social media how toFacebook is trying to make privacy simpler. But as they add more features, privacy always seems to become more complicated.

With the addition of the Facebook Subscribe button, understanding how your Facebook privacy works is more important than ever.

The good news is that Facebook is making it simpler to find the settings for controlling your privacy.

The bad news is that there’s a lot of confusion around the Subscribe button and what it means for privacy. So let’s start by tackling the privacy issues around the new Subscribe button.

#1: The Facebook Subscribe button

Facebook has made the subscribe setting opt-in instead of defaulted to on. The Subscribe button is designed to allow people to subscribe to your public posts rather than (or possibly in addition to) requesting a friendship. It’s a lot like a Twitter follow. You don’t approve subscribers. All of your current friends are, by default, subscribed to your posts.

subscribe button

You can choose to subscribe to someone who has allowed subscribers.

Whenever you update your personal profile, you can determine who you want to see your post: public, friends or custom. Custom can then include friends of friends, only certain friends, or a friends list. You may want to check out this post to help you create friends lists and also review other privacy controls: 4 Simple Steps to Control Your Facebook Privacy.

If you want to keep your profile private, you don’t have to worry about the Subscribe button at all. But if you’re interested in sharing some posts publicly, you can opt in by going to and clicking Allow Subscribers. You can also read more about how the Subscribe button works at that link.


Click Allow Subscribers to start the process.

Once you click Allow Subscribers, you have some settings to configure. You can always go back and adjust these settings by clicking your profile in the upper-right corner of Facebook and then selecting Subscribers on the left sidebar. Then select the Edit Settings button in the upper-right corner of the page.

subscribe settings

Edit your subscriber settings.

Decide if you want to allow comments by anyone on your public updates. Realize that you cannot block profanity or spam on your personal updates (even though you can on a Facebook page). You can always delete comments and block people after the fact, but if you keep this setting open, watch your posts.

When you allow subscribers, make sure you are watching how you post your updates. The default is public; so if you don’t want your post to be public, use the dropdown menu to change who can see the post. You can also retroactively change who can see your posts by using the dropdown menu to the right of each post. This is handy if you “over-shared” something private.

default settings for posts

Change your post settings when needed.

You may just choose to subscribe to people who have too many friends and aren’t accepting friend requests. If you navigate to their profile, you will see the Subscribe button, which indicates that you can choose to request a friendship or subscribe (or both).

But realize that if you do subscribe to them, your name is listed as a subscriber for public information. This is different than the “Likers” of a Facebook page, which are not visible to the public.

names of subscribers

Your name and profile picture are publicly listed as a subscriber.

#2: Changing your Facebook privacy settings

The next thing you want to check is your Facebook privacy settings. I think that Facebook has streamlined their privacy settings and made them simpler to understand. First, click the down arrow button in the upper-right corner of Facebook and select Privacy Settings.

Then step through each of the available setting areas: How You Connect, How Tags Work, Apps and Websites, Limit the Audience for Past Posts and Blocked People and Apps.

In the How You Connect section, you can set the capabilities for people to send you friend requests, post on your timeline and more. Make sure these settings are comfortable for you. For example, you may decide to not allow people other than your immediate friends to send you messages.

how you connect

Choose who can post on your timeline, send you friend requests and send you messages.

#3: Controlling how people @tag you

People can tag you in photos and posts by using the “@” symbol and then typing your name. If you want to review these tags individually and approve them, just click on the How Tags Work section in the privacy settings. (Click the down arrow in the upper-right corner, Privacy Settings, and then Edit Settings next to How Tags Work).

tag settings

Adjust your settings to determine who can tag you and who can see it.

You will then have to approve each tag before it is posted to your timeline. With the new subscribe settings, this may be more critical if you are a private person and don’t want someone tagging you in a public post.

If you don’t want the hassle of reviewing each tagged post, you can always remove tags after the fact by clicking the dropdown menu next to a post and selecting Remove Tag.

tags on profile

Remove tags after the fact if you choose.

#4: Controlling apps and websites

Facebook apps (or applications) are third-party “plugins” that can enhance (or detract, however you might look at it) from your Facebook experience. Facebook apps can also be the biggest source of spam posts.

Make sure you know what apps have access to your data and can make posts on your behalf. Apps include games, contest apps and apps to enhance your Facebook page. Most apps are good, but you do have to be careful about which ones you accept.

It’s a good idea to review what apps have access to your information and how those apps are set up. Sometimes, as shown in this image, the app gets set to “Only Me” under the App Privacy line, which means only you can see the posts from this app. If you are using an app such as Networked Blogs, you want to make sure that it can share with others so they can see your blog posts.

application settings

Periodically check which apps have permission to post on your profile and remove those unwanted apps.

Also make sure you check what information you’re allowing your friends to bring into their apps. If your friends have access to your info, they may be able to bring it with them into apps that they’re using. To check these settings, follow these steps:

  1. Click the down arrow in the upper-right corner.
  2. Select Privacy Settings.
  3. Click the Edit Settings link next to the Apps and Websites selection.
  4. Now click the Edit Settings button next to the How People Bring Your Info to Apps They Use selection.
  5. From there you will be able to uncheck the boxes of the information that you want to keep private.
data people can use

Prevent your friends from bringing in unwanted information to their apps.

The Apps and Websites area is also where you control whether you want your Facebook profile to come up in public search engines.

#5: Facebook Ads

The only thing that is hidden on the Facebook privacy settings is whether you want your name to show up in Facebook advertising. The default setting is that your name can appear in advertising, but it will only be shown to your current friends.

facebook ad settings

Select whether you want your name showing up in Facebook ads.

To edit this setting, click Account menu in the upper-right corner, select Account Settings and then click on Facebook Ads on the left sidebar.

That’s what you need to know about Facebook privacy settings. Also realize that you may have easily accessible options next to posts or tags by clicking on the dropdown menus typically on the right side of a post. Make sure you periodically review your privacy settings to control any changes in privacy.

What about you? What do you think? How do you feel about Facebook privacy control? Let me know in the comments box below!

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  • René Power

    Hi Andrea, 

    Not convinced by the opening line regarding Facebook trying to make privacy simpler – if it was would it not be handled a little differently? Isn’t the standard position usually that you have to opt out rather than opt in to   being public?Otherwise, a very worthwhile and timely article that a few million people might just benefit from!

  • I know it’s not as simple as it could be but I do think the new settings are more straightforward and I think the help files have gotten better so you know what the settings mean.  Thanks Rene!

  • Andrea,

    Wonderful collection of tips and facts!  Very timely as a resource to share with a group that has just asked about the topics you cover above!!

    Looking forward to your FBSS11 session later today…


  • Thanks Keri!  I’m looking forward to it too 🙂

  • Wow, thanks for putting this great information together, Andrea! I tend to update my Facebook settings once ever 6 months to a year. And I mean, REALLY update by digging in deep to their privacy settings and etc. It’s become increasingly important for us (especially entrepreneurs) to be cautious of; a.) what we publish online and b.) what the internet “publishes” to us (in a sense). I’ve since disabled tons of Facebook apps to websites that I no longer frequent that and what my “friends of friends” can see from me (since I use Facebook primarily for business purposes). 

    Excellent tips again!

  • I think (before Facebook) everything was “opt-in,” but it seems (after Facebook) we all have to “opt-out” of features and services we don’t want since we’re living a digitally social society. Interesting isn’t it? But, my question is this, “should there be an agency (or law) that governs Facebook’s privacy issues kind of like the laws that make spam illegal?”  

  • I always tell people I work with that any time Facebook makes changes, it’s a good idea to double-check Privacy settings. After reading your post, I made several changes myself! Thanks!

  • Thanks Rod!  That is very true, especially on Facebook, we have to watch where we click and what still has access to our information.  

  • Nice, thanks for the heads up…I’m using the dev. version on Facebook Timeline, got lost on the settings, now this would help. Thanks, great post. More power.

  • Andrea, I was struggling with the Subscribe feature in the past few days. I’m updating my FB normally from my Blackberry, not the web. I don’t have the option to choose who’ll see my updates. Is there a way to choose a default setting as private, and change it on the timeline later?

  • The main setting on the privacy page with the radio buttons will be what your default option is for the mobile devices. So you can set that to Friends or Custom – when you choose Custom you can then choose Friends of Friends or Only Me or hide it from certain groups or people. So that would be the default unless you over-rode that default on the web site and made the post Public. Hope that helps!

  • I have no real illusion of privacy in the world of social media. If you want privacy, then don’t post things on the Internet  It is really that simple.
    That’s like telling your own secrets and then getting mad because now other people know them.

  • Important and timely topic, Andrea – well done!! 

  • Linda Lam

    So on #3 – we have the choice of approving every tag or diligently looking for them as they come along and removing them after the fact?  That seems equally difficult and neither are great options for those who want to control this feature – any suggests on managing that?

    On #4 – those instructions must be done for every app or is it a global setting option?

  • Hi Andrea, Every where there is a talk about Facebook’s Privacy settings and this one is a timely post and very informative too..Thanks for the share.

    Shilpi Singha Roy
    Facebook fan page –

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  • pratishtha chhetri

    WOW! this so interesting!! thanks a lot for sharing.

    check out out blog on the same topic;SUBSCRIBE BUTTON 🙂

  • John

    Hi Andrea,
    Thanks for posting. Forgive me but I’m still confused on #4. On the ‘How people bring your info to apps they use’ – do I tick the boxes to allow or do I tick the boxes to disallow? Cheers and thanks, John

  • Jerry

    Thanks for this article. But I’d REALLY love to know how to hide our own updates on the ridiculous new mini-ticker thing they added on the right side of our home pages. I don’t want everyone knowing what friends’ photos or links or statuses I clicked “like” on or commented on. Help on that please??

  • Michelle T Fontaine

    Great article Andrea. I’m going to share it with my FBSmarty Fans.

    I believe (or at least it is what my personal post options show) the options for sharing a post are: public, friends, friends except acquaintances and then it shows my lists. The one you show here in the 4th image seems to be from a page.

    Thanks again! I always enjoy reading Social Media Examiner’s authored articles!


  • MichelleTFontaine

    Hi Jerry, I know you can hide the ticker using a Google extension. Here’s a link to a blog on that subject –


  • MichelleTFontaine

    Here is the blog I wrote on the Subscribe Button and how Businesses can take advantage of it.

  • My4re

    Boy I have  lot to learn….thanks

  • Thanks so much Mari – that means the world coming from you 🙂

  • Hi Linda – you will get a notification at the top (in the world symbol) that you have been tagged.  I find that I don’t get tagged that often so I just watch my notifications.  You also can set your e-mail settings so you get an e-mail if someone tags you under Account Settings, Notifications and All notifications.  

    On #4 you do need to check every app individually.  Hope that helps!

  • Hi John, I should have clarified that – so you uncheck the box to disallow friends from bringing that info into their apps.  Is that too many negatives? 🙂  So basically, the more boxes you have checked the more information you are allowing into your friends apps.  

  • Unfortunately Jerry, there is no way do that.  One thing that many people don’t realize is that those “Activity Stories” were always there before on your wall on Facebook and they would also appear in the News Feed.  I think one thing the ticker does is make those  more visible.  

  • Thanks Michelle! 

  • I always worried about my Facebook privacy settings. however, i’m not familiar with few things that mentioned in this post! really very helpful to have all that information in one place or also in well formed way. thanks for sharing this wonderful article…..

  • Betsy Vann Young

    I’d like to know how to remove misc. photos, or one of them, from what Facebook has decided are a hodgepodge of my various photos which I have uploaded.  One of these is NOT from me and came along from another source & ended up in my photos.  Nothing I do seems to get rid of a photo I never brought in myself. HELP!

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  • Thanks for the tips.. i already removed # 5!

  • Betsy Vann Young

    I think I’ve found my own answer after a friend made a different suggestion.  The heading for the section that bothers me is “Photos and Videos of You” and to the right it has “See All: Photos”. This is where the hodgepodge is.  I found that under the picture I wanted out (since I never put it on my site at all to begin with), at the lower right of that photo were the words: “(check mark) On your Profile . Remove”
    The check mark apparently allowed this photo in somehow, but the “Remove” choice was live, so I clicked it and away went the picture!  Success! 

  • So glad that worked for you Betsy!  

  • Martha R Walker

    thanks, Betsy. Great tutorial, and walked me step-by-step. Some I had already found, some I had not, and it covered everything for me. It made a big difference in my comfort level on fb!

  • More people should get to read this. Not everyone knows how to use their social media pages properly.

  • A great post explained in simple terms. A well deserved Facebook like.

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  • Have to agree with Rene here.
    Otherwise a great review (which I will share!) as I have not been back on facebook to check my settings since all the changes occurred despite using FB.


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  • maraness

    Any suggestions on how to stop facebook allowing your posts on google they never used to be there but with facebooks new changes if you post in a group or something its googleable depending on the groups settings and i have some difficulties removing past posts from before this happened because they are being “archived”

  • Hammie60

    When I post a comment on another group or friends page … how do I stop this from being seen by my friends. There is no dropdown option on the comment as to who can see the post?

  • Betsy Young Young

    I don’t have any quick fixes for this from my experience. To my knowledge, if you post it it’s open to all on your list.  My way around this as far as friends go is to send a “Message” to that friend through the Message button at the top right of your page.  I’ve never noticed that on the group pages as you are obviously writing to a group to begin with. Perhaps someone else has a better answer.

  • Bmcatfocus

    I may try it…

  • bmcatfocus

    It look ok so I might try it…..

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  • dan

    how can i control that my friends will not see on their timeline the Likes and comments i made to others which are not their friends too

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  • Jennifer

    Can you tell me if it is possible to write a post and, when it is shared, not allow editing?
    I have had a post recently shared and altered quite markedly. How can this be stopped?


  • Sumit Rajput

    Facebook on Thursday began rolling out its “privacy checkup” aimed at helping users of the huge social network better manage sharing their information and postings.

  • Guest

    Hi I have disabled all apps in facebook and yet a 3rd party site is still able to link to my facebook profile when I visit their page. How is this possible and how do I stop it?