Facebook has a shaky reputation when it comes to privacy, but it’s a useful tool for keeping in touch with friends and family. If you’re going to be using the social network, there are a few things you can do to block things out as much as possible.
Consider what (and how) you share
Facebook can function both as a public social network where everyone can see everything, and as a private friends-only space where you restrict your posts and information to only those people you choose to connect with. You can even mix and match these approaches, depending on what you’re posting.
The easiest way to do this is with Facebook’s online audience selector. Whenever you decide to make a new post, you can click or tap the dropdown box below your name and choose between Friends or Public, or restrict certain users. You can even limit it to “Only Me,” which is perfect for hiding old posts without having to delete them entirely.
Doing this allows you to hide certain posts from specific contacts, or even share posts with only a select few. Head to Facebook’s privacy settings under Settings > Privacy to choose a default setting for this box, which will prevent you from accidentally posting something public in the future.
However, the best way to not compromise your privacy is to not post something you might regret later, regardless of the audience. You can also retroactively limit the audience of your old Facebook posts that you have already made.
Check your friends list
You know how to restrict posts to just your friends, but how well do you know your friends? Facebook contacts can come from anywhere, whether they’re close friends you know in real life, distant relatives you’ve seen multiple times, or online contacts you’ve never met in person.
It’s a good idea to check your Facebook friends list from time to time to make sure you’re comfortable with your audience. You can put people on your restricted list by using the “Friends” icon on a profile and selecting “Edit Friends List” and choosing “Restricted” (or any other list you like).
A friend on your Restricted list can only see your public profile information plus the posts you’ve tagged them in. This can be a good way to keep people at a distance without having to remove them from your friends list, avoiding potentially awkward interactions in the real world.
You don’t have to use your “real” name
Using your real name on Facebook might seem like a good idea, assuming you want to be found and recognized. Facebook’s infamous real-name policy has stirred controversy and caused problems in the past, prompting the social network to soften its approach a bit (at least on paper).
Facebook’s naming policy states that “the name on your profile must be the name your friends call you by in everyday life” and that it “must also appear on a form of identification or document from our identification list.” In addition to the usual forms of ID like a passport or driver’s license, Facebook also accepts library cards, store loyalty cards, and employment verification on its list of approved IDs.
According to Facebook, “Nicknames can be used as a first or middle name if they are a variation of your real name.” This should provide some wiggle room to get creative with your account name. As long as your pseudonym can pass as a nickname for your real name, you should be clean if you get caught.
Think for a second about how many Facebook friends you have who don’t use their real names. How many are using completely fictional characters? How many have stretched the nickname rule almost to the breaking point? From the outside, it doesn’t seem like this rule is one that Facebook is very concerned about policing.
Take a privacy check
Facebook has a helpful privacy checkup tool that walks you through some of the more common privacy settings you might want to change. This includes your password, how people can find you, and how your data is managed. From time to time, new settings may be added or you may change your mind about some policies, so please check back periodically to update these settings.
We’ve also outlined a few Facebook privacy settings you’ll likely want to change that can have an immediate effect on locking your profile. You can also navigate through your Facebook settings to update individual preferences, including more obscure preferences like who can comment on your public posts and whether tags must be reviewed by you before they appear on your profile.
Please take a moment to review your profile and see what information you want to hide. You can click the audience icon next to a piece of information (it will look like a globe if it’s public, for example) and choose an audience you’re most comfortable with. Check each section, then use the “View As” button near your name to see your profile from another point of view.
Don’t forget the ads
Facebook advertising is famous for being intrusive. The social network learns as much as it can about you and then tries to show you ads that you are most likely to click on. This advertising is an integral part of using the Facebook service, although you can choose to see fewer ads on certain topics, including alcohol, parenting, pets, and social or political topics in Ad Topics in Settings > Ad Preferences. .
Another thing you can control is how Facebook uses tracking cookies to target you with even more relevant advertising. Under “Data about your partner activity” you can deactivate Facebook and Instagram. This prevents the social network from using data collected from websites, ads, and offline interactions to serve you ads. It won’t result in fewer ads, but from a privacy standpoint, it’s less intrusive.
You can make ads even less intrusive by disabling certain “categories used to reach you,” including your employer, job title, education, and marital status. There are also some humorous “interest categories” that list things that Facebook thinks you’re interested in. You can remove anything you want from this section, but keep in mind that by doing this you are “training” the advertising algorithm.
RELATED: How to see what data Facebook has about you
Block or deactivate your profile
Facebook announced a profile lock feature that effectively limits everything to friends until you disable the setting. This includes all of your posts, your profile picture, and Facebook Stories. The setting isn’t available worldwide at the time of this writing, but you can enable a lock when it’s available in your account from your profile page.
If you prefer to simply take a break from Facebook and pin your account, you can deactivate your profile in the Your Facebook Information section of your Facebook Settings. This is a temporary decision that removes your name and content from Facebook, although Facebook Messenger will not be affected unless you disable Messenger separately.
After deactivation, your account will remain inactive until you log in again.
RELATED: How to deactivate your Facebook account
Finally: Disable active status in Messenger
By default, Facebook will announce your availability to your friends whenever you’re online. This could be on a mobile or desktop device, displaying a green dot next to your name and how long you’ve been active on the service. If you prefer to use the service more privately and inconspicuous, you can disable it.
You can hide your active status on desktop by clicking the ellipsis icon “…” above the “Contacts” section of your news feed that shows who is currently online or available. Click “Active Status” to disable the function. You’ll also want to do this on the mobile app by tapping on your profile picture, then “Active Status” and disabling the “Show When Active” setting.
Note that when you do this, you won’t see your friends’ active statuses either. Note that you can also send disappearing messages with Messenger and you don’t need an active Facebook profile to communicate with users.