Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How to ACTUALLY Check Your Facebook Privacy Settings

Social media in terms of privacy can feel like a total betrayal of trust at times.  You want to take part, but it just seems like you have to stay one step ahead of the game to get anything out of it.  By now, you've probably read an article or two about the dangers of Facebook and all the privacy policy changes from this past year.  As someone who uses Facebook for their day job, I even have trouble keeping up with all the privacy changes. So the following list is my most up-to-date privacy proofing systemt that's much simpler than going through every single setting and every past post/picture.  NOTE:  The results may scare you, but it's always better late than never to protect your privacy!  This doesn't mean you have to take everything down from your profile, but it's to actually know what others can see on your profile publicly, since Facebook's preview option no longer exists. (Jerks!)

1.  Create a Facebook Page & Switch Users

Go to and click "Create a Page" on the bottom right-hand side. It can be for anything you want: your car, your blowdryer, your pet, your blog, your small business, whatever! You may actually find fan pages useful on Facebook, but for right now, you're simply making this to preview your public profile.  You can use one you've already made as long as you have administrative privileges. The page wizard is actually pretty helpful at setting up all the details of your page, but for the purposes of this, just type in gibberish and skip whatever possible.  Once your page is set up, look to the top right hand blue bar and click the gear icon for a drop-down menu and click on your new page to switch the user. Your are now acting on Facebook as your fan page. Everything should now look different from your home page to your profile.

Now, type your name in the search bar. Find your profile and click on it. This is what ALL public Facebook users can see. At first, you may be relieved that your timeline and 1,999+ photos are hidden, but no so fast! Click on your profile photo and click through your albums tab, about tab, etc. Before my updates, the public could see my past 3 profile pictures at full size, all of the comments on it, every single cover photo, and videos. It's funny how these things are so much easier to miss without actually previewing your profile! It's pretty awful how Facebook changed all these default options, but hey, it can be fixed.  So, click through everything and take note of anything you want taken off your public profile and switch back from the users on the top. The following steps should relieve all of your privacy worries...for this hot second on Facebook at least.

2. The Quick Fixes

Before you have a meltdown and delete your account, the following fixes in Facebook Privacy settings will make a huge impact in a small dose:

-On the main privacy page, click on "Who can look me up?" and edit it to "Only Friends". You may prefer not to hide yourself from the search feature all the time, but this is useful when undergoing a privacy makeover. This just makes it about 5 times harder for coworkers, frenemies, fake profiles, etc. to find you- especially while your profile is vulnerable privacy-wise.

-Delete any controversial cover photos.  These things may have been a real selling point for Timeline, but there's a twist! They're public! Every. Single. One. Available for anyone to click through. Scenic photos or patterns, obviously aren't anything to worry about, but whichever ones you're not comfortable being public, you have to delete all together to have any sort of privacy.

-Edit privacy settings for all photo albums. On your own profile, click on photos, then albums.  Scroll over the gear icon under each album to review the privacy settings for each. This is where your notes from the preview come in handy! It's easy to miss these pesky privacy settings since there are so many photos usually on a profile.  So switch users back and forth from your page to your account to make sure all the unintended public albums are hidden. Facebook posts, check-in's, and statuses all work the same way where you need to change it one by one as they come.

-Profile Pictures now DEFAULT to "public" settings. To change this (i.e. so people can't pull up your profile picture at full size or view comments) you have to click on the gear icon for every photo since the timeline change.  For me, it was three profile pictures, for you it may be a lot more than that. Double check by switching users with your page as many times as you need to.

3. Preventing Privacy Issues in the Future

-In the Facebook Privacy settings, click on "Timeline & Tagging" to the left. There you can turn on or off settings for mandatory review when your friends tag you in photos, statuses, posts, etc. It may seem like overkill but hey if if prevents a Facebook hack or an unflattering picture from getting to your timeline, you'll find it's worth its weight in gold.

-Set up friends lists. Facebook's new "smart lists" bring privacy settings to a new level. Lists like "close friends" and "aquaintances" not only help with privacy but also with relevancy of your posts. Again, it's a feature that may seem like overkill, but since people can't see these lists, it's become really useful in guarding certain pieces of information.  Adding someone to your aquaintance list is the new "unfriend", in my opinion. You can also unsubscribe from people's abnoxious posts right from your news feed using the dropdown arrow to the right, but that's a side topic!

Hope I helped someone with this discovery!