Communicate

How To Keep People From Seeing All Your Facebook Info

Facebook is great for connecting with others, but you probably don’t want to share all your news, photos, etc. with everyone you’re connected to on Facebook. Here’s a primer for Facebook beginners on organising friends into lists for more control over what’s shared.

Facebook’s privacy settings can be confusing for even long-time Facebook users, so while this guide is part of our Lifehacker 101 series to help new computer users, it may also be a good reminder for everyone on using Facebook’s friends lists.

We’ve mentioned before how these lists can prevent some people (e.g. your boss) from seeing you in chat or seeing your status messages, but here’s how to set it up in step-by-step fashion.

Create Your Friends Lists

First, go to the Account menu in Facebook and click “Edit Friends”. On the Friends page, click on the “+ Create a List” button at the top.

This will bring up the Create New List window shown at the top of this article, with all of your Facebook friends listed.

Hold down the CTRL key (or the Command key on Mac) to select each friend you want to add to a list. Some examples of lists you might want to create: Family, Work, High School, Neighbours… and so on. (Each friend can be on more than one list.)

Then click the “Create List” button to finish.

Do this for each of the lists you want to create.

Edit Your Friends

When you add a new Facebook friend, be sure to add him/her to each of your applicable lists, so your settings will apply to that friend in the future.

If you want to add a friend to a list or change what list(s) he/she is on after you’ve already set up your lists, go to the Account menu again and “Edit Friends”. Beside each friend, you’ll see an “Edit Lists” drop-down. Click on that and select or de-select each of the lists the friend belongs on.

Once your lists are set up and your friends organised, you can:

Limit Who Can See Your Facebook Profile Information

If you only want certain people to be able to see your friends list and details about your education and work, hometown, and likes and activities, customise your privacy settings with the lists you just set up.

To set this up, go to the Account menu and click “Privacy Settings”. Under the “Connecting on Facebook” heading, click the “View Settings Link”.

Beside the information you want to make more private (e.g., your hometown), click the drop-down box and select “Customise”.

In the next window, you have two choices: you can allow only certain people (or lists) to see that information or you can select who to hide the information from. (You can actually do both but that can be confusing.)

Most people may just want to use the hide feature — so you’re preventing certain groups from seeing your information. If, however, you have a list just for people you want to be able to see everything, you could use the first option instead.

Either way, to create the custom privacy setting, you’ll have to type in the name of the list to add it. For the first option, which makes the setting visible to only certain people, choose “Specific People…” from the drop-down then type in your list name. For the “Hide this from” option, just type in your list name(s). Then click “Save Setting”.

Use Friends Lists to Adjust Your Sharing Settings

There are more privacy settings you can control with lists, such as who sees photos and videos you’re tagged in, as well as your contact information.

A very handy feature is the ability to set your status updates, photos, and posts to be shown only to specific lists (or excluded from specific lists) by default. This means every time you share something on Facebook it’ll only be visible to those chosen lists, unless you specify otherwise.

These settings are also under the Account > Privacy Settings page. Click on the “Customise” link at the bottom to start customising your settings.

The process is the same as above (customising your profile). Click the drop-down box beside each item, then “Customise” and type in the name of each list of friends you want to exclude or include in these shared items.

Share on a Case-by-Case Basis

You can also specify which lists get to see individual posts, photos, links, etc. from you.

Beneath the status update box, there’s a padlock icon. Click on that and then the “Custom” setting to get the window you’re probably now familiar with: the one with the options to make the item visible to only certain people/lists or hide the item from specific people.

Facebook Chat and Photo Albums Privacy

To appear offline to certain lists, click on the Chat button at the bottom of your browser. Click on the slider button beside your friend list to appear offline to just those contacts. (Handy if you have a created a list of people who constantly interrupt you — remember, you can add people to more than one list.)

For your photo albums, just go into the album and click on the “Edit Album” link at the top. Then click on the privacy drop-down button to get to the window where you can show only or hide the album from specific lists.

Other Uses for Friends Lists

You can also use your lists to filter the updates you see on Facebook. Click on the “Most Recent” drop-down on your Facebook home page and you’ll see your friends lists — click on one to show only posts from those friends.

There may be many other areas where you can use the power of friend lists to customise who sees the information you share on Facebook. If you know of any or have additional Facebook friends list tips for us, please share them in the comments.