Facebook 110: Protecting Privacy in Facebook

In “What’s Wrong with this Picture?” I made an analogy that relates to a situation I think is all too common: people who express anxiety about their privacy in Facebook, but who haven’t taken advantage of the privacy protections Facebook offers.

It’s like playing goalie in the National Hockey League without a mask, and then complaining about facial injuries.

So in this course I’m going to provide a step-by-step process for using Facebook’s privacy settings to accomplish your objectives in using the site, while also giving you comfort that you are limiting access to your personal data.

I’m trying a little different approach this time, in that I am embedding slides with the graphics, but instead of an audio track or a video to accompany, I’m using text with links to narrate each slide. You may want to consider opening another window so you can have one showing the slides while you scroll through the text narration in the other. (Open another copy of this post). I would also recommend you open a third window and sign in to Facebook, so you can apply settings on your personal profile as you learn by switching among the three windows.

Slide 1: As per my analogy, this is a shot of former NHL goalie Gump Worsely, sans mask, with a puck hurtling toward his face. In the next 9 slides I will show you how to adjust your personal protections to avoid a similar problem in Facebook.

Slide 2: To adjust your privacy settings, just go under your Account tab in the upper right corner of your Facebook profile. Or you can just click this link. At the top of the page you will see a message that describe the kinds of information that are available to everyone, along with a link that lets you modify some other elements everyone can see by default. Click that View Settings link.

Slide 3: On this slide you see the basic settings for what the half-billion plus users of Facebook get to see on your profile. You will see rationale for each element, and why you would want to make that information available.

Slide 4: For each of the types of information, you can decide to limit access. You can limit to your networks, to your friends and networks, to friends of friends, or friends only. Then if you click the Preview my Profile button in the upper right, you will see something like the next slide.

Slide 5: This is how a most people see my profile on Facebook. Yours would look somewhat different if you decide to limit access to one or more categories of information. But the point is, you can click the Preview my Profile button to see what you’re making available. And if you don’t like it, you can change it.

Slide 6: Now, going back to your main privacy settings page, let’s look at some of the other information you can share or choose to restrict. This slide shows the categories of information, and highlights that if you choose  the Everyone option it will all be available to the world. I don’t recommend that.

Slide 7: The next broad option, Friends of Friends, makes several items available to people who are friends with people who are your friends, while leaving other categories (such as your contact information) only open to your friends.

Slide 8: If you choose Friends Only, you can limit access to this information to only those you have accepted as friends.

Slide 9: These are the settings Facebook recommends. I personally think they are pretty reasonable for most people, but the key is you get to decide just how much of a mask you want to wear.

Choose whichever of the basic frameworks you think is closest to what you want, and then hit the Apply These Settings button.

This is the end of the first course in the Protecting Privacy series on SMUG. In the next course, we’ll look at further customizing your mask.