2018 Update - with all the massive changes and controversy at Facebook at the moment (in the light of the Cambridge Analytica "scandal"), it's become more important than ever to take care of the privacy settings on our Facebook accounts. Instead of. deleting your Facebook account, it is possible to lock down your account or just take some more control.
I’ve been asked many times how people can lock down their Facebook account and make it private. Why? Not everyone wants to be on Facebook, but they want to be involved in groups or perhaps keep tabs with what family members or friends are up to.
Since the early days, Facebook has come a long way when it comes to privacy and security. They really do give us so much control over our data and privacy. Some might say, they give too much control - because it ends up being far too complicated for most people to figure out.
So, that’s how I came to write this article. It is written for people who don’t really want to be on Facebook, but...
- Manage a Facebook page or group
- Be involved with a group or community on Facebook
- Follow the posts of certain friends or family members
It’s also for people who are just paranoid about Facebook, but still want to use it.
As for me, I love Facebook, but I understand the concerns. I’ve not locked down my Facebook account anywhere near as much as what I am suggesting in this article. However, I want to make it easy for you if you do.
If you don’t have a Facebook account...
- Go to Facebook. Sign up for an account. If at all possible, use a private email address that you don’t use elsewhere. We’ll make sure Facebook doesn’t allow people to find you via your email address, but it’s best to be on the safe side. If you use GMail, you can add a "+" symbol followed by a word (before the "@" symbol). This in effects gives you lots of different email addresses for the same account. For example [email protected] will receive the same emails as [email protected] or [email protected].
You do need to enter your proper name, as creating a fake account goes against Facebook’s terms
- I can’t recommend this, since it goes against Facebook’s terms, but if you select the oldest possible date for your birthday, Facebook won’t be able to target you so much with specific ads:
- Confirm your email address. If you used a GMail address, it will ask you to connect to GMail.
- Once you confirm your email address you can move on. Click OK...
- Facebook will ask you if you want to add some friends. Just ignore and click "next":
If you already have a Facebook Account, you can start here…
Click on the little white downwards triangle to the right of the top menu. Then click "settings":
Click Privacy on the left menu:
If you never intend to post to Facebook, then it is a good idea to lock down your future posts. That way, if you accidentally post something, no one will ever see them. You do this by changing the privacy settings for all future posts to "only me".
To do this, click "edit" to the right of "Who can see your future posts?".
Then click the blue button (which probably will say "Friends") and select "Only Me". You may need to click "more" at the bottom to see this option:
If you’ve already posted to Facebook in the past, you have the option to change the privacy settings for all of these. Please note, this is a "nuclear" option and will change all your previous posts in one go. The only way to reverse this, is by going through each post one by one.
If you want, you can choose this option to hide all your previous posts so that only your connections see them (i.e. not public or "friends of friends"). Unfortunately, this won’t change the privacy settings for previous posts to "only me".
To do this, click on "Limit Past Posts". You will then get a warning message - then click the "Limit Past Posts" button:
Facebook really wants you to be sure at this point. If you really are sure, click the "confirm" button:
You can’t totally stop being sent friend requests, but you can change the setting so that only "friends of friends" can send you a request. If you don’t have any Facebook friends, then effectively this will stop you from being sent friend requests.
Click "edit" by "Who can contact me?" and change to "friends of friends":
Being Looked Up
Facebook makes it easy for people to find you from your email address. This is why, if you want to be private on Facebook, it is so important you use a separate email address.
However, to make sure, you can restrict the people who can look you up with your email address to just your Facebook friends. If you’re already connected with them then that’s fine, and basically anyone else won’t be able to find you. If you don’t have any Facebook friends, then again, no one will be able to find you via your email address.
Click on "edit" by the option "Who can look you up using the email address you provided?". Then change to "Friends":
If you needed to give Facebook your phone number, then you’ll also need to change the setting for people being able to look you up from your phone number.
To do this, click "edit" by the option "Who can look you up using the phone number you provided?" and select "friends":
Stop being Searched
By default, Facebook allows search engines such as Facebook and Google to visit your profile and list it. You’ll want to disable that.
Click "edit" by the option "Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your Profile?". Then uncheck the box by "Allow search engines outside of Facebook to link to your Profile". Then click "Turn Off" in the warning window.
Timeline & Tagging
You may want to control whether or not people can post to your timeline and whether you want to be tagged in a post. To be private, you’ll want to switch all of those off.
Click on "Timeline and Tagging" in the left menu:
Stop people posting to your timeline
To stop people posting to your timeline, click "edit" by "Who can post to your timeline". Change to "Only Me":
You can’t stop people tagging you, although if you don’t have any Facebook friends and locked down your account it’ll be near impossible for them to do so. That being said, it’s good practice to switch on the "review tag" feature. With this switched on, if people do tag you, you’ll need to accept the post before it appears in your timeline.
To do this, click "edit" by the "Review posts that friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline" option. Then click on "enabled":
Other Timeline settings
It’s now a good idea, to go through the following settings and lock them down..
Who can see things on my timeline:
- "Who can see posts you've been tagged in on your Timeline?" - change to "only me"
- "Who can see what others post on your Timeline?" - change to "only me"
How can I manage tags people add and tagging suggestions?
- "Review tags people add to your own posts before the tags appear on Facebook?" - change to "enabled"
- "When you're tagged in a post, who do you want to add to the audience if they aren't already in it?" - change to "only me"
- "Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded?" - change to "only me"
As I am sure you’re aware, Facebook makes its money from advertising to us. I personally don’t mind ads if they’re relevant to me. However, from a privacy point of view, you may want to lock down the settings so that Facebook won’t track you so much and tailor the ads to you.
To do this, click on "Adverts" in the left menu:
To lock things down as much as possible, change the following settings:
- "Can you see online interest-based adverts from Facebook?" - change to "No"
- "Can your Facebook ad preferences be used to show you ads on apps and websites off of the Facebook Companies?" - change to "No".
- "Who can see your social actions paired with adverts?" - change to "No"
If you’ve been a long time Facebook user, you may be surprised what Facebook thinks it knows about you! By default, Facebook tracks what you like, interact with and visit and it comes up with a selection of your "interests". It’s worth looking at these. Click on "edit" by "Manage the preferences we use to show you adverts" and then "Visit Advert Preferences":
Check the keywords under "Interests" and the advertisers listed under "advertisers" and see if they are relevant. You can edit these and make them more relevant or just delete them all. If you’ve just created a Facebook account or previously locked things down, you may not have any:
Lock down your profile further
We’re getting there, but there are still a few options we may want to tweak. If you don’t intend to have any Facebook friends or update your profile in anyway, this is optional, but it is still worth looking through to make sure you’re happy with everything.
To edit your profile, click your name on the top menu and then click on "about":
If you’ve only just created a Facebook account, you won’t have anything in here, except for your name and date of birth. The default privacy settings is for everything to be shared with your Facebook friends.
If you want everything hidden, unfortunately you’ll need to go through everything, edit, and change to "only me".
Here are some examples…
Click on "contact and basic info" in the left menu. For each bit of information click on the edit link on the right (this will be hidden until you hover over the line). Then click on the privacy icon and change to only me, then click "Save Changes":
Other details to change
Here is a list of details in your profile you may want to change:
- Work and education
- Places you’ve lived
- Mobile phone
- Date of birth
If in doubt, just don’t add the information. If Facebook doesn’t know your details, no one else can.
By default, everyone can see who your friends with. To change this, click on "Friends" in your profile, then click on the edit button (The pencil icon on the top right), click on "edit privacy".
You can then change "who can see your friend list?" and "who can see the people you follow?" to "Only Me". Then click "Done".
You’re pretty much done at this point. However it is worth saying that, you’ll never be able to be totally private on Facebook. That’s not what a social network is about, or what the internet was built for. However, if you follow the points in this article, are careful what you post and you don’t give Facebook too much information, then you’ll have locked things down as much as you can!