your name under the picture.

photo tagging tells a lot

Photo tagging can turn a private photo into a public one!

Repeat this process for videos—the link “View Videos of Me” is just under your profile picture also.

#3: Create Privacy Lists!

Facebook friend lists are one of the most powerful features they offer for communicating privately and with flexibility.  Once you’ve created them, you can easily specify different privacy settings for each list.  Only want family to see your child’s birthday party pictures? No problem!  You can designate only your “Family” list for that photo album and nobody else will be able to see it unless someone copies and pastes the code at the bottom.  This is an example:

sharing link

These links are now at the bottom of all photos. Control who sees them with friend lists to minimize the chance of unwanted sharing.

Here’s how to create friend lists:

  • Go to “Account” in the upper right-hand corner of your profile.
  • Select “Edit Friends.” This will bring up an interactive menu with profile pics of your friends.
  • Click on “Create New List” and get started!  Many people create lists for family, friends, business, news, sports, and food, for example.
friend lists

Creating friend lists gives you much better control.

Creating friend lists for yourself will also give you the advantage of privacy in Facebook’s newly customized Chat feature.

Unless these settings are customized or turned completely off, anybody can interrupt you while you’re logged on and initiate a chat. Rather than ignore it or respond, I suggest going into the options and designating lists to block and lists of who can see when you’re logged on and available to chat.

It’s good to note here that Facebook never saves chat transcripts. Once a chat has concluded and the window is closed, any record of the chat is deleted.  So if you want to have a record of your communications with someone on Facebook, I suggest writing messages instead.

Here’s how to customize your chat privacy settings:

  • Navigate to the bottom right corner of your profile and click on “Chat.”
  • Select “Options” within the chat window that opens up.
  • Designate whether you prefer to be “online” or “offline.”
  • Select “Friend Lists.”  Once there, you can select which lists you prefer to chat with and which you’d prefer to block.

Nice Trick: You can easily change these for when you’re at work and when you’re at home.

#4: Review the Pages You’ve Liked

Facebook is paying an increasing amount of attention to Fan and Community pages and is exploring ways to use this information for potential advertisers. They’ve started indexing this information with your profile for the first time, so now is a good time to review and possibly discard page affiliations that relate to sensitive or controversial subjects.

Here’s how you to customize your “liked” pages:

  • From your profile, click on your “Info” tab.
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the “Pages” section, just above your “Contact Information.”
  • Click on “Show Other Pages,” and a list of pages will show up.
  • If applicable, click on “Show More Pages” to get a complete list.

(This next part is time-consuming, so I suggest you scan for the most important pages to unlike before you proceed, instead of going down the list of outdated pages.)

  • Click on a page you no longer want to identify with.
  • Once there, scroll to the bottom left corner and “unlike.”

You’re done!  Please note that you can only “like” up to 500 pages, so this is just good housekeeping if you plan to use Facebook for any length of time.

likes and pages

Protect your branding by reviewing your liked pages.

Congratulations if you’ve just worked through this tutorial!

You now have profile settings to be proud of and can share this information with others!

If you only have time for a few mouse clicks, please do yourself a favor and set your Master Switch settings to “Recommended” and you’ll be much more protected than ever before, thanks to Facebook’s new retroactive feature for privacy settings.

Please share this handy guide with your friends! What better use is there for a Facebook “like” button anyway?

Now you have a clearer understanding of how to navigate Facebook’s new privacy settings.  The Master Switch is a quick and convenient way to address lots of issues at one time; however, you can protect yourself and your professional branding better by also going into the deeper settings shown here.

So what do YOU think about Facebook’s new privacy settings? Do you think this new Master Switch adequately addresses Facebook’s privacy issues?  Are you happy with your experience and just wish everyone would quit talking about it? Are you excited about using the more hidden settings? Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments box below!

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About the Author, Lori Randall Stradtman

Lori Randall is an online marketing strategist specializing in social media and WordPress sites. She often asks, "What truth about your brand makes your heart pound? Then work it!" Other posts by »




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  • Chris Stradtman

    It seems to me some of the employers a crossing questionable boundaries here. If the school teacher was of legal drinking age ( not to mention, was it grape juice or sparkling apple juice?, which, being a non-drinker, I use as a alcohol substitute every New Years) and did not SPECIFICALLY agree in her contract not to drink on her own time (which I would have to wonder about the appropriateness of that in an employment contract anyway) I don’t see where the school would be able to avoid a legal entanglement. The same goes with the tattoo. If the tattoo is covered while at work, it shouldn’t matter. However, with the seeming pettiness of the employers/possible employers in this country (less face it, neither one of these things have any effect on job performance and business/employer efficiency or employee competency), one must make sure not to give the small minded HR people ammunition to use against oneself. So it is important to control the flow of your information into “the machine”.

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    Well said Chris!! It would be wonderful if we all could be as carefree with our personal lives as we might like, but the truth is that this stuff can and does offend a lot of people who aren’t afraid to make a big deal out of it. Best to monitor what you post and maintain your privacy settings as they change! One really nice feature to the master switch is that it does apply retroactively – old posts, pic, and videos get automatically covered, at least in terms of Facebook. :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Lori, please reply directly to Chris by clicking the reply button under his comment. Copy and paste this response. When you do, I will remove this.

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    Well said Chris!! It would be wonderful if we all could be as carefree with our personal lives as we might like, but the truth is that this stuff can and does offend a lot of people who aren’t afraid to make a big deal out of it. Best to monitor what you post and maintain your privacy settings as they change! One really nice feature to the master switch is that it does apply retroactively – old posts, pic, and videos get automatically covered, at least in terms of Facebook. :)

  • http://www.stampendous.com Laura

    Lori, This step by step article was absolutely beautiful! Thanks for the care and time it took to include all the videos and specific directions. I have forwarded this post to all my friends on facebook and shared it as well. Everyone should read this and immediately act on your guidelines! Thanks!

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    Oh Wow!! Thank you Laura! I spent a lot of time working on this because it makes such a difference in so many people’s lives.

    Thanks for commenting and well done for sharing this with your friends and family!! You never know whose job you might have just saved!

  • Chris Kulbaba

    This is an excellent article, well written and easy to understand and apply. As someone that works primarily with job seekers, this is a welcome set of instructions to answer these questions of privacy. Thanks!

    Chris Kulbaba MBTI/PD Facilitator

  • Lsquarcette

    Great article and easy to understand. Thanks for sharing and compiling all of this very relevant information. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/TisaYonts Tisa Yonts

    Have to agree with you Chris.

  • http://twitter.com/TisaYonts Tisa Yonts

    Lori, Ditto on what Laura posted. I am really appreciative of your generous share and will pass it on to my contacts right now:)

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    Thanks Chris!! I’m so glad to be able to help! While interviewing people for this post I met 2 women who lost their jobs due to photos on Facebook that they thought were protected. One involved a tattoo and the other involved a glass of wine. No kidding. Best to be safe! :D

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    I really appreciate your comment. Thanks!! And thanks for sharing this. :)

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    Thank you Tisa!! It might be the most useful and considerate thing you do for your friends today. :D

  • Greta

    Thanks! I have posted the link on http://gretastips.blogspot.com … an educational marketing blog primarily for the tourism industry, but much of it also applies to small business owners.

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    Thanks Greta! Sounds like an interesting site!! Will check out. Meanwhile, I’m certain lots of your readers will appreciate the info.

  • socialstacy

    I never knew about ‘privacy lists’ the idea is so genius! I can’t wait to set that up on my account. Thank you for sharing, great information here :) Make sure to check this site for layouts for your facebook too!

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    Thanks Stacy!! Privacy lists will rock your world! You can also go to your “home” view, look at “friends,” and choose which lists you’d like to view at one time. It’s a great way to catch up on news, for example, if you have a “news” list. And I’ll certainly check out your site!

  • rdsieber

    As a retired public school educator whose crossed over to automotive B2B writing, I can write from experience that it is safest to follow the Boy Scout axiom: Leave No Trace. Once applied to outdoor trekking and camping, methinks this saying has merit and traction in the squishy intersection of public service and public life. The two do not often mix well, and too many forget those privacy settings.

    Two examples of employees being “caught” have great implications for those just seeking work and already SM active. As a former school admin, I had to deal with students “sexting” each other. Not pleasant, especially when local laws define these as felonies. Kids often ignore discretion.

    Timely article and good advice!

  • http://quadrosneil.wordpress.com Neil Quadros

    Hi Lori. Thank you for the article, I’ve worked through quite almost all the tips above. I have a question about lists though:
    Have you put people on two lists at a time? And if you have, how do the privacy settings pan out at that time. Say suppose I know someone is from my university and put him in the ‘college’ list while at the same time put him on the limited ‘Unknown’ list. would there be a conflict.

    From my experience, when i put someone on two lists, it seems thought that the limited list controls are not applied. So do I have to put people i want to keep blocked on one list only?

  • http://twitter.com/tommyday Tommy Day

    Great info Lori, thx. As I went to adjust my settings, I notice immediately that I do not have a Master Switch! Any ideas?

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    Thanks!! Your point about the Boy Scout axiom is well taken. If you never post it, it can never be taken out of context! Furthermore, I just have to say that I love your turn of phrase as in “the squishy intersection of public service and public life.” It is a squishy, flexible zone that’s changing the face of how we communicate. Few want total conservatism and polish, while there’s definitely a limit to “keeping it real.” Do you blog? You should!

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    Hi Neil! You’re absolutely right. If you want to be sure a former classmate doesn’t get to see your more personal information, then put him on one list only and block that list.

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    Hi Tommy! I just double checked mine (never know when Facebook will do something new and unnanounced!) and verified that the master switch is still in place. It’s not labeled as such, so maybe that threw you off. Afterall, Zuckerberg does call it that and yet it’s not named this in Facebook.

    Here are the steps:

    1) Go to the upper right corner of your profile and click on Account.

    2) From the drop down menu, click on Privacy Settings

    3) You should see “Choose Your Privacy Settings” at the top and click on “Recommended” if you’re in a hurry, or else you can go through the tutorial at this point very easily.

    Hope this helps! :D

  • http://www.vongehrconsulting.com/ Erroin Martin

    Lori,

    A timely post. What I find interesting after the first dust up over privacy with Facebook is that they seem to make it even more confusing. There has to be a better way.

  • jannation

    Lori, I loved your post, but disagree wholeheartedly with using Facebook’s “recommended” settings. They are far too wide for my liking.

  • http://twitter.com/tommyday Tommy Day

    Thx Lori, not sure why mine loook a little differnent then above. regardless I am going through all the settings. Thanks for sharing :-)

  • PatriciaG

    One thing that I DON’T get – I have a Facebook page with the highest privacy settings – however I would prefer to have my page for my product/fan page to have more open settings. Additionally I put up a nonprofit organization’s facebook page under my account and I would like that one to be more open as well. How do I do this?

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    Thanks Erroin!! You make an excellent point, but I have to wonder if the underlying structure isn’t more like a house that’s had so many additions that the plumbing and electricity aren’t quite right. ;)

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    Thanks Jannation! I’m with you!! :D I customized mine to the hilt in the the more granular settings covered in the post. But for somebody who’s never done anything to protect their content, who is intimidated by Facebook, at least the recommended settings provide some, wimpy benefit. Obviously you’re more sophisticated!

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    Hi Patricia! You raise a good question. Profiles are different from Pages. Just because you’ve chosen to retain the highest privacy settings they do not apply to the pages you create. Even though pages nest, for the lack of a better term, under your profile, they do not take on the same privacy settings. You can adjust those where you edit the page settings. I hope this helps!!

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    My pleasure!! :D

  • http://www.vongehrconsulting.com/ Erroin Martin

    It seems as if they are building this entire program on the fly. There was a wonderful EDS commercial where they film a plane being built while it is in the air. While it was humorous, I believe the point was that is not the ideal means to getting a business of the ground.

    Success is an amazing thing and with Facebook it is obvious they were not prepared for it. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and if the house burns down do to bad plumbing and/or wiring!

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    I totally agree!! And I’d LOVE to see the commercial you referenced. I hate not to be all PC about it (OK, who am I kidding?) but I really agree with you. Facebook is super cool. Started with it as a (returning) college student 5 years ago and have been in the midst of the ongoing slew of changes. Part of the appeal was being part of something inventive, fresh, and experimental. Now that it’s become a business tool expectations are higher. I hope they’ll get the right technical geniuses in there and make it work now that it’s become part of the economy. Meanwhile … it’s an adventure!

  • http://www.vongehrconsulting.com/ Erroin Martin

    Here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2zqTYgcpfg My other favorite is the cowboys herding cats!

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    Wahoo!! Thank you!!! Can’t wait! “Herding cats” is one of my favorite expressions!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MMKL4P5EH5ZMR227LIAIDCVRBY G-Rant

    here is the one thing I cannot find an answer to anywhere so far:

    How come my friends can see everytime I “like” another friend’s photo as well as any comments I make on them?? I cannot find a simply setting for this. Is it under “posts by me” section?

  • Pingback: Four Tips for Controlling Your Facebook Privacy « Am I There Yet?

  • sarath kumar k

    Thank you Laura









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