A couple years ago, Facebook.com revealed just how much information is shared on social networking sites when they introduced news feeds to the home page and user profile pages. These feeds made users nervous perhaps because they had thought that their personal information was safe as long as it was not broadcast to everyone on their friend lists. In reality, it was a new way of distributing information that had always been available to them. Since then, Facebook has added a wide array of privacy options, yet we still find stories of people being fired because of something they said online.

How do you prevent this from happening to you? I guess one option could be to start removing Facebook friends until you are only connected to people that you completely trust, but then why use the site at all? You could instead make all of your not-so-close friends into “limited profile” friends who can only see certain parts of your information, but you will find that it is very difficult to separate your many friends into just two groups. There is another way, and that is what today’s tutorial is about.

  1. Click on “Friends” in the top menu bar.
  2. Notice the “Make a New List” option on the left under your friend lists.
  3. Use this option to create groups for your friends (“Family,” “Best Friends,” “Acquaintances,” etc.)
  4. Click “Everyone” at the top of your list of friends to display all of them.
  5. For each friend, click the empty space by their name and picture to expand their box, click the little arrow next to “View Friends,” and choose a list to put them in.
  6. If they don’t belong in any list, create a new one or consider removing them.

Now that everyone is categorized, you can begin to set your privacy rules.

  1. Hover over “Settings” in the top menu bar then click “Privacy Settings.”
  2. Click “Profile.”
  3. You will see a lot of drop-down menus. Each one gives you a few options including “Customize…”
  4. If you do not like the other options, choose “Customize…” This is where you get to use your lists. You can decide to allow access to only some friends (specific people or lists), or you can decide to deny access to certain people.
  5. Save your changes when you’re finished and continue the process with “Search,” “News Feed and Wall,” and “Applications” under “Privacy Settings.”

You can set privacy options for individual applications by clicking “Application Settings” under “Settings.” Then, click “Edit Settings” for any application. In the popup, choose the “Profile” tab. Use the drop-down list to choose which friends can see that application.

You might need to set aside some time to do everything, especially those of you who have hundreds and thousands of friends. It’s worth it for the sake of privacy and security, and once you have your lists set up, you will only need to make tweaks here and there as your relationships evolve. Don’t lose your job or identity because you added everyone you ever met as a friend. Facebook has added a lot of tools for keeping your information private. Be smart and use them.

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