Facebook’s long list of privacy options can seem daunting, but there are only a few settings that you need to change to better protect yourself. Here are some things you should check right now.
While most of these settings can be changed via the Facebook app on iPhone and Android, the settings themselves may be presented slightly differently when accessed from the app.
Delist Your Profile from Search Engines
If you don’t want your Facebook profile potentially appearing when someone searches for your name, you should instruct Facebook to delist it from search engines. This tells the search engine not to index the page, but this might take a short while to take effect.
To change the setting, open Facebook in a browser and click on the downward-facing arrow in the top-right corner, followed by Settings & Privacy. Select “Settings,” and then click on “Privacy” in the sidebar that appears to the left of the page.
Scroll down to the “How people can find and contact you” section and disable “Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your Profile” by clicking the Edit button.
Shortcut: Facebook > Settings > Privacy > Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your Profile?
Make Your Friends List Private
By default, your friends list is visible to everyone, including to people you are not friends with. Having a list of your friends might help people find you, and not everyone is comfortable with this. You probably don’t want Joe Public being able to look up a list of your close friends, family members, or romantic partners.
You can change the visibility of your friends list under Facebook settings. Click on the downward arrow in the top-right corner of Facebook, and then select Settings & Privacy > Settings. Click “Privacy” in the sidebar, and then scroll down to the “How people can find and contact you” section.
Change “Who can see your friends list” to a setting that you’re more comfortable with. You can choose between “Public,” “Friends,” “Only Me,” and several custom inclusive and exclusive settings. Choose “Only Me” to keep your friends list private.
Shortcut: Facebook > Settings > Privacy > Who can see your friends list?
Restrict Visibility of Your Older Posts En Masse
If you initially made your Facebook account back when it was an invite-only college network or shortly after the service opened up to everyone, you might have forgotten about some embarrassing older public posts that you made.
You might not realize that some of your older posts were made public when Facebook underwent one of its many overhauls. Fortunately, you don’t need to go digging through years of embarrassing updates to quickly limit who can see your old posts.
Click on the downward-facing arrow in the top-right corner of Facebook and select Settings & Privacy > Settings, followed by “Privacy” in the sidebar on the left. Under the “Your activity” section, look for “Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends of Public?”
You can use the “Limit Past Posts” link to change the visibility of these older Public posts (and those shared with Friends of Friends) so that they are only shared with your immediate friends list.
Shortcut: Facebook > Settings > Privacy > Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends of Public?
Enable Timeline Review
By default, anyone can tag you in a post and it’s added to your Facebook Timeline, right on your profile alongside the updates that you’ve authored yourself. This happens for both posts (like someone tagging you because you met up for a coffee) and photos.
If you’d rather have more control over what appears on your profile, you can choose to manually review all future tags. To do this, head to Facebook and click on the downward-facing arrow in the top-right corner. Click on Settings & Privacy > Settings, and then click on “Profile and tagging” in the sidebar that appears on the left.
Under “Tagging,” enable “Review posts that you’re tagged in before the post appears on your profile?” by clicking on the Edit button. When you’re tagged in the future, you will receive a notification, and you can decide whether to approve or hide the post from your profile.
You can also manually review any pending posts under Activity Log. Head to your profile and click on the ellipsis “…” button, and then choose Activity Log.
Shortcut: Facebook > Settings > Profile and tagging > Review posts that you’re tagged in before the post appears on your profile?
Disable Facial Recognition
Facial recognition has some upsides on Facebook, but not everyone is comfortable with it. With facial recognition enabled, Facebook might suggest you as a tag when a friend uploads a photo, or make suggestions on your own photo tags.
Perhaps even more useful is the ability to receive a notification whenever Facebook detects your likeness being used in a profile picture. If the account is genuinely trying to impersonate you, you can then report it and hopefully get the content removed.
If you’d rather turn this setting off, you can do so by clicking on the downward-facing arrow in the top-right corner of Facebook and clicking Settings & Privacy > Settings. Click on “Face Recognition” in the sidebar on the left, and then use “Edit” to disable the “Do you want Facebook to be able to recognize you in photos and videos?” option.
Shortcut: Facebook > Settings > Face recognition > Do you want Facebook to be able to recognize you in photos and videos?
Restrict How You Are Found on Facebook
While you can’t hide the name you supply on your profile, you can restrict how you are found through other means. Facebook uses any phone numbers or email addresses you supply to help people find you, so if you’d like to remain (largely) incognito, make sure that you disable this setting.
Click on the downward-facing arrow in the top-right corner of your Facebook feed, and then click on Settings & Privacy > Settings. Select “Privacy” in the sidebar on the left, and then scroll down to the “How people can find and contact you” section.
Disable “Who can look you up using the email address you provided?” and “Who can look you up using the phone number you provided?” as necessary. You can manage your contact information on your Profile under the “About” section.
Shortcut: Facebook > Settings > Privacy > Who can look you up using the email address/phone number you provided?
Review Connected Apps & Websites
Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data-harvesting scandal was only possible using a connected app called “This Is Your Digital Life,” which ended up scraping information from some 87 million profiles. Users would log in to the app using their Facebook profile as a social login, which is a common practice.
While Facebook has made changes to the way that data is handled, it’s still important to be aware of which apps and websites are connected to your account. You should make sure that only apps that you trust and actively use have access to your account.
You can review your list of connected apps by clicking on the downward-facing arrow in the top-right corner of your Facebook feed, and then choosing Settings & Privacy > Settings. From there, click on “Apps and websites” in the sidebar on the left, and then review any “Active” log-ins that you have.
If you don’t recognize a connected app or website, or you haven’t used the service for a long time, get rid of it. You can always reconnect the app in the future, and you shouldn’t lose any data, since nothing is stored on Facebook anyway.
Shortcut: Facebook > Settings > Apps and websites.
Finally: Preview How Others See Your Profile
Facebook allows you to see how your Facebook profile appears to other people. This allows you to view what information you have left on display for the public to see.
To access this feature, head to your profile page and click on the ellipsis “…” icon just beneath your name. Select “View as” from the dropdown and take a look around your profile. If you’re uncomfortable with anything left on display, hit “Exit View As,” and then make changes to the desired information.
Shortcut: Facebook > Profile.
Remember that Facebook is still a wild west of sorts, and that protecting your personal information is essential if you want to use the service safely. Watch out for these Facebook scams.