How to get privacy on Facebook

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NEW YORK --- Over the past week, Facebook has been nudging its users -- first gently, then firmly -- to review and update their privacy settings.

You might have procrastinated by hitting "skip for now," but Facebook eventually took away that button and forced you to update your settings before continuing to use the site.

After finally accepting Facebook's recommendations or tweaking the privacy settings yourself, though, you might have made more information about you public than what you had intended.

At the same time, Facebook has given users many granular controls over their privacy, more than what's available on other major social networks.

So if you want to stay out of people's view, but still want to be on Facebook, here are some things to look out for as you take another look at your settings.

Everyone can see: Everyone can see your name, your profile photo, the names of work and school networks you're part of and pages you are a fan of. You can't tell Facebook you don't want those publicly listed. Your gender and current city are also available, if you choose to specify them. You can uncheck "Show my sex in my profile" when you edit your profile if you don't want it listed, and you can leave "Current City" blank.

JUST A FRIENDLY CHECK UP: Facebook also considers your friends list publicly available information. Privacy advocates worry that much can be gleaned from a person's list of friends -- even sexual orientation, according to one MIT study. If you want to hide it, go to your profile page and click on the little blue pencil icon on the top right of your box of friends. Uncheck "Show Friend List to everyone." Either way, those you are already friends with can always see your full list.

Hide from Web searches: There is a section for "Search" under Facebook's privacy settings page, which is accessible from the top right corner of the Web site under "Settings." If you click the "Allow" box next to "Public Search Results," the information that Facebook deems publicly available, along with anything else you have made available to everyone, will show up when someone looks up your name on a search engine such as Google. The stuff you've limited access to in your profile will not show up.

A second setting, controlling searches within Facebook, lets you refine who can find you once that person has logged on. Limit searches to friends only if you think you have all the friends you need and don't want anyone to find you when they type in your name to Facebook.

Third party apps see you: Quizzes and games are fun, but each time you take one, you first authorize it to access your profile information, even if you have made that available only to your friends. You're also letting the app access some information on your friends.

Under "Application Settings," Facebook lists all the apps you have opened your profile up to. If you no longer want to authorize access to "Which Golden Girl Are You?" you can always remove it by clicking on the "X" next to its name.

Next, by clicking on "Applications and Websites" on the privacy settings page, you can edit whether your friends can share specific information.

ABOUT YOUR FRIENDS: Also, it doesn't hurt to occasionally review your list of your friends to get an idea of just who can view your status posts, vacation photos and funny links you've shared over the years.

- If you have friended a lot of people, sort them. Think of the groups you interact with in real life, and organize your Facebook friends in these groups, too. Go to "All Friends" under the "Friends" button up top, click on "Create New List" and fire away. Then decide what aspects of your profile, and which status posts and photos, these people will have access to. Or, simply create a "limited" list and limit their access.

CHANGE YOUR STATUS: As you update your status, click on the little lock icon. You'll see a range of privacy controls pop up, letting you either allow or limit access to the post. If you want, you can even hide it from everyone by clicking "Only Me" under the custom settings. Click on "Save Setting." Repeat with each post, or create a default setting for updates and increase or decrease privacy as you see fit.

LET THEM KNOW WHAT YOU EXPECT: Many of us have woken up on a Sunday morning to find that an overzealous friend has posted dozens of photos from that wild party we barely remembered. Chances are, they didn't do this to embarrass you, though if they did, you have bigger problems. Rather, they probably don't know that you don't want these photos posted. Sure, tweak your photo privacy settings on Facebook. But if someone starts snapping pictures, ask them to check with you before posting .

USE DISCRETION: Even for the most tech-savvy person, unflattering photos, incriminating text messages or angry status posts about work have a way of worming their way out in the open.

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

YOU SHOULD KNOW ...

- Some of your information is viewable by everyone.

- Your list of friends might also be public.

YOU CAN ...

- Hide yourself from Web searches.

- Create custom friends groups.

YOU SHOULD ...

- Beware of third-party applications.

- Go over your list of friends.

- Customize your status posts.

- Let your friends know you have boundaries.

- Never assume complete privacy.

-- Associated Press


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