Controlling who sees what on Facebook

  • Sumo

Facebook gives you a somewhat overwhelming number of different settings to use to control what information is accessible to others and what information you see from friends/pages/apps. This article is about how to find those settings and also how to set up named lists of friends/pages to use to control those permissions and filters.

Creating a list

Some Facebook settings include a customize option that allows you to enter names of individual friends to either include or exclude from viewing your content. Rather than listing each friend for each setting, it’s easier to create a predefined, named list of individuals. When friends are added/removed from named lists, all the associated permissions are updated instantly. Named lists, which can also contain pages, are also useful for filtering the content you see.

Some ways lists might be useful:

  • Create a list of closest friends and use it to quickly view their recent activity without wading through all the updates from all the other friends/pages to which you are connected.
  • Create a list of friends who need a PG-13 rating (e.g. work friends, conservative family members, minors) and use it to exclude them from sensitive content.
  • Create a list of your favorite pages and use it to read through those updates separately from reading friends’ updates.
  • Create a list of local friends and use it to post about local activities or deals without boring the non-locals.
  • Create a list of friends who play Facebook games and use it to post game-related updates without irritating the non-players.
  • Create a list of friends with a shared hobby and use it to post in geeky depth about that hobby without confusing everyone else.

Creating a named list is simple. (show instructions)

Controlling what others see

There are many settings pertaining to what bits of your content others can see. I would recommend you walk through all of them on Facebook to understand what you’re sharing and make changes as appropriate.

“Connecting on Facebook” settings – This group of settings controls the areas that Facebook expects are of interest to potential friends who are trying to decide if they know you. Items such as your work experience and friends list are included here. Named lists can be used for some of these settings. (show instructions)

“Sharing on Facebook” settings – This group of settings controls the defaults for all the other information, posts, and photos that you share or that others share about you. Named lists can be used for some of these settings. (show instructions)

“Edit Profile” settings – There are a three pseudo privacy settings scattered in your profile to control whether your sex, birthday, and pages you like are shown on your profile. I use the term pseudo because I believe that these settings only dictate whether the information is displayed on your profile page; the information is still available to apps unless the appropriate permissions are set elsewhere. (show instructions)

Block a user – Blocking a user makes your profile and photo albums inaccessible to her.  (show instructions)

Block an app – Blocking an app makes your data inaccessible to it. (show instructions)

“Apps and Websites” settings – This group of settings controls what information you or your friends give to apps or partner websites. Named lists can be used for some of these settings. (show instructions)

Status updates – The default permissions for status updates are controlled via the Posts by me setting in the Sharing on Facebook area. Permissions can also be set on individual status messages, but only before you’ve hit the Share button. Named lists can be used for this setting.(show instructions)

Your photos albums – The default permissions for photo albums are controlled via the Posts by me setting in the Sharing on Facebook area. Permissions can also be set on individual photo albums. Named lists can be used for this setting.(show instructions)

Other people’s photos – You can’t control what pictures other people post, but you do have the ability to remove tags to yourself so those pictures will not show up on your wall or profile. (show instructions)

Photostream – You have veto control over what photos are displayed across the top of your profile, although the picture can still be seen in its original album by anyone with appropriate privileges. Use caution when you hide a photo because if you want to unhide it, you must unhide all of the photos you’ve hidden. (show instructions)

Controlling what you see

Newsfeed priority – You have the option to have your newsfeed show All of your friends and pages or Friends and pages you interact with most. Recently the Facebook world was aflutter with claims that Facebook set everyone’s choice to the latter of these options when they rolled out the change. I’d recommend that you verify that yours is set the way you want it. (show instructions)

Newsfeed filtering – If you’ve set up named lists, you can filter your newsfeed to show only posts from friends/pages on that list. (show instructions)

Hide a friend/page/app in your newsfeed – You can hide specific friends/pages/apps from showing up in your newsfeed without unfriending/unliking/disabling them. This does not affect what you can see if you go to friend/page/app’s profile.(show instructions)

Page wall filtering – If you are viewing a page (for a company, blog, etc.), you can choose to see everything on their wall or just the posts made by them. (show instructions)

“Block Lists” settings – This group of settings allows you to block event requests, invites, or everything from specific users. (show instructions)

Block an app – You can block apps from sending you requests. (show instructions)

Words of caution

Don’t let these settings lure you into a false sense of security. Remember that anything you post on the internet has the potential of getting to the wrong eyes, regardless of how you set your Facebook settings. Even putting aside questions that have been raised about Facebook’s integrity when dealing with your data, there are hackers out there… or friends who don’t have the same boundaries as you and might share something you don’t want shared… or friends who accidentally slip and share something they shouldn’t… or software bugs… or sneaky apps.

Some specific areas to note if you are trying to exclude someone are:

  • Do not tag her in a post or photo you don’t want her to see. Tagging a person seems to override other permissions you have set on the post.
  • If you exclude person A from something on your wall, she won’t see the follow up comment by person B on your wall. However, if she’s friends with person B, she may be able to look at person B’s profile and see the potentially incriminating follow up comment there.
  • Blocking makes two people mostly invisible to each other, but not entirely; see the Facebook FAQ for specifics.

As Khalil Gibran wrote, “If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.”

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This entry was posted in Facebook and tagged blocking, Facebook, filters, lists, permissions, privacy, privileges. Bookmark the permalink.

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