Lesser-Known Facebook Privacy Settings You Should Double-Check Right Now

Lesser-Known Facebook Privacy Settings You Should Double-Check Right Now


Facebook remains a social media giant that facilitates how many of us communicate and keep up with each other online. It’s also a treasure trove of information for bad actors like hackers and potential harassers.

There are too many instances of people’s seemingly private social media details becoming public and leading to harassment by doxxing, which involves publishing personal details that compromise a person’s safety (the term is short for “dropping documents”). And on Facebook, people do not necessarily have to be your “friend” to potentially gain access to your personal information.

Maybe you’re like me and you rarely use Facebook anymore. Even so, the settings you left in place years ago may pose a current security risk to your personal privacy. Maybe you’ve already set your posts to friends-only, and you assume that’s enough to keep hackers from scraping information off your page. You’d be wrong.

Here are four innocuous Facebook features that can reveal more than you think:

1. Your Cover Photo

An example of how a cover photo appears on Facebook.

You may already know that your Facebook profile photo is publicly available, but did you know your current cover photo is public, too? Your cover photo may reveal information about your location or circle of friends that you prefer to keep private.

Anyone can see your cover photo, regardless of whether they are members of Facebook or not. As Facebook explains, “Cover photos are public, which means anyone visiting your profile will be able to see them.” And there’s a lot of information that could be gleaned from that photo.

In the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s guide on protecting yourself on social media accounts, profile photo and images are flagged as a security risk. “In addition to metadata that might include the time and place the photo was taken, the image itself can provide some information,” the EFF states. “Before you choose a picture, ask: Was it taken outside your home or workplace? Are any addresses or street signs visible?”

Not only can anyone see your cover photo, but if your friends and family like it, that can inadvertently reveal who your close ties are.

Since the cover photo can only be public, interactions with it can, at best, be limited to just friends.

To limit who can comment on public posts such as your cover photo:
1. On a desktop computer, go to Settings & Privacy, then select Settings and go to Public Post Comments.
2. When you reach the question, “Who can comment on your public posts,” select Friends.

To do this on mobile:
1. Go to Settings & Privacy, then select Settings.
2. Scroll to Privacy, then select Public Posts.
3. Go to Public Post Comments and select Friends to limit who sees your public posts.

If you worry the information contained in your cover photo is too revealing, your best option may be to delete it. As one Facebook user complained in the site’s community help section, “There is so much information in the likes section of that photo! I shouldn’t have to delete it to keep that out of the public’s eyes. Trust me, I know how much damage can be done by just glancing at the likes on a photo.”

Here’s how to delete a cover photo:

Removing a cover photo may be your best option if close friends have already "liked" it.

Removing a cover photo may be your best option if close friends have already “liked” it.

1. Click on your profile and select Edit Cover Photo.
2. Select Remove.

On mobile:
1. Click on your cover photo, select View Profile Cover.
2. Choose the option to Delete Photo.

2. Your Likes

If your likes are set to public, they can not only reveal the movies and TV shows you enjoy, but also expose information about where you live. When I went through mine, I found I had liked local community organizations and restaurants that could reveal my frequent haunts to any random stranger.

To change your privacy settings on a desktop:

1. Click your name to be redirected to your Facebook profile.
2. Then click More and select Likes.

3. Once you are looking at your likes, click on the three dots so that you can select Edit the Privacy of Your Likes and go through the categories one by one.

Edit who can view your Likes categories.

Edit who can view your Likes categories.

3. Your Friends List

By default, your Facebook friends list is public. This can be a privacy risk, as too often, internet trolls go after the people around you to get to you. That’s why you should consider keeping your friends list more private.

To do this on desktop:
1. Go to Settings & Privacy, then select Settings.
2. Go to Privacy.
3. Select How People Find and Contact You and when you see the question, “Who can see your friends list,” you can choose between options like Specific Friends, Friends Except…, Custom, or Only Me.

To do this on mobile:
1. Go to Settings & Privacy, then select Settings.
2. Go to Privacy Settings under Privacy.
3. Go to How People Find and Contact You and when you see the question, “Who can see your friends list,” you can choose between options like Specific Friends, Friends Except…, Custom or Only Me.

4. Your Search Engine Privacy Setting

Too often, hackers are able to find public profiles that have been indexed by search engines like Google. To limit how search engines like Google show your profile page, follow these steps:

On desktop:
1. Go to Settings & Privacy, select Settings, then Privacy.
2. Scroll down to the section of How People Find And Contact You.
3. There will be a question that asks, “Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile?” Select No.

On mobile:
1. Go to Settings & Privacy, then select Settings.
2. Under Privacy, go to Privacy Settings.
3. There will be a question that asks, “Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile?” You can toggle between a bar that is gray and means No, or you can click the bar and turn it blue which means Yes.

You will remain searchable within Facebook itself if you select “No,” though. As Facebook notes in its privacy checkup feature, “If you turn this off, your profile can still be found on Facebook if people search for your name.”

Conduct a deeper dive into your Facebook privacy settings.

Conduct a privacy checkup if it's been a while since you've looked at your Facebook settings.

Conduct a privacy checkup if it’s been a while since you’ve looked at your Facebook settings.

If these small steps have inspired you to take a longer look at your Facebook settings, use Facebook’s “Privacy Checkup” feature to learn more about your current privacy settings.

Going through the checkup will show you who can see what you share, who can look you up by your phone number and email address, whether you want Facebook to be able to recognize you in photos and videos, and more.

To find the privacy checkup on desktop:
1. Go to Settings & Privacy.
2. Select Privacy Checkup.

To conduct a checkup via mobile:
1. Go to Settings & Privacy.
2. Select Privacy Shortcuts, then click Review a few important privacy settings to be directed to the Privacy Checkup page.





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