The Guide to Facebook Privacy Settings

The Guide to Facebook Privacy Settings

Worried about how much Facebook knows about you and how it shares this information with advertisers? Maybe it's time you review your Facebook privacy settings.

Worried about how much Facebook knows about you and how it shares this information with advertisers? Maybe it's time you review your Facebook privacy settings.

Facebook is well known for gathering users data to create detailed profiles ready for advertisers to target.

And your Facebook profile might not be as private as you might think.

If you're worried about the amount of information Facebook collects about you and how it can affect your online privacy and security, this guide will lead you through the Facebook privacy settings you


Turn off location sharing

Facebook knowing your location at any time might be useful when you're sharing photos from vacation and you want to tell the world where you've been. Or when you want to check-in at your favorite restaurant. But this practice of having your location shared with Facebook wherever you go can also put your privacy at risk.

Facebook collects data about your location as long as the app is open and uses this data to target you with relevant ads. But that's not all. Your location can also be shared with your Facebook friends.

To give you an idea of how creepy and dangerous it can be - a couple of years ago, Aran Khanna developed a Chrome extension called Marauder's Map. You know, like the one in Harry Potter. And the name wasn't the only thing they had in common, the digital map acted similar to the magic map. After installing the extension, you were able to see the location history of your Facebook friends and even of those who weren't on your friends' list but you shared a common group chat with. Even though the official version of the map was taken down upon Facebook's request, the fact that it existed makes you think twice about how much Facebook knows and can share without you even realizing.

How to disable location sharing on Facebook

  • Android: Access your device's settings > Apps > Permissions > Location > Find Facebook in the list of apps and switch the toggle off (The steps might slightly differ based on your device)
  • iOS: Access your device's settings > Privacy > Location Services > Find the Facebook app > Set it to Never
  • In the Facebook app: Open the Facebook app > Tap on the More options button in the upper right corner > Go to Setting & Privacy > Access the Settings > Under the Privacy section tap on Location > location Access > Turn off both the Location services and Background location

From the Location Settings in the app, you can also see your location history and delete it as you wish.

*Android 10 and iOS 13 give users more options to control their location sharing with apps. They also send out notifications to let users know about apps accessing their location along with details about how many times the apps have done it and what locations they logged.


Limit data collection by other apps

Nowadays it is pretty easy on many platforms to log in with your Facebook account. you only have to click or tap on the Facebook icon and you're logged in without having to set up a new account. Take as an example Pinterest, Scribd, 9GAG, IMDb, and the list can go on and on. But this also means that those platforms have access to a part of the private information you share with Facebook (your birthday, email, friends list, photos, page likes). For more enhanced data protection, Facebook now disconnects your Facebook account from other apps if you haven't been using them for the past 90 days, but they still retain the private information they gathered so far.

You are able to manage part of what you share with these apps from your Facebook settings, but some of them are required to allow you to use them through Facebook. The only solution to unlink these apps from your Facebook account is to cut the connection and create separate accounts on those platforms.

To see what apps have access to your Facebook info and manage what you share:

Go to Facebook > Access the Settings > Click om Apps and Websites in the left menu > Here you'll see all the apps connected to your Facebook account along with those that expired > Remove them or edit the access for each of them


Limit who can find your profile

By default, anyone can find you on Facebook if they type your name in the search bar. They might also be able to look you up by using your phone number or the email address associated with your account. But you can manage how "foundable" you want to be and based on which queries.

Go to Facebook > Access the Settings > In the "How people find and contact you" you have more options:

  • Who can send you friends requests: everyone or friends of friends
  • Who can see your friends list: anyone, friends, specific friends, and even only you
  • Who can look you up using your email address: everyone, friends, friends of friends, or no one
  • Who can look you up using the phone number: everyone, friends, friends of friends, no one
  • Do you want search engines outside Facebook to link to your profile?: If you disable this, your Facebook profile won't show in search results if someone Googles your name

Limit who can see your activity

Facebook is a fun place to share photos and what you're up to with your friends and family. But this practice is not that great in terms of safety if those details on your profile are available for everyone to see. Cybercriminals are skimming social media profiles to collect private data on users. Information such as your birth date, your mother's name, your hometown, and your likings can be used by criminals to deploy identity-related hacking attacks such as guessing your password, knowing the answers to security questions or sending you personalized phishing emails.

The things you share on Facebook should be always only shared with your friends. When you're uploading a new post, Facebook gives you the option to choose who gets to see the post: Public or Friends. You can also exclude specific people, your boss for example if the post is about how drunk you got last night, or share it with only a couple of specific friends.

If you previously shared posts on private, you can go to your profile and manually change the option for each post or do it all at once from the settings. To only share your posts with friends from now on by default:

Setting your posts to only available to friends

Open Facebook > Access the Settings > click on Privacy from the left menu > Click on Edit next to "Who can see your future posts?" and set it to Friends > "Limit the audience for old posts on your timeline" allows you to change your already public shared posts to only friends.

Making your personal information private

To make the personal information on your profile private (such as your birth date, hometown, email, phone number), go to your about page and manually change the settings for each of those items.


Enable two-factor authentication

Using two-factor authentication is an important rule of online privacy and security, and Facebook makes no exception. While your password can be hacked using dedicated tools, cybercriminals won't be able to log in to your account even if they have the password if you have a second layer of security enabled.

With two-factor authentication, each time you sign up from a new device, Facebook will send you a code through text or in-app so it verifies your identity.

To enable two-factor authentication:

Go to Facebook > Access the Settings > Click on Security and Login in the left menu > Find the Two-Factor Authentication section > Choose between authenticating through Text Message or an Authentication App


Prevent your name being used in ads

You might've noticed that sometimes you'll see posts in your feed such as "One of your friends likes...". That's because Facebook allows advertisers to personalize their ads using users' names so they make them more appealing to the target. Facebook states about this:

" People want to know what their friends like. That’s why we show ads to your friends based on the actions you take, such as liking a Page or sharing a post. This setting applies to your likes, follows, comments, shares, app usage, check-ins, recommendations, and events you joined that appear with ads your friends see. Ads like this will only be visible to people who have permission to view the action you’ve taken."

Not only you might not want everyone knowing everything you interact with on Facebook, but you can't control what's showing so your friend might make a wrong impression. For example, say you liked a page that shares news articles. Yes, you might agree with some of the articles shared on that page, but might also disagree with some. It can happen that Facebook displays an article to your friends regarding a subject opposing to your beliefs.

To turn off this feature:

Open Facebook > Access the Settings > Click on Ads in the left of the page > Click on Ads that include your social actions > Set it to No One


Prevent Facebook from tracking you on other websites

Facebook doesn't only track your data when you are active on the platform but also follows you around when you're online browsing. If the websites you visit use Facebook services, meaning you see Facebook Like and Share buttons on the page, they can track the pages you view, the item you're interested in, and even what you add to your cart. And no, you don't have to interact with the buttons for this to happen.

While there's no way to tell Facebook to stop this practice, you can install an extension to your browser to prevent Facebook from linking your browsing history to your Facebook account. Examples of such extensions are Privacy Badger and Disconnect. If you're using Mozilla Firefox, they developed an ad blocker designed for this task called Facebook Container.

Managing your Facebook privacy settings doesn't do all the job. There are also other services interconnected with Facebook and they all share data between them, especially when it comes to services owned by Facebook. Such services are WhatsApp and Instagram. If you're using these services, you should also review the privacy settings from those accounts.

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