Facebook Privacy Settings: Recommended vs. Custom

Facebook's latest privacy revamp streamlined and simplified settings by introducing a new one -- "recommended settings" -- but it's not for everyone. Here's what you need to know about it and how to decide if it's right for you.

While Facebook's rollout of its newly revamped privacy settings seems to have quelled most users' fears, some questions about how best to use these new settings remain.


"I think the best thing that came out of the new settings really came out of the disaster that necessitated the new settings," says Alison Driscoll, an interactive copywriter and social media strategist. "It got people talking about reasonable expectations of privacy and what you leave yourself open to when you start sharing intimate details of your life on a website."

One of the most significant changes Facebook introduced was the addition of "recommended settings"—a simplified, blanket setting that automatically assigns parts of your profile predetermined privacy settings.

Before Facebook introduced this option, users needed to sort through and hand-tweak more than 50 individual privacy settings. The new "recommended settings" feature is intended to simplify and streamline the process, but it's not for everyone. Here's what you need to know about this setting and how to decide if it's right for you.

Where Can I Find "Recommended Settings" and What Does It Mean?

To find this preset, log into your Facebook account and visit the Privacy Settings homepage. This is where your current privacy settings are displayed. Click on "Recommended" to view this privacy preset.

"Recommended settings" segments your Facebook profile content into three groups that can be seen by everyone, friends of friends, and friends only.

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With this preset, your status updates, photos, posts, bio information, favorite quotes, family members and relationship status will be visible to everyone. Photos and videos others have tagged you in, as well as your birthday and religious and political views will be visible to "friends of friends." Lastly, only your friends will be able to comment on your posts and view your e-mail addresses, IM, phone numbers and address.

Who Should Use "Recommended Settings?"

There are two groups of people that Driscoll recommends should use the recommended settings: average users and Facebook newbies.

Average users, Driscoll says, include people who use the site mostly to connect only with friends, check in a few times a week and provide a decent amount of info, but don't over-share.

"These presets are a great way for people to 'fix' their privacy problem today and just have it solved," Driscoll says. "They can come back later and tailor the settings when they have more time without worrying that everyone can see everything in the meantime."

[For more on Facebook privacy, read "Facebook Privacy Fix: New Tool Finds Trouble Spots.]

If you're new to Facebook—or use the site infrequently—these presets are also ideal for you. The settings will keep most of your information safe, and once you're more familiar with the site or begin to use it more frequently, you can fine tune the settings to better suit your privacy needs.

Who Should Customize Privacy Settings?

While the goal of Facebook's new privacy settings was to streamline and simplify, they did keep the option to individually tweak each setting. Driscoll says that if you use Facebook both professionally and personally—and if you use it frequently and post often—"this is when you really want to take the time to create friend lists and tweak your settings based on groups of acquaintances and their respective levels of sharing."

To access these individual settings, choose "Custom" from the privacy settings homepage, then click "Customize settings" at the bottom. Here, you'll be able to view each individual setting for every part of your profile and change it accordingly.

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If you're new to lists, Driscoll recommends creating a few basic groups: family, friends, colleagues, online-only friends and networking contacts. "Remember that the most restrictive settings prevail, so if your best friend is also your coworker, leave her off the coworker list and just keep her in the friends category," she says.

Staff Writer Kristin Burnham covers consumer Web and social technologies for CIO.com. She writes frequently on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. You can follow her on Twitter: @kmburnham.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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