Facebook Privacy Settings – The Ultimate Guide

Facebook Privacy Ultimate Guide

Facebook Privacy Laptop LockAs of the first quarter of 2018, Facebook has over 2.1 billion active monthly users worldwide. With their huge reach, Facebook has the potential to greatly influence consumers. From where we buy our socks to how we vote in elections, Facebook can play a role. Facebook can have this amount of influence because it knows so much about us. Recent news stories showed that Facebook allowed personal information to be used for corporate and political advertising. For this reason, you may want to review your Facebook privacy settings. You can ensure you have greater control over your information. Here is your guide to securing your information on Facebook.

See Where You Are Logged In

Maybe it has happened to you before? You forget to log out on a friends computer or smartphone and they make you aware of this by placing a silly message on your timeline. It’s harmless and usually pretty funny. But what if you’re logged into a public computer and forgot to log out? It’s not as funny if the next person to use the computer suddenly has access to your personal information in Facebook.

Luckily, you can ensure this doesn’t happen with a few simple steps. Under “Settings” in Facebook click “Security and Login”. Near the top of the page there will be a list of where you have logged in from. Moreover, you can find out if the session is currently active. You can go back through recent logins to spot any devices or logins that weren’t you. If you do find a fishy login, click on the 3 dots at the right of the entry and select “Not You?” to report it. If you left yourself logged into another device, you can click “Log Out” to force that device to log you out of Facebook.

FB securitylogin where you are ogged in

Take Control of Facebook Tagging

Facebook allows you to take control of who can tag you in a post or photo and under what circumstances. From the Settings menu, select “Timeline and Tagging”. From this menu you can edit who can post on your timeline, your friends or only you, and who can see what others post on your timeline.

You can also control who can see posts you’re tagged in: everyone, friends of friends, friends, only you. You can even customize who can see these posts completely. For instance, you may choose to only share a picture with 12 of your best friends. This can be a useful feature if you want to be friends with people from work, but you don’t necessarily want to allow them access to everything on your profile. For instance, you may not want your boss to see all the parties you go to.

FB timelinetagging who sees

You can also set Facebook to notify you of a post you are tagged in. This way you can give your approval before the post would appear on your timeline.

Review What Others See on Your Timeline

One of the most powerful security tools for managing what other people see on your timeline is in the “Timeline and Tagging” menu. Under the Review section, you will find an entry labeled, “Review what other people see on your profile.” Click on “View As”, and it will take you to your profile page. The default view shows what your profile looks like to the public. That is, if someone who is not a friend of yours on Facebook finds your profile, this is what they will see. You can scroll through posts to change the privacy settings of any posts you would rather not have visible to the public.

Back at the top of the profile, you can change the view from “Public” to “view your profile from the perspective of a specific person”. So, for example, you might prefer that your mother doesn’t see those party photos. Through these settings you can see your profile the way that person sees it. You can ensure nothing you prefer to keep private is accessible to that person.

Easily Restrict Past Posts

If you’ve been using Facebook for a few years, it’s possible that when you first started using Facebook, you weren’t as security conscious as you have become today. Over the years you may have hundreds of posts that were posted publicly. Now you might prefer these to be restricted to just your friends, or possibly even made entirely private.

To restrict these posts go to the Settings menu and select “Privacy”. Under “Your Activity”, select “Limit Past Posts.” This will allow you to limit the audience that can view all your past posts.

FB privacy past posts

Sharing Your Facebook Profile to Search Engines

If you have ever searched for your name online, you have probably seen that your Facebook profile shows up in the search results. However, what many people don’t know is that you can restrict this. In the Privacy Menu of your settings, look in the section labeled “How People Find and Contact You.” Click “Edit” on the question “Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile?”. Here you can choose to uncheck that option. As a result, your Facebook page won’t turn up in the search engine anymore.

FB privacy search

Managing App Logins

Often when you subscribe to a website or login to a new app, they offer you the convenience of logging in using Facebook. Over time, however, the apps and websites you allow to log you in this way can balloon. Moreover, most people rarely think to go back and revoke the permission when they stop using the app or visiting the website. You can manage those permissions directly from Facebook.

Under the Settings Menu, choose “Apps and Websites”. You will see a list of Active Apps and Websites, complete with the permissions of each. To learn more about the info provided to the app and the permissions granted to it, click on the logo to pull up the information screen. From here you can edit permissions and visibility for the app.

FB apps websites active

If you wish to revoke the permission, click the check box next to the name and logo, then click “Remove.” In the dialogue box that follows, you have the option to also delete any posts the app made on Facebook on your behalf.

If you prefer not to allow any apps or websites to integrate with your Facebook profile, you can turn off all permissions by finding the “Apps, Websites and Games” option and click “Edit” to turn off this feature in Facebook.

Controlling Ads from Facebook

Facebook is free to use because they sell advertisements to businesses. Facebook knows alot about you from what you like and click on. Because of this they can help businesses target users based on that information. If you are interested in learning more about the advertisers targeting your profile, you can review the information in Facebook’s settings.

From the Settings menu, click “Ads”. The top entry is “Your Interests”. Clicking on it will reveal the sorts of things you have clicked on and interacted with through Facebook. This is how Facebook builds a profile of who you are to sell targeted advertisements to you. You can look through your interests, and sometimes find something that you never intended to interact with. You can delete those interests that you don’t feel should apply to you. As a result Facebook has a better picture of who you are. Moreover, the ads you see will be more appropriate to your interests.

FB ads your ad preferences

Under that section is “the Advertisers you’ve interacted with” section, you can see those advertisers who you shared information with and so have found you on Facebook. Among those will be advertisers whose website or app you have used in the past. Moreover, there will be advertisers whose ads you have clicked on. For any of these advertisers, you can click on their logo and choose “Hide ads from…” to no longer see ads from that advertiser.

One of the most fascinating sections is the “Your Information” section here. The “About You” section has basic personal information such as your relationship status, employer, and education. Most of the time, Facebook knows these things, because you have filled them in before. Click on the “Your Categories” tab to see the sort of information Facebook has on you. In this section, Facebook will show what it believes your political views are, the types of devices you use, whether you are a parent and how old your children are, and much more. This is the information Facebook has taken from your activity on Facebook over time. With this information advertisers can find people that are interested in their product or service.

Taking Control of Your Information

Many people prefer to have their lives be an open book to anyone who cares to find them. They many even genuinely prefer to have the advertisements targeted to their interests. However, others prefer to keep as much of their information private as possible. Whatever choices you make, there is no wrong answer here. However it is good to have some knowledge of how to take control of your information. Find out how you can secure your information on Facebook and make sure your are as private as you want to be. However, Facebook is not the only app that collects great amounts of data on you. You might also consider changing the privacy settings in apps and websites like Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Google, WhatsApp,Skype, and Reddit.

Tech journalist
Tove has been working for VPNoverview since 2017 as a journalist covering cybersecurity and privacy developments. She has broad experience developing rigorous VPN testing procedures and protocols for our VPN review section and has tested dozens of VPNs over the years.