In the previous article I discussed the primary ways you can secure your Facebook account. In this article I'll talk about several additional settings you can (and should) tweak to make even more sure you're safe while you post and read. You will learn how to post on Facebook in a private manner, block people you don't want to interact with and choose who can look you up on Facebook. There's plenty of ground to cover so let's get started:
Public Means PUBLIC
Seriously, when Facebook says that something you've posted is available to everyone, or is public, they really mean it. Every creep, crook and scam artist who might be trolling for new victims can take a look and put you on the list.. If you don't change your settings, you might as well take out an ad during the World Cup or the Super Bowl and post all your personal information free for the taking.
The first thing you should do is make sure that what you post is only visible to your friends (or possibly friends of friends, which I'll discuss in a moment). To get started, click on the little lock shaped icon in the upper right corner of your screen. You'll see a very nice straightforward menu.
Click on Who can see my stuff?
Now click on Who can see my future posts? and also click on More settings at the bottom of the menu that appears.
NOTE: Changing the settings in this menu does not change the settings on stuff you've already posted. You will have to modify those posts individually (more on this in a bit).
There are a lot of options here. The only one you should definitely NOT click is Public. If you wouldn't write it on the bus station bathroom wall, you wouldn't want it made public on Facebook.
Choosing Friends means that everything you post is only visible to people on your friends list (obviously). This is a good general option, which gives you the widest possible reasonably safe audience. Let me take just a brief moment to explain something about Friends that some people are not aware of. It means that people on your friends list can see what you post – and NOT just the stuff you post on your own page. So if you write a comment on your friend A's page, the other people on your friends list can see that comment even if they are not friends with A. Keep that in mind if you get the urge to poke fun at someone on your list.
But what if some people are better friends than others? What if you only want your family members to see what you post? To make this possible, you will have to pull up your friends list and assign categories to everyone in it.
Click on your name on the top bar, and from your profile page click on Friends.
You'll see a list of all your friends and their profile pictures. Next to each person's name is a drop-down menu. You use this menu to assign your friends to groups (Close Friends, Acquaintances, and so forth). Give some thought to the people on your list and decide where you want to assign them. (Blurring out people's names and photos if you post a screenshot from your friends list is not only a courtesy but a security measure as well.)
If none of the categories seems to be suitable, you can also create your own custom list. Click on Add to another list. Facebook will show you some suggestions, but you don't have to choose one of their categories if you don't want to.
Apparently I forgot to include one of my brothers in the Family category, so here I am adding him by clicking on Add to another list and choosing Family. I hope he doesn't read this article. :)
If none of the pre-selected options is appropriate, click on New List at the bottom of the page. It will change into a box into which you can type a name for your new list. Here, I am creating a new list called 7 Tutorials.
And here I am adding our Editor In Chief to the newly created list.
If you have a lot of friends it will take a while go to through them all and assign categories, but if you're serious about not having just anyone read your messages, it's well worth the time.
Once you have sorted everyone into groups, when you write a post you will have the option of letting only certain groups read it. Next to the Post box in the message window you will see a drop-down menu. It shows your default category for your posts (in my case, Friends).
If you want only certain groups to see this post, click on the drop-down and choose the category you want. Again, if none of the suggestions are what you want, you can create your own custom list of post recipients. Click on the down arrow and then choose More Options -> Custom to get started.
Facebook will suggest Friends of Friends, but you don't have to take the suggestion. In fact, I'd advise against it, because if you choose that, then anyone who has friended any of your friends will be able to see your posts. You really want someone's obnoxious relative who likes nothing better than trolling people with your opinions to see everything you post? Let's just say that I learned about the perils of Friends of Friends the hard way. Not that I'm opinionated or anything. :)
What Do You Want To See?
Now, go back to the lock icon at the top of the page and click to get the security menu again. Click on Who can contact me? This is a somewhat misleading title. What it really means is "Whose messages do I want to be able to see?". You'll see two options for message filtering, and they are self explanatory. The Basic filter should work for most people.
Under that is where you choose who can send you friend requests. This is one place where leaving it set to Everyone offers benefits that can outweigh the risks. After all, if you want those old classmates and long lost family members to be able to find you, setting the Friends of Friends option (the only other choice) will block them out unless they happen to have already friended someone on your list.
NOTE: Just because someone sends you a friend request doesn't mean you have to agree to it. You can decline the request or simply ignore it.
Before we move on to the final item in the menu, click on See More Settings.
This will open up a page that allows you to restrict access to your information even more by choosing who can look you up using the information you've provided. (You have to provide an email address to set up your account and you have to provide a phone number to set up two-step verification, but that doesn't mean that information has to be publicly available.)
Now, note that none of these settings let you block people from looking you up by name. If you have a common name, people will probably not want to sift through page after page of people with the same or similar names to find the one person you want. But if you're one of a kind, then you better have changed your privacy settings to something other than Public(see above) or you are going to be in deep sewage.
To double check that you're not exposing yourself to the world, click on your name to pull up your Profile page, and then click on the button with the three dots on the right side of your cover photo.
Then click View As.
You can then see what your page looks like to the general public, or, if you want, choose a specific friend and see what they see. If what appears is just general information like your profile picture and maybe a few other photos, plus an opportunity to send a friend request, you're cool.
Who Don't You Want To See?
Let's say you are having a peaceful discussion on a friend's page, and someone in that person's friends group turns out to be the kind of complete jackass that you simply do not want to waste time dealing with. Fortunately, Facebook provides a very nice option. Click on the lock icon and choose How do I stop someone from bothering me?
Here, you can type in the name of the idiot who's been wasting your bandwidth. Be sure you've spelled it correctly.
Once you click Block, Facebook will show you a list of names you can choose from, and again, be sure you have the correct person. You may have to look at individual profiles to make sure you've got the right one. Here I have chosen "John Smith" just for the purposes of illustration.
The nice thing about blocking someone is that unless you unblock them, you will never again see anything they post. They won't see your posts either and they won't be able to look you up. You will have vanished from their view (and vice versa). Many discussions become a lot more enjoyable once the trolls, troublemakers and jerks are blocked. If you change your mind about that person later, you can go back to the menu and choose to see a list of all the people you've blocked.
You can choose to unblock someone from the list, but I think in most cases you won't want to. :)
Taking care of your online privacy and security sometimes takes time, but is always worth it. With millions of people using Facebook around the world, it is a given that dirtbags from all over are just itching to get their tentacles on whatever information you've left unguarded. Forewarned is forearmed! Take time to work on your settings now, or you'll have to take a lot more time to deal with the consequences later.
Up until now, we have dealt only with the Facebook web interface. A lot of people use mobile apps to connect, and we will talk about those in a future article.
Have you had a good or bad experience you'd like to share? Do you have other tips and tricks for guarding your privacy on Facebook? Please let us know in the comments.