When you create a Facebook account, your name, profile picture, gender and networks become visible to the world, not just through Facebook, but also via other people using search engines. By default, Facebook Apps can - and do - automatically access your friend's list and any information you have chosen to share.
Fortunately, the power of privacy rests in your hands. You can change what you share through Facebook apps by changing your settings. You are in control, but you have to know how and where to change the settings in your account. Advertisers and marketers are counting on the fact that most people won’t look too hard into their account settings. Here’s your quick guide to doing what you can to protect your personal information and all your Facebook activity – and your friends.
To get started, look to the upper right corner of your Wall and click Account, then choose Privacy Settings. You can change the specific access in each of these areas:
- Sharing on Facebook
This section controls who can see the content you post on a day-to-day basis (status updates, photos and videos). It also includes a few things you share about yourself (birthday and contact information) and content that others may be sharing about you (comments on posts and photos you've been tagged in). You can set these with one click, and your settings will apply to all the day-to-day content you post in the future. "Customize settings" displays a full list. Remember, you control the privacy level for each setting.
- Connecting on Facebook
Your name, profile picture, gender, networks and username are available to everyone because this info is essential to helping everyone to connect with friends and family.
- Name and profile picture help friends recognize you.
- Gender helps Facebook to describe you (for example, "Add her as a friend").
- Networks are open to everyone so network members can see exactly who they will be sharing information with before they choose "Friends and Networks" on any privacy settings.
Other information in this section, including hometown, activities and experiences, is open to everyone by default to help foster connections.
- Apps and Websites
This section controls what information is shared with websites and apps, including search engines. Any apps, game or websites you are already using has access to your name, profile picture, gender, networks, friend list, user ID, username, and any information you have set to share with “everyone.” You can view all of your apps here and remove those you are not actually using. Are you really playing Farmville or Mafia Wars anymore? Or, and this is a good choice for some, you may turn off the apps platform completely here. Turning off the platform means that you won't be able to use any apps or websites on Facebook and the network won't share any of your information with any app maker. This is important to know.
- Block Lists
This section lets you block people from interacting with you or seeing your information on Facebook. You can also specify friends you want to ignore app invites from, and see a list of the specific apps that you've blocked from accessing your information and from contacting you.
A group of recommended settings are offered by Facebook as a default. Think of "Everyone," "Friends of Friends" and "Friends Only" as buckets containing different groups of information. With the recommended settings, your information is distributed across all three of the buckets. "Everyone" contains status updates and information that people may want to share with larger audiences. "Friends of Friends" includes photos and videos of you, which are often relevant to the friends of your actual friends. "Friends Only" includes your contact information and anything that is only relevant to people you interact with directly.
- Control each time you post
You control who sees your Facebook posts. Before you post a status update or link, click the “lock” icon to choose who can see it. Anything you select will override your "Posts by me" setting, or the default setting.
- Control with apps
Apps can only see information you've already made visible to the world. To access more of your info, any app must first ask for your permission for each piece of information. The rules for the outside companies that operate apps is that anything they request of you can only be information they need on order to make that app work.
- Control what you're “tagged” in
You control who can see photos or videos you've been tagged in or that appear on your profile. Keep in mind, the owner of a photo can still share that photo with other people. If you don't want your tag to appear, remove it from the original photo or video. This will effectively prevent it from appearing on your profile.
Advertising and Your Privacy
Facebook never shares your personal information with its advertisers. Facebook's ad targeting is done entirely anonymously. If advertisers select demographic targeting for their ads, Facebook automatically matches those ads to the appropriate audience. Advertisers only receive anonymous data reports.
To make ads more relevant for you and your friends, Facebook includes social engagement features, such as the Like button, and provides social context, such as “Your friend so and so likes xyz corporation.”
When you click “Like” on a company‘s Facebook page, ad or product likeness:
- You create a connection to that company and you‘ll likely begin receiving updates in your News Feed.
- The story of this connection will appear on your Wall.
- Your friends may also see the story of your liking the company in their News Feeds. (You can always review and manage your likes, activities and connections by editing your profile.)
If you like a company and that company runs a Facebook ad, Facebook may pair your name and profile picture with the ad when it appears on your friends’ News Feeds. This social context is what makes ad relevant to specific individuals.
Information available to everyone: Information you've shared with everyone - as well as your name, profile picture, gender, networks, and username - maybe viewed by anyone on the Internet. It’s crucial to be aware that your information is visible to anyone viewing your profile, and the apps and websites you and your friends use can access this info, too.
Social plugins: Buttons and boxes containing Facebook content may appear on other websites. If you visit these sites, they DO NOT receive any of your information. The content in social plugins comes directly from Facebook. If you click "Like" or make a comment using a social plugin, your activity will be published on Facebook and shown to any Facebook friends who see the plugins on the same site. The things you like may also appear on your profile (however, you can control this in your Basic Directory Information).
Instant personalization: Some select partner sites may access your Facebook information, but only that which is already visible to everyone. You can turn off instant personalization for specific sites or you can turn it off completely from the Apps and Websites page. This prevents Facebook select partners from receiving your information through instant personalization, including whatever you’ve made visible to everyone.
Search: "Public search" on the Apps and Websites page controls whether people who enter your name in a search engine will see a preview of your Facebook profile. It also controls whether things you've specifically chosen to share with everyone will show up in searches.
Protection for minors: Facebook is diligent about protecting minors. Until a youngster reaches 18, minors don't have public search listings created for them, and the visibility of their information is limited to friends of friends and networks, even if they've chosen to make it available to everyone. This does not apply to their names, profile pictures, genders, networks and usernames, which are visible so friends can recognize them.
All source material for this article comes from Facebook's privacy settings, Help Center and published Terms of Service.