Facebook's new privacy controls to regain your original privacy.
Photo by Franco Bouly.
These days, Facebook seems seriously invested in a struggle to rule the entire internet, incorporating features from nearly every social service that pops up (see Twitter, Foursquare, FriendFeed, etc.). The problem is, not every application fills the same niche, and in order to compete with other social tools, Facebook has slowly and surely changed from a primarily private service to a very public one.
Users have always known and expected that Twitter, for example, is a public service. Sure, you can make your account private, but its very nature as a public microblogging service is that people can use it and have their voice heard by the many. Conversely, the idea of Facebook was always connecting with your real life friends, and sharing things with them and them alone. That's why everyone flocked to it over MySpace in the first place.
Yet, as Facebook tries to spread itself across all of cyberspace, it makes your activity more and more public, trying to squeeze itself into the niches of Twitter and Digg, all the while becoming a shadow of its former self. Thankfully, Facebook's new privacy controls, while certainly not perfect, do make it easier to control your social experience on the site. We've gone through the new privacy settings extensively, and have created this guide to help you take Facebook back for yourself, making it what you signed up for, not what Facebook is trying desperately to make it.
(The amount of data you want and expect Facebook to share publicly varies from person to person; below, we've highlighted the settings that we think align most closely with both what we think of as good settings and what feels closest to Facebook's earlier privacy settings.)
The screenshots throughout the guide depict the recommended settings we describe, and you can click on them to view a larger, more readable version.
Note: Remember that Facebook's new privacy settings will roll out to users over the next couple of weeks, so if you don't have them yet, keep an eye on your Facebook page for a popup at the top of your news feed (shown above).
here, splits your privacy settings up into four sections. The first, brand new section is your directory information, which controls the kind of information that people searching for you would use to identify you. This includes your friend list, education and work, hometown/current city, and interests and other pages. This also includes settings on who can search for you, send you friend requests, and send you messages. This section works much like the old privacy settings: once you click on "view settings" under basic directory information, you'll be able to choose who can view each specific type of item, whether that be "everyone", "friends of friends", or just friends.
While Facebook recommends you keep all this information public, so people searching for you can tell who you are, it doesn't all seem necessary. Your interests, pages, and hometown can likely be set to "friends only", as shown above. We'd recommend setting your education and work to "friends and networks", so people you are not friends with but that go to the same school or work in the same office can easily find you. The rest can be set to public, unless you'd really prefer that you initiate all friend requests yourself—which is fine—but for most people, being in Facebook's search results helps people find you. I've personally set "send me messages" and "see my friend list" to friends of friends, which is still fairly public, but rarely will anyone not connected to me by someone else need to do either of those things, so I've set them accordingly. That part is really up to you.
previously mentioned Desktop Notifications Mac app, this will make them unusable. In addition, if you link your Twitter account with Facebook, or use iPhoto to upload pictures to Facebook, you'll need applications active to do so these types of things as well.
Thankfully, the applications menu is a bajillion times simpler than the old one, so you can use custom settings without worrying about spending all day tweaking them. All you need to do is click the "remove unwanted or spammy applications" link and remove the applications you don't want on your account at all. Keep the ones you need, and move on.
You'll probably want to completely lock down the rest of this page. Set "game and application activity" to friends only (although this very well may not matter depending on the apps you use). The other three options have "edit settings' buttons that take you to windows with one or many checkboxes, all of which you should probably uncheck. You don't need to share your personal information with any applications, nor do you probably want your information all over other sites. Showing up in Google searches is up to you, though if you're using Facebook purely for personal reasons, you might as well uncheck that box as well.
Obviously, these are merely recommendations from those of us at Lifehacker that are fairly privacy conscious, but not enough to quit Facebook altogether. You can tweak the settings to your liking anywhere you want. The main idea of this guide was to use Facebook's new privacy settings (which are rather simple and give you a good amount of control) to bring the Facebook experience back a few years, when you spoke its name with a positive tone and not one of spite. Have the new privacy settings rolled out for you yet? If so, let us know what you think of them and our recommendations in the comments.
I feel as though we're all riding this non-stop roller coaster. FB has got to get their security issues under control. It's just getting ridiculous now.