by Kristin Burnham

Facebook Privacy: 11 Settings to Revisit Now

Oct 04, 2011 6 mins
Facebook Privacy Social Networking Apps

With Facebook's constant stream of changes, keeping up with your privacy settings can be daunting. Here's a rundown of the newest features, what the changes mean to your privacy and how to update your settings.

Facebook has plowed through the last several months, releasing an uncharacteristic number of changes: a facial recognition feature, revamped News Feeds, a privacy center redesign, Subscriptions, new profiles and more.

All this change has left many users unhappy and scrambling to understand how it affects their privacy and security.

If Facebook is moving faster than you can keep up with, here’s a roundup of what’s important and which privacy settings you should modify now.

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How to Block Facebook Facial Recognition


Earlier this summer, Facebook released a feature that automatically opts you in and recommends that your friends tag you in photos when it recognizes your face. Here’s how to opt-out of it.

Start by clicking the drop-down menu on the top-right of your screen, then select “Privacy Settings.” Choose “Edit Settings” next to “How Tags Work,” then click the link next to “Tag Suggestions” in order to disable it.

Do note, however, that this setting does not prevent friends from tagging you entirely—they can still do so manually.

How to Remove Your Facebook Summary Information


When you or your friends upload photos, they may be compared automatically to the summary information Facebook stores about what your tagged photos have in common. The result of this comparison may also be used to group photos or suggest that photos look like you.

To remove the summary information stored about you for tag suggestions, you must contact the Facebook Photos Team. To do this, visit this page of the Facebook Help Center and click the “contact us” link.

How to Block Friends from Facebook’s Video Chat


There were many privacy and security concerns when Facebook announced its new Video Chat feature. One of the most prevalent: how to block a particular friend or group of friends from calling or chatting with you.

To do this, maximize the Chat box then click the gear icon in the top-right corner, then select “Limit Availability.” From the next drop-down menu, click “Make me unavailable to,” and then select the lists of people you want to disallow from contacting you. In order to utilize this feature you must have set up Friend Lists.

Review Your Photo Privacy Settings


Anytime Facebook makes changes, it’s always wise to double check that your photo privacy settings haven’t been altered. Though your settings should remain unchanged, sometimes that’s not always the case.

To check the privacy settings of the photos you’re tagged in, visit your Privacy Settings page and click “Edit Settings” next to “How Tags Work.” Preview your settings next to “Maximum Profile Visibility” and change them if necessary. The language here will be a little different if you’ve been switched over to Timeline, in which it will say “Maximum Timeline Visibility.”

Hide Your Mobile Phone Number


In August, Facebook users revolted when they discovered what they thought was Facebook exposing their mobile phone numbers. Facebook later clarified that wasn’t the case, but it was a good reminder to check all your privacy settings.

To remove your phone number or adjust your settings, view your profile then select Edit Profile > Contact Information. In the middle is a “Phones” section where you can add or remove your phone number, and control who can see it from the drop-down menu beside it.

Once you receive Timelines, you’ll click “Update Info” under your cover photo, scroll to “Contact Info” and select your desired setting next to “Phone.”

How to Change Application Privacy Settings


When you use an application on Facebook, you grant it permission to access certain information on your profile. This setting will become even more important as the “new class of apps” announced at F8 begin rolling out. If you haven’t ever changed these settings, the default is Friends.

To remove applications or edit their settings, visit Account Settings and select “Apps.” To remove any of these, click the X next to it. To modify their privileges, click Edit and remove any actions you do not want to allow the app to take.

Understand Your New Friend Lists


Last month, Facebook announced a redesigned Lists feature that groups your friends into lists such as work, school, family and city so you can share what you want with certain groups of people more easily.

If you post an update to your Acquaintances list, no one you put on that list can see the name of the list. They can, however, see each others’ names. Facebook says this gives users more context—if you see that a post is shared with your five closest friends, you’re more likely to comment freely on it than you would if you didn’t know who else could see it.

The New Friend Lists and Your Employer


If you have purposely chosen not to include your employer on your profile, be wary of one particular notification. When a friend adds you to their list of coworkers, Facebook will send you a message asking you to confirm that you work there. If you do, Facebook will automatically add the employer to your profile.

Nothing will happen, though, if you click the X to ignore the confirmation. You won’t be rejecting your placement on the list; you’re just rejecting Facebook from adding that information to your profile.

Privacy and Facebook Subscriptions


If you choose to open up your profile to subscribers, there are a few things you should know. First, you’re likely to receive a lot of spam followers that have the potential to clutter your posts. If this happens to you, weed them out by selecting “Block” from the gear icon on their profile.

Also, because subscribers can only see what you post publicly, you need to remember to manually change the privacy setting back to Friends before you post again. Otherwise it, too, will post publicly.

The Redesigned News Feed and Ticker


Facebook says that the new News Feed and Ticker do not affect your privacy settings. Ticker will display information that you’re already able to see anywhere else on Facebook.

To control who sees your posts in the News Feed and Ticker, be sure you use the privacy control in the Update Status box. Also remember that comment privacy is tied to the privacy of the post: If your comment on someone’s public post, your comment is thereby also public.

Timeline: How to Make All Posts Friends-Only


Once you have the new Profile, called Timeline, every status update, wall post and photo posted since the day you joined becomes easily searchable by you and your friends.

The easiest way to deal with this is to use one of the blanket privacy settings just introduced: “Limit the audience for past posts.” You can find this option on the bottom of your Privacy Settings page.

Using this will change any public posts to Friends only. People who are tagged in your posts and their friends will still be able to see them, though.

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