Facebook Privacy and Security Settings: Testing Your Settings

If you haven’t done so, please read the previous article Facebook Privacy and Security Settings: Apps and Adverts

Now, on to Testing Your Settings…

View As

If you’ve ever wondered what your profile looks like to other people, wonder no more. Now that we have taken all this time to set our Privacy and Security, let’s see if it’s had any effect on what other people see.

View your Timeline by clicking your name in the blue bar at the top. On top of your Cover Photo in the bottom-right, click the "dot-dot-dot" (in the screen grab it looks like a gear icon, this is the old icon) beside "Activity log" and select "View as…"—Ta da! This is what is available on your Public profile. If you see something here that you don’t want everyone to see, go back through the tutorial and change the appropriate settings and then test it again.

Testing: View as...

What about Friends and Friends-of-Friends? What do they see?

If you want to know, while you are in "View as" mode, look closely at the top of your Cover Photo, just below the blue bar. You will see a link that says, "View as Specific Person". That’s right, if you click it you can enter the name of any of your Friends and see what your Timeline looks like to them, pretty cool, eh?

Activity Log

View your Timeline by clicking your name in the blue bar at the top. On top of your Cover Photo in the bottom-right, click "Activity Log". This will show you all the things people may be seeing about you on Facebook. It won’t filter the activities by Public, Friends, etc. But it will give you a good idea of what’s been happening with you on Facebook. Any of the items you see may show up on your Timeline, your Friends’ Timelines and/or their Tickers.

Testing: Activity log

Facebook Mobile

Almost all of the settings we’ve covered are available in the Facebook mobile app, but not all of them or to the extent that you can edit from the desktop (web page on your computer) version. I recommend setting your security and privacy settings from the desktop version. You can always double-check your settings on the mobile app from time to time to ensure they haven’t changed. In theory, changes you make while viewing Facebook in a web browser should update the settings in your mobile app, but I always double-check all my devices after making changes using the web site (and vice versa).

To find the settings on the mobile app, tap the menu icon labeled "More" in the bottom-right corner (UPDATE: The screen grab shows it in the top-left, it has since moved), then swipe down to the bottom of the menu items.

Mobile: Settings

When you make posts with the mobile app, the audience selector will show up as a silhouette of two people with a triangle; tap it to change the audience for future posts including the one you are about to make.

Mobile: Audience

If the audience selector is not visible, such as when you are making a comment, you must assume that the activity you are about to do will be Public and anyone will be able to see it (and the activity may appear on your Friends’ News Feeds and/or Tickers).

Mobile: No Audience Selector

Some Final Notes

Remember when you are posting you can change your audience as you post, but you are changing the default setting and it will apply to all future posts until you change it again. When posting, you may not always see the sharing icon that lets you select your audience (for instance, if you are posting in an event), straight from Facebook’s data use policy:

As a general rule, you should assume that if you do not see a sharing icon, the information will be publicly available. When others share information about you, they can also choose to make it public.

Here’s the horror story: A person posts on Public Event’s Timeline (let’s call the person "Luke Skywalker" and the Event "Blow Up the Death Star"). I am not Friends with this person and I have not been invited to the Event. Yes, if I went to the Event page I would see the post on the Event Timeline, but it’s not "on my radar". The post would never show up on my News Feed or in my Ticker (the right-hand sidebar that shows more content in real-time than your News Feed). But then a Friend of mine (let’s call him "Han Solo") comments on the post. Bam! the story shows up in my Ticker and/or on my News Feed. The story reads, "Han Solo commented on Luke Skywalker’s post in Blow Up the Death Star, ‘Hey kid! What time should I swoop in and save the day?’"

Now, if Blow Up the Death Star didn’t want non-members seeing posts, it should have been created as a Private Event, and if Luke Skywalker didn’t want non-members seeing his post, he shouldn’t have posted on the Event’s Timeline, and if Han Solo didn’t want his own Friends seeing the post and the event and his own comment, he shouldn’t have commented; but, again, you see how quickly these things happen when you aren’t being mindful of your Facebook activity. Now I know there’s a Blow Up the Death Star event and I can see who’s going and all the posts and comments on the Event Timeline and it has been brought to my attention. I can even comment on the original post or, worse, physically show up at the event uninvited. Substitute Luke with "my ex’s new boyfriend", Han with "my ex-girlfriend", Blow Up the Death Star with "Swinger’s Party" and you can see it might be a recipe for disaster.

I get a number of questions specifically about messaging. I may write a separate article on this later. For now, please read the Messaging Settings and Security documentation.

Summary

Having your information online is always a risk. Once again from the Facebook data use policy:

Information that is always publicly available
The types of information listed below are always publicly available, and are treated just like information you decided to make public.

  • Name: This helps your friends and family find you. If you are uncomfortable sharing your real name, you can always delete your account.
  • Profile Pictures and Cover Photos: These help your friends and family recognize you. If you are uncomfortable making any of these photos public, you can always delete it. Unless you delete them, when you add a new profile picture or cover photo, the previous photo will remain public in your profile picture or cover photo album.
  • Network: This helps you see whom you will be sharing information with before you choose “Friends and Networks” as a custom audience. If you are uncomfortable making your network public, you can leave the network.
  • Gender: This allows us to refer to you properly.
  • Username and User ID: These allow you to give out a custom link to your timeline or Page, receive email at your Facebook email address, and help make Facebook Platform possible. Learn more.

Hopefully I have shown you how to minimize your risk and, at the very least, be aware of what information is available and to whom it is available from your Facebook account. I recommend you re-check these settings often as Facebook is notorious for changing settings and how they work on a regular basis. Happy Facebooking!

Did you find this helpful? Is there something you’d like to see covered that isn’t here? Did I make a mistake or give bad information? Let me know in the comments below, feedback is appreciated!

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