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Is My Facebook Page Really Private?

How to make sure your statuses and comments aren’t broadcast to the world.

Is your Facebook profile really private? Credit: Danielle Masterson/Facebook.com screenshot.
Is your Facebook profile really private? Credit: Danielle Masterson/Facebook.com screenshot.

When we all joined Facebook a few years ago, many of us went through the privacy settings and made sure we were “locked down.” Statuses were only going out to family and friends we had connected with, photos were private to our page, and we decided whether or not we would allow “everyone” to contact us via Facebook Messages.

Well, times have changed and so has Facebook’s privacy settings.

But, have you changed with the times?

Even if you have, it’s worth it to take a second look. I try to stay on top of these things and a quick peek at my profile page this weekend showed many statuses that I thought were only visible to my friends were actually set to public and viewable to the entire world. If you don’t want that — and I don’t — follow these steps.

  • Go to your Facebook page and click on the gear button, next to your Activity Log. (As seen in the screenshot. It’s to the right of my TARDIS.)
  • Click “View As…” and choose “Public.” 

This is the quickest and easiest way to check and see if your page is “protected.” Whatever you see here is what is visible to anyone and everyone on the Internet.

If you’re OK with what you see here — and I am now that I’ve fixed my settings — I can just go along on my merry way and start reading my Real News Feed.

Need to make some adjustments? Here’s how:

  • Click the X in the “View As…” so you return to your Facebook profile.
  • Click the gear and choose “Timeline Settings.”

Answer these questions thoughtfully and think about how to best suit your needs:

  • Who can add things to my timeline? Are you OK with your friends adding items to your Timeline? I am, but only after I review them. This is an excellent option. It gives your friends the chance to post a photo of you, but it gives you the opportunity to get rid of it, if you don’t like it or you don’t want it to be publicly visible.
  • Who can see things on my timeline? Same thing goes for this. Do you have some people in your Friends List that you don’t want to be able to see every little thing on your Timeline? Then maybe you need to create a Custom list and have only certain people see what you have been tagged in on your Timeline. Or maybe you need to just not allow anyone to tag you. The option is up to you. Just because tagging is allowed, it does not mean you have to participate. You can protect your privacy.
  • How can I manage tags people add and tagging suggestions? Another one where I say it’s best to keep your privacy intact. Allow your friends to see your items, if you choose, but choose to review the tags first. And you know that annoying thing that Facebook does: Do you want to tag so-and-so in this photo? You can shut that off. You don’t have to allow Facebook to tag you in items you don’t want to be tagged in.

Now that you’ve answered the “Timeline Settings” questions, navigate to the “Privacy” link on the left side of the page. We’re going to answer these questions just as thoughtfully as the last set:

  • “Who can see my stuff?” Future posts — This one is tricky. You’re going to set this to Friends. But we’re going to come back to it. For now, set it as Friends.
  • Review All Posts — If you set your privacy on the Timeline Settings earlier, you’re going to want this to be set for “Use Activity Log.” I use this and look at it to see which of my comments are public and private. We’ll circle back to this, too!
  • Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with Friends of Friends or Public? — This is a scary-sounding one, but if you are serious about fixing your profile and setting it all to Friends-only and private, you want to do this. It will set all your previous posts that were public to Friends-only. Don’t let the pop-up scare you where it says how this is permanent and all that jazz. Just do it. Say yes.
  • The remaining questions are a matter of personal preference: “Who can contact you” and “Who can look you up.” Again, just think of your personal needs and what suits your needs at this moment.

Now let’s go back to those future posts and public/private comments…

Just because you’ve chosen to make all your future posts Friends Only, you have to stay on top of things. For some reason, Facebook can change at the drop of a hat and it doesn’t always tell its users.

When you are posting a status, make sure the little icon in the corner has two little people on it and not a globe. If it’s people, it’s Friends Only. If it’s a globe, it’s Public. 

This usually stays the same. But if you are sharing a link from another page, or an app if you’re on your iPhone — think Flipboard, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. — the privacy option of the status may change.

I noticed that a few items I shared from various pages had gone public, even though my privacy setting is for all statuses to be Friends Only. So, it’s worth it to check your page every few days, if you’re serious about staying private on Facebook.

Now what was that I was saying about comments? Yeah, that’s the interesting thing. Your friend has a totally public page. You comment. Guess what? It goes on all your friends’ Timelines and they see your friend’s status, their friends’ comments and your comment. So that friend of yours from high school that you’re joking around with? If her page is public, your current co-workers can see it. If you don’t care, that’s one thing. But if you do want to keep those two parts of your lives separate, make sure to look at your friends’ statuses before commenting. Again: The globe icon means it’s public and it’s going to go everywhere; the two little people icon means it’s just going to go on that person’s page and your common connections.

Have questions about Facebook privacy? Leave a comment!

This post also appeared on my site: DanielleMastersonBooks.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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