Privacy Options for Facebook - dummies

By Carolyn Abram

The following terms are related to how Facebook thinks about the people you may or may not want to share with. For most pieces of information, the privacy options are related to the audience who can see what you’re sharing. Each is represented by its own icon:

  • Public or Everyone: By setting the visibility of something you post or list to Public, you’re saying that you don’t care who, on the entire Internet, knows this information about you. Many people list their spouse on their Timeline, and, just as they’d shout this information from the treetops (and register it at the county courthouse), they set the visibility to Public.

    This is a totally reasonable setting for innocuous pieces of information. In fact, some information is always available as Public Information that everyone can see. This includes your name, current profile picture, gender, your username, and your cover image.

    Now, just because everyone can see something doesn’t mean everyone does see everything. Your posts, information, friendships, and so on, populate your Friends’ News Feeds (assuming that your Friends can see this information), but never the News Feeds of people you’re not Friends with (unless you allow subscribers to see your public posts). By default, much of your Timeline and all your posts are publicly visible.

  • Friends: Any information for which you set visibility to Friends will be accessible only by your confirmed Facebook Friends. If you trust your Friends, this is a reasonably safe setting for most of your information. If you feel uncomfortable sharing your information with your Friends, you can use Custom privacy, or you can rethink the people you allow to be your Friends.

    Think of friending people as a privacy setting all on its own. When you add someone as a Friend, ask yourself whether you’re comfortable with that person seeing your posts.

  • Friends Except Acquaintances: Add Friends only if you’re comfortable with them seeing your posts. However, sometimes you have not-quite-friends on your Friend list. These may be distant family members, professional contacts, old friends from way back when, or a friendly neighbor. No matter who they are, you can add them to the Acquaintances list and then use this setting to limit what they can see about you.

  • Only Me: This setting is basically a way of adding something to Facebook but then hiding it from being seen by other people.

  • Custom: If you have very specific needs, customized privacy settings may help you feel more comfortable sharing on Facebook. The Custom privacy option allows you to choose specific people (or lists of people) who can see something, or choose specific people (or lists of people) who can’t see something.

  • Lists: Lists are ways to sort your friends into categories. There are two types of lists: Smart Lists that Facebook creates for you, and lists that you create for yourself. For example, Facebook creates the Family list based on information you enter about your family relationships. If you may want to share something with one particular list of people, choose the name of that list as your privacy setting.