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Privacy setting in new Facebook: how do I control who sees what?

September 27, 2011 12:12 pm Published by

Since the new look Facebook came out there’s been a lot of concern and confusion about privacy. I hope this post will help explain what’s going on. Let’s start with subscriptions:

So do I really subscribe to my friends now?

Yes Subscriptions is a new option. Facebook has automatically subscribed you to all of your friends and made you subscribe to them. The difference now is that you can subscribe to anyone who has allowed themselves to be subscribed to. For example, if your favourite actor, musician, politician has allowed themselves to be subscribed to, you can subscribe to them and get all of their public posts in your news feed.

If you would like to allow people to subscribe to your public status updates, go to the ‘Subscribers’ tab on the left hand side of your profile and follow the options.

What’s going on with my news feed?

Your news feed now displays what Facebook classifies as ‘Top stories’. Basically there is no control over this, but it appears to be mainly status updates and photos (however, the fact that I now allow subscribers has appeared in my main news feed – is that really top news?!). All other ‘news’ from your ‘subscriptions’ appears in the Ticker box down the right hand side of your page. Into this scrolling list appears every action you have carried out on Facebook (liking someone’s comment, adding a comment, sharing an event, listening to something on spotify (you now need a Facebook account to use spotify!), comments in groups you belong to, updates you make to your profile, photos you are tagged in. The important thing to remember about this is that it’s nothing new, and all that information was already available to your friends (or friends of friends if you comment on a friend’s post).

How do I control what people see in their news feeds?

As long as your privacy settings are set to ‘friends’ (go to the drop down menu to the top right of your page) then only friends will see your status updates (although if you tag a friend in your post/photo, their friends will then be able to see your post/photo too). You can also change your privacy settings each time you post a status update by selecting the drop down menu to the bottom right of your status update box. Remember, if a friend posts something publically and you comment on it, your comment will appear publically (you can see the privacy settings of your friends’ posts by looking, or hovering over, the icon at the bottom right of their post).

Feeling over scrutinused?

If you don’t like even your friends to see your every move on Facebook you would have to ask them to change their subscription settings for you (you can change what data you see from each of your friends by hovering over their name, clicking the subscription button and then choosing what Facebook activity of theirs you want to see). As far as I can work out, it is not possible to prevent your friends from seeing your every move in the ticker yourself (see below for some customising advice though) and there never was before these changes occurred. I set my dad up on Facebook (before the recent changes) and because he only had a handful of friends to start with, every single thing I did on Facebook would appear in his news feed. As he added more friends the Facebook algorithm kicked in and he only received my ‘top news’. Now, all of our activities are displayed in our friends’ ticker boxes unless they choose not to see them.

You can choose to hide activity from your profile. Say for example, you don’t want your recent friending activity to be displayed on your profile, hover over the recent friending update on your profile and choose to ‘hide all posts’. I presume this information is then hidden from your friends ticker boxes, but since I can’t see them, I can’t be certain.

How does your profile appear to other people?

A new and useful tool (copied from Google+) to see how your profile appears to friends and the public is the ‘view as’ button on the top left of your profile. This allows you to type in a friends name and view your profile as it appears to them. This is even more useful when you view your page as a non-friend would see it if they searched for you on Facebook. If you don’t like what you see, you can change your settings.

More control over tags

The ‘How tags work’ option in your privacy settings is a new and useful tool. If you’ve ever been annoyed by the fact that photos you are tagged in automatically appear on the photo strip on your profile, the ‘Profile Review’ option is for you. The default setting is off, you need to switch it ON. Once you have switched Profile Review ON you can manually review and approve posts friends tag you in before they go on your profile (and in your friends’ ticker feeds). If Profile Review is OFF the tagged posts/photos are automatically approved. The Needs Review tab will appear on your profile when you have something to review. You can also turn on ‘Tag Review’ so you can check what tags friends have added to your post before it appears. For example, a friend may tag someone you are not friends with in a comment. If you approve the comment the tagged person and all their friends will see your post. You can also turn on or off the ‘Tag suggestions’ option (face recognition software so when friends are tagging photos you will appear as a suggestion).

Smart phone users take note

If you use a smart phone to update your Facebook status, make sure your default privacy is on ‘Friends’ rather than ‘Public’ else all your status updates sent from your smart phone will be public. You need to change this on your PC/mac under your ‘privacy settings’.

So to sum up

Privacy settings were always there in Facebook but hidden away in the settings, now they are more prominent we are more aware of who sees what. The new look Facebook is actually giving us more control over our privacy than before, the ticker box is just drawing attention to the fact that everything we do on Facebook is recorded. I think the main thing to remember is to send a direct message if you have something private to share and to try Google+ if you want a cleaner, simpler social network which doesn’t feel like your every move is being traced!

Photo by Pong

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