Two Settings to Make Your Facebook Experience More Private

facebook website screenshotFacebook is in a pickle. (That’s an Internet term meaning “caught between users and advertisers.”) You joined Facebook because it was such an easy way to share your pro-Florida State feelings without your pro-Florida boss finding your secret. (Yes, that’s code for something else.)

However, Facebook needs your information to lure advertisers. The more you share – 35, Single, Impulsive Buyer — the better they can direct ads you may fall for, er, enjoy. Now, Facebook will tell you they don’t give that information to advertisers. That doesn’t mean they don’t aggregate it to better deliver you those ads for dating services.

In response to this dilemma, Facebook recently made a mess of the privacy settings. Excuse me, they “improved user control.”

In this short article, I’ll point you to two easily set fixes to improve your privacy. After, you’ll want to spend some time reading the official Facebook explanation of privacy settings.

The Gist:

Most Facebook privacy options are now split to three setting Friends, Friends of Friends, Everyone. Each is less private that the one previous.

However, that’s just the basic options. In many cases you’ll find “Custom” is available. Always take a look at that option. “Custom” often allows a much finer control over what you allow to be visible. You can block specific friends or Lists from accessing or sharing parts of your profile.

Why bother making your settings more secure? Read an important pop-up from Facebook you might have missed:

# Information you choose to share with Everyone is available to everyone on the internet.
# When you visit a Facebook-enhanced application, it will be able to access your publicly available information, which includes Name, Profile Photo, Gender, Current City, Networks, Friend List, and Pages. This information is considered visible to Everyone.

Let’s fix those two privacy settings….

1) Log into Facebook. In the top bar, next to your name, is the Settings link. Hover over it, then choose Privacy Settings from the drop-down menu.

In the resulting screen choose Applications and Websites. Then look at the second option, What your friends can share about you.

Click “Edit Settings”. Facebook helpfully explains the reason for these options:

When your friend visits a Facebook-enhanced application or website, they may want to share certain information to make the experience more social. For example, a greeting card application may use your birthday information to prompt your friend to send a card. If your friend uses an application that you do not use, you can control what types of information the application can access. Please note that applications will always be able to access your publicly available information (Name, Profile Picture, Gender, Current City, Networks, Friend List, and Pages) and information that is visible to Everyone.

Uncheck what you don’t want shared. Note that any applications you use will ignore these settings for your friends. Even if you disallow Friends from letting applications see your birthday, if you let Birthday Card Sender know your birthday, it can access the information when your friend uses it to send you a card.

2) Again, hover over the top bar Settings link, then choose Privacy Settings from the drop-down menu. This time chose the Search option

This time Facebook pops up some damage control:

Worried about privacy? Your information is safe. There have been misleading rumors recently about Facebook indexing all your information on Google. This is not true. Facebook created public search listings in 2007 to enable people to search for your name and see a link to your Facebook profile.

Remember the other Facebook pop-up? “Information you choose to share with Everyone is available to everyone on the internet.” Sounds like more than a name and a link to me.

There are two Search settings. Internally on the Facebook network, or externally through Bing and Google.

Under Facebook Search Results, your only options are: Friends, Friends of Friends, Everyone. If you want to make yourself easily found by other Facebook users, set to Everyone. If you’re satisfied with your current 1,154 friends, then set it to Friends.

The more important settings is the one below. Public Search Results (Allow search engines to access your publicly available info and any information visible to Everyone)

You’re either in or out with this setting. It defaults to Enabled, but if you want Facebook to be a private repository of your your love of LOL CATZ pics and Dick Chaney, then you might want to disable Search Engine Indexing.

If you don’t care who sees knows you collect Hello Kitty figures and AK-47s, then keep Search Engine Indexing enabled.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Spencer E Holtaway