Facebook is regularly scrutinized regarding privacy. The truth is, though, that we all have a great deal of control over what we share and with whom. The problem, of course, is that many simply refuse to follow some simple steps to staying protected.
All too often lately, I am seeing photos of non-friends that I’m sure those people don’t want me to see. However, they have their privacy for those photos on “Friends of Friends” so when my friend comments on them, I see them. It’s easy to change.
These are my suggestions. Use them as a guide. You may be more or less private, so feel free to adjust accordingly.
1) Create a Close Friends list… And use it!
Prior to creating their new Smart Lists, fewer than 5% of Facebook users used lists to control their privacy. Considering all of the complaints about privacy, this is baffling to me.
Creating lists was certainly burdensome, though I don’t know that’s much of an excuse. Regardless, it’s much easier now. From your News Feed, click on Close Friends on the left. I’ve moved my list to the top under News Feed. It’s likely lower for you.
Once you click on Close Friends, click the Manage List dropdown on the right and select “Add/Remove Friends…”. It’ll look like this:
Piece of cake. Just select the friends you consider “close” who you feel comfortable seeing any of your content. Feel free to create other custom lists if you feel the need for further granularity. I just wouldn’t complicate things too much.
Also keep in mind that if you did previously create a list for your closest of friends, you can merge it with Close Friends instead of starting over by selecting “Merge List…” from the previous dropdown.
Now that you have a Close Friends list, let’s use it to write a status. Assuming you haven’t set Close Friends to be your default (see #2 below), you can select it individually for each update. You can even go back in time and do it.
2) Set default privacy
The problem for most people is that they haven’t set their default privacy. First go to your Privacy Settings page by selecting the dropdown at the top right…
The Privacy Settings page is much simpler than it once was. The main item on the page has to do with your Default Settings. You can also control How You Connect, How Tags Work, Apps and Websites, Limit the Audience For Past Posts, and Blocked People and Apps. I won’t cover all of these now, but feel free to check each page.
Alright, so now that you have a Close Friends list, let’s change your default privacy setting so that when you make a post, it defaults to Close Friends. Click on Custom and then when the window comes up, select Specific People or Lists and enter Close Friends in the text box.
Note that your current post automatically defaults to what your most recent privacy was for that same post type. So if you used Close Friends for a status update last time, it’ll be Close Friends next time unless you change it.
What is most important about this setting, though, is that it applies to apps as well. If you add the Spotify app, for example, it will share songs you listen to with your Close Friends by default if you have this set. So it’s a very good thing to do in the event you forget to change the setting when you add the app (which is very easy to do).
3) Who can see posts by others on your timeline?
It is what it sounds like. This is one of the settings under How You Connect (again, make sure you take a look at the other options here as well). If someone else writes a post (not a comment) on your wall, who do you want to see it?
I have it set to Friends except Acquaintances. For this to work, of course, you also have to fill the Acquaintances list (just do that the way you did the Close Friends list). Otherwise, feel free to use Friends or Close Friends or whatever makes you comfortable.
4) Getting tagged
Another one of the options is How Tags Work. This goes into whether you need to review tags before they go live, who sees items you’ve been tagged in, whether Facebook can suggest you in a tag and whether a friend can check you into locations. Take a look at all of these. If you have people tagging you with inappropriate info, feel free to change this setting. I haven’t. My focus here is on who sees the content once I’ve been tagged.
As you can see, once I’ve been tagged the “Maximum Timeline Visibility” is set to Close Friends. Again, choose what makes you comfortable.
5) Go back and check old content (especially photos)
Now, just because you’ve taken these steps doesn’t mean you’ve solved any issues from the past. Feel free to go back through old content and change privacy as necessary. There is actually an option on the Facebook Privacy Settings page for Limit the Audience for Past Posts. Check that out.
But where I’d focus most is on photos. Go back through your old albums and old individual photos and change the privacy settings as appropriate.
6) Be careful when you comment on others’ content
Finally, always remember that the privacy of content of others that you comment on is out of your control. There is an icon under all posts indicating whether it’s for Friends, Friends of Friends, Public or Custom. So that should immediately impact how you comment.
But that doesn’t mean that you should act a fool on a Friends item. This can always be changed by your friend to Public if they want. So the best practice is to always be smart when commenting on someone else’s content. It’s where many people make mistakes because they think who sees it is within their control when it is not.
Privacy has been under the spotlight for some time now on Facebook. There have been so many public flaps that you no longer have any excuse for not taking control over what you can control. If something ends up being public that is within your control, don’t complain about it. Do something.