How to Protect Your Privacy on Facebook
Facebook’s privacy settings, features and menus are changing all the time. These instructions and screenshots walk you through them to help you protect your privacy.
How to Limit People’s Access to your Facebook Photos
Facebook lets you choose the audience for each of your photo albums. Go to your Profile, select Photos and then Albums. For each album except Profile Pictures and Cover Photos you can configure the allowable audience by selecting the privacy icon (at the lower-right for each album) and applying your desired setting.
Figure: It’s easy limiting or changing people’s access to your Facebook photo albums
You can also select an audience for each and every individual photo in your albums by opening a photo and selecting the privacy icon found in the upper-right corner under your name and beside the date. Your last privacy selection will have been retained for your next choice, so remember to change it if needed.
Figure: Facebook lets you change the privacy setting for each and every photo in your albums
Preventing Yourself from being Tagged
You can be tagged in photos on Facebook without your consent and this means photos can appear on Timelines without your approval. While you can exert some control over photos you are tagged in from appearing on your own Timeline, you can exert less control over them appearing on other Timelines.
Unfortunately, you cannot totally prevent yourself from being tagged. Facebook users can tag you without your permission. The options available to you are to ask the person who tagged you to untag you or, failing that, to report the tagged item to Facebook in the hopes it will be removed. However, even when you try taking these steps the damage may have been done already, with the tagged items screen captured or further shared, copied, picked up in feeds, etc.
To change the tagging settings for your Timeline, access Facebook’s main privacy settings page at https://www.facebook.com/settings/?tab=privacy and select Timeline and Tagging. In the menu that appears, settings are available about who can post things to your Timeline (including photos), who can see things on your Timeline and how tagging is managed.
For items you are tagged in appearing on your Timeline, Facebook lets you review posts your friends tag you in before they appear on your Timeline (see screenshot). If you do not set this up, all items in which you are tagged will appear automatically on your Timeline, without your prior approval.
Figures: Enable the option, Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your Timeline
A little further down in the available options, you can also enable the prior review of tags that people add to your items (for example, when a friend wants to tag himself in a photo you added to your own Timeline). Make your selections in the section, How can I manage tags people add and tagging suggestions?
If you want to be untagged from a specific item, go to the item, select its Options (usually at bottom-right), then select Report/Remove tag. After that, a new window will appear letting you untag yourself and/or ask the person who posted the item to remove it.
As mentioned, friends can tag you in photos and in posts. Although Facebook offers you the option of reviewing tags before they are applied, this consent only applies to items appearing on your Timeline. This previewing feature does not prevent you from being tagged in photos or posts appearing in other places, such as a friend’s Timeline, unless you take the active steps necessary to expressly untag yourself. Because it’s easy to miss these notifications, you may not be aware of items in which you are tagged.
Check and Control your Likes
You can also edit the audience that can see your Likes. To access your Likes go to your profile page, then select More and then Likes. Or go directly to the page, https://www.facebook.com/me/likes (Update: Facebook disabled this shortcut in October 2015). Then select the Manage icon (it looks like a pencil) and Manage Sections. In the menu that appears you can select specific categories of Likes you wish to hide. Alternatively, you can also Unlike any page you previously Liked.
A little further down the Manage menu, you’ll see Edit privacy. By selecting this you can edit which categories of your Likes are visible to the public, your friends or only yourself or a customized setting.
Protect Yourself (and Your Friends) from Targeted Advertisements
Unless you opt out, Facebook will use your information to also help it target your friends with advertising. Of course, the advertisements your friends see will be based on many things but, by default, this will include information you have shared with Facebook, such as your likes and pages you share.
Opting out will not only help prevent your friends from being profiled in even more detail, but it will also help keep your information from a wider audience.
Go to Facebook’s Setting menu at https://www.facebook.com/settings and select Adverts from the sidebar. For each category, use Edit to select the privacy settings you are most comfortable with. For example, you can disable creepily intrusive ads by turning Off ‘Adverts based on my use of websites and apps’. We also recommend disabling the feature ‘Adverts with my social actions’ by selecting No one.
Top Tip – If you wish to prevent Facebook from using information about your offline shopping habits for their targeted advertisements, you should exercise your right to opt-out from the three major data collecting companies that co-operate with Facebook, Acxiom, Datalogix and Epsilon.
Risks Posed by Apps and Games
Even when you make your Facebook information accessible only to your friends (as opposed to friends of friends or the public at large), Facebook apps that you or your friends use may undermine these efforts and facilitate the sharing of information to third parties.
Facebook apps and games may contain weaknesses that leak your personal information. Basic information, such as your name, gender, profile photo and friends list, is usually deemed needed by apps and games on Facebook. Certain apps may even wish to have access to the information your friends share with you and vice versa. The risk can be minimized through your privacy settings, but it cannot be completely eliminated especially when, in your rush to install the app or game, you blindly accept its terms of access.
It is relatively easy to create and make available an app on Facebook (a “developer” needs only to have a verified Facebook account and phone number or credit card). With this level of arguably loose quality control, it’s no wonder there are risks of your data being misused.
Limit the Access your Facebook Apps Have to your Account
As we’ve seen, many apps can expose your private information to third parties (some apps may even have access to the information your friends share with you and vice versa). To protect yourself from apps that leak information (whether by poor design or with overreaching privacy settings), use only trusted apps and tweak some of your Facebook setting as follows.
To limit the access apps have to your private information start by going to the Settings menu and selecting Apps from the sidebar or go directly to https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications. Look for the heading Apps others use, select Edit and deselect the information items that you do not want your friends’ apps to be able to “bring with them” (in other words, your personal information that your friends’ apps can access and use for goodness knows what). When done making your selections, Save Changes.
You have just vastly improved your Facebook privacy settings.
As you are becoming a privacy pro, you might want to consider using a VPN, a privacy tool to further prevent your activities from being tracked online.