Categories: Privacy & Security

Facebook privacy tips: How to share without oversharing

Looking for password tips? Check out the Guide to Safer Logins.

Behind the fun of social media, every network offers some privacy management options that you, as a participant, should check out and adjust to meet your expectations. At a minimum, we recommend reviewing your privacy settings whenever a site or app is updated, as default settings may change and new privacy options can be introduced when a new version is released.

We’ve put together some recommendations for three popular social networks, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Each platform is different, in terms of the privacy settings offered and the level of privacy you’ll prefer. Our recommendations will skew toward greater privacy, but feel free to make selections to suit your personal preferences.

First, let’s jump into Facebook, where you’ll find an assortment of settings at your fingertips that relate to your visibility, third party connections and advertising messages. Login to your account on a computer to get started.

Check your General Account Settings

general-account-settings

  1. Do you feel good about your Password or is it time for an update? (Note to self: read this post about better password security and update my password.)
  2. Click the link at the bottom of your Account page to Download a copy of your Facebook data, which gives you a full archive of everything you’ve ever posted, ads you’ve clicked, messages you’ve sent, events you’ve attended and much more that you’ve done in the history of your time on Facebook. Keep in mind, this record exists for everyone, so that time when you were talking trash or confessing a secret crush over Facebook Messenger, those messages still exist in the recipient’s archive as well as your own. Message wisely.
I'd probably eat my beets if Helen Mirren told me to.

True story, I clicked that link, not realizing it was an ad, and here it is in my Facebook data smirking at me. TBH, I’d probably eat my beets if Dame Helen told me to.

Check your Privacy Settings

Take a look through the settings and select what you feel the most comfortable with.

privacy-settings

  1. Who can see my stuff? Friends
    You can also set visibility for each post as you make it. By using Friend Lists, you can fine-tune and customize the audience that sees your posts. (Which means I can make a post visible only to friends who are into vampire romance fiction without weirding out my work buddies. For example.)
  2. Review all your posts and things you’re tagged in allows you to remove tags others have added about you.
  3. Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public? This setting lets you quickly change any old public posts to be more private. It’s going to take three clicks to make it so: 1. Click the Limit Past Posts. 2. Then click the Limit Old Posts button. 3. Click Confirm.
  4. Who can look me up? Friends
  5. Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile? No

Check your Timeline and Tagging Settings

This section has some juicy settings you can adjust.

timeline-and-tagging-settings

  1. Who can post on your Timeline? Only me is a more conservative setting that prevents others from posting anything to your wall. (Admittedly, this can be annoying when I want to post a red panda trying its hardest to a friend’s wall, but hey, I respect their choice to control their online environment.)
  2. Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your Timeline? On
  3. If you’ve ever had someone tag you in a photo or post that you wish didn’t include you, here’s how to prevent it from happening again. Turn this setting on so you’re in control of the tagging. (If your friend didn’t have the good sense not to post that picture of you at Anthrocon, at least you can remove the tag yourself.)
  4. Who can see posts you’ve been tagged in on your Timeline? Friends
  5. Who can see what others post on your Timeline? Only me or Friends
  6. Review tags people add to your own posts? On
  7. When you’re tagged in a post, who do you want to add to the audience if they aren’t already in it? Only me means people outside of your mutual friends won’t see the tagged content.
  8. Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded? No One. Facebook says it “helps save time.” I say it’s creepy. No thanks.

Check your App Settings

If you’ve been on Facebook for a while, you might not realize how many apps you’ve connected to your account over the years. Make sure you click through all options on this screen, because this will be like a trip to the back of your closet — keep digging. You may be surprised by what’s been collecting dust — and your data — back here.

fb-app-settings

I don’t even know how to explain this, but suffice it to say, I’ve cleaned up my app situation after taking this screenshot.

Check your Facebook Ad Settings

fb-ad-settings

    1. Can you see online interest-based ads from Facebook?
      By selecting Yes, you agree to let advertisers tailor ads “based on your use of websites and apps that use Facebook’s technologies.” This is known as behavioral retargeting, which in this case basically means what you do off of Facebook (like visit a leather lingerie site or search for airfare to Seoul in 2018) can be tracked and used as advertising opportunities on Facebook. On the plus side, you’re getting relevant ads. (I know, I know, I feel gross even writing that.) On the negative side, you’re being tracked all over the web. Yuck. What’s more, Facebook says: “If you turn off online interest-based ads you’ll still see the same number of ads, but they may be less relevant to you. You may also see ads based on things you do on Facebook.”
    2. Can your Facebook ad preferences be used to show you ads on apps and websites off of the Facebook Companies?
      When you click Yes, you’re letting Facebook use the data it has gathered about you to target ads to you throughout its “Audience Network” elsewhere on the internet and in other apps. Clicking No won’t eliminate the ads, it will just change the kinds of ads you see.
    3. Who can see your social actions paired with ads? No one
      If you select Friends here, advertisers will be able to target your friends with ads based on your likes and shares. And since you won’t see the ads, you won’t know that you’re appearing to endorse advertisers unless your friends mention it:social-action-ad
    4. Check your Facebook Ad Preferences. Here’s where you’ll see how your likes and clicks add up to the ad profile Facebook has created about you. Brace yourself, some of this might look strange. See something you’d like to remove? Simply X it out.

      Dogs? Scuba? Driving? Accidents? I don't even know what to make of this.

      Dogs? Scuba? Driving? Accidents? I don’t even know what to make of this.

Facebook has also produced a Facebook guide to their ad system that you might find enlightening.

So there you have it, a deep dive into your Facebook privacy settings. Now let’s look at Twitter and Instagram privacy options.

86 comments on “Facebook privacy tips: How to share without oversharing”

  1. Marshal wrote on

    How crazy it is that there is no share this post links. Any privacy concerns??

    1. M.J. Kelly wrote on

      Hey Marshal, buttons are added now. Share away.

      1. Astrid Julian wrote on

        Thanks. I shared. Great tips.

    2. Charly Svizzero wrote on

      copy and post the url if you want to share it

    3. henry briggs wrote on

      it is private…

    4. Ernest Campwell wrote on

      This is not a proper guide to FB security.

      The best FB security is to not use FB.
      Disable all FB activity. Download uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger. It’s about more than tracking and cookies: FB is using user data to produce new products that are not good for humanity.

      Turn off Facebook. Find other ways of making connections. Research what the company has done.

  2. Diana wrote on

    Awesome information! Thank you!

  3. julie pearson wrote on

    I want to edit and control suggestions for groups that pop up on the side

    1. nurez wrote on

      niceeeeeee

    2. Sally G wrote on

      FB Purity

  4. Basefook wrote on

    I had no idea I needed that limiting software to share anything with limited people …

    1. Nagarjun wrote on

      basefook – facebook 🙂

  5. Robeto wrote on

    Unfortunately we have all made comments innocently which we may regret but in America you have no right to be forgotten, and privacy laws as in EU which is extremely important, but under Donnie Arse Trumpet I doubt human beings would have any rights, so until you have the right to remove any wayward message which you would wish to be forgotten, remove your human errors in judgement it seems fruitless to relive your stupidity. If such is the case on Facebook then how do you do you remove the messages?, posts, and very human mistakes you have made?

  6. Sam wrote on

    Fantastic THANKS!!!

  7. LovePrivacyLikeYourGirlfriend wrote on

    Nice to see that you recommend such strict settings, the best is to leave facebook alltogether. Remember, we are the product, not the customer. They farm, and we are the seeds.

    1. DAVE wrote on

      yes won’t even join facebook

      1. Carlos wrote on

        yeah, right – one of the Internet pioneers since early ARPA/Mosaic days (on the user side, not a developer/techie) I really enjoyed the feel of being connected to, and to share ideas with, like-minded people around the world. But then came commerce and discovered people as a source. I never had a fakebook account nor one in twitter or thelike, and I never will. Just too sad

  8. karmine wrote on

    The owner of FACEBOOK needs to be taken to Court . This C.E.O., HAS VIOLATE our 1st. amendment rights on information to private person too person contact. We have a right to remove all information on our Facebook page fore ever. Speaking about people with others on Facebook with your own private friends is your private right. I’ll remove myself from face book forever, as of 02/2017. H, Clinton is in hell for doing business on/off Facebook,” wonder?

    1. Basefook wrote on

      -Mark Zuckerberg reconsiders suing Native Hawaiians over their ancestral land.(rt)
      Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said he is “reconsidering” a series of lawsuits against Hawaiians to force them to sell small parcels of ancestral land scattered throughout his vast Kauai estate. Last December, Zuckerberg started ‘quiet title’ lawsuits against a few hundred Hawaiians who own stakes in parcels of land inside 700 acres of beachfront land he purchased on Kauai’s North Shore three years ago. Zuckerberg’s suits targeted families who collectively inherited 14 parcels of land through the Kuleana Act. The law, which came into force in 1850, gives native people the right to own the land they lived on.

      Apart from the obvious analogy, Palestina, the illegal occupation by settlers, the zionist ethnic cleansing agenda, let it sink in for a while… ‘force to sell’
      Think again, it will empower.

    2. Sally G wrote on

      http://www.europe-v-facebook.org/EN/en.html
      and
      http://marketingland.com/facebook-ireland-data-protection-lawsuit-94430 (for everyone outside the U.S.A. and Canada).

  9. TC wrote on

    Oversharing starts with being forced to use your real name on FB… which is why I don’t do FB. In my 25 yrs on the internet, they were the first to force that, and others have followed suit. I do not go anywhere on the internet I have to put my real name in. It’s absdolutely stupid, and falls under poor internet practices.

  10. Mark Adams wrote on

    Great article. Doing this now! But how do I NOT see posts from friends of friends or Pages my friends (family) like or comment on?

  11. Steph F. wrote on

    WOW! This is a great blog. I thought I had as much of my privacy controls kept private on FB until reading this. Loved finding out about editing the Facebook Ad Preferences. Thank you for the heads up.

  12. DAVID LEE wrote on

    mozilla has been very informative but don’t understand everything

  13. Paul wrote on

    This is more and more important every day. Asia is going fast to fascism. Governments here are looking for more and more ways to find people posting online as that is the place for resistance to start . Thailand is jailing people for clicking like on FB posts and more. If you are a person who likes to live int he real world and criticize the government or social institutions that abuse, in Thailand you will feel afraid. Many forums here delete users posts for comments they fear could give them a problem with the royals or the junta in charge. Just using words like coup or junta were getting posts deleted on one site I used. Prior to the coup d’etat and when the military dictator was taking over posters on many Thai forums were trying to argue the other side of the story but the website mods would delete accounts constantly which ended up empowering the fascists even more. Now after years of dictatorship, many of those who didn’t take a stance for democracy in the beginning of this are seeing the light about the oppression of the fascists online, etc. We still have to hide names and faces if we criticize things. The fascism supporters will attack your posts and still hunt down people who don’t follow the junta or the Thai royal cult’s ways.

  14. Parviz wrote on

    Very good
    Thank’s alot.

  15. Parviz wrote on

    خیلی خوب ممنون

  16. nazma perveen wrote on

    good Awesome information!

  17. Peter Hawthorn wrote on

    This is a great article . How can I be removed from facebook when they will only allow you to shut down for a few months. I want OUT of facebook. I cannot do that it seems Remove my account !!!!

    1. Tricia wrote on

      https://www.facebook.com/help/delete_account

  18. David Maxwell wrote on

    Marvellous. But my screen doesn’t look anything like the screenshots of FB. And I have no idea how to find these various pages upon which to check or edit my settings.

    1. M.J. Kelly wrote on

      If you login to Facebook, then click on the subheads — Check your General Account Settings, Check your Privacy Settings, etc. above, you’ll jump straight to those sections within Facebook. Hope that helps! ~mjk

  19. Diana wrote on

    Hugely helpful. Thx.

  20. gugs wrote on

    The 1st letters of fbi are FB.

    1. Robert wrote on

      haha, The FaceBook Eye

    2. A wrote on

      Wow. That never crossed my mind before. Thanks mate

  21. Karin wrote on

    Another item that may be necessary to keep in mind for users: If you get a friend request from a “newbie” and you are not sure then go to their timeline before you accept and look at how many posts have been sent, dates, and the number and names of friends. I got zapped by two people who were scam artists before I learned this thing. Neither of them had more than 6 posts and all within the past month, plus 5 friends all women. Turned out to be jerks, both of them. Thank goodness I found out before they took me in.

    1. M.J. Kelly wrote on

      Good words to the wise (and idea for a future post!)

  22. Tim O Nelson wrote on

    Thank you, Mozilla, for providing this information. I’ve never had an account with any of the social media sites that you are referring to, but I appreciate what you’re doing for people’s awareness.
    1984

  23. Peter Halpern wrote on

    I dumped Facebook. They are so embedded with NSA now… as is Google and Twitter. I just said I’m out.
    Social Media is not what it used to be.
    Going back to IRC 🙂

    1. Chris wrote on

      What is IRC?

      1. M.J. Kelly wrote on

        Internet Relay Chat, which is basically a networked chat system: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Relay_Chat

  24. Fusun Olgac wrote on

    I think every things is ok..

  25. Samira wrote on

    خیلی خوب بود ممنون

    1. M.J. Kelly wrote on

      على الرحب و السعة

  26. Shinmen Musashi wrote on

    Very usefull

  27. Vadiraj M K wrote on

    Great article. Most of us don’t really pay attention to details and just start using Facebook and such. Thanks for the article.

  28. Gary wrote on

    Grateful thanks.

  29. Andrew Mclaren wrote on

    Thank you will re- tune my Facebook account asp.

  30. G.A.E wrote on

    Thankssssss

  31. Bridget wrote on

    Excellent information. Not into social media, however did have a Facebook account briefly (closed group) for resident association purposes only. Got hacked, endless bother with different issues, therefore got rid of it. Happy days!

  32. Sviatlana wrote on

    This interesting information! Thank you!

  33. Elf wrote on

    Thanks.
    I have been laughed at for not trusting/wanting to use facebook when the majority of people do – but I have always been suspicious of it so I have so far avoided it!
    BTW is Google+ similar to this also? I don’t think you can delete any history there either – which is really frustrating coz who wants to see miles of boring history! And yes, if you do make a mistake, you definitely should be able to correct it and delete the incorrect info!

  34. thehoiman wrote on

    Simples. Just post stuff which is at odds with Facebook’s leftist agenda. Mr. Zuckerberg, et al. will brand you “Fake News” and go to great lenghts to ensure no-one ever sees it, or anything else you post from that point onwards.

  35. ssalem wrote on

    Great Article

  36. Vincent DiCarlo wrote on

    This is a real service to people who want to stay on Facebook and understand the options that are available. However, after seeing a presentation on what can still be found out about you from what your FB Friends have posted by searching on your account number even though you have not shared the information yourself, I have terminated my Facebook account altogether. For example, you might be unpleasantly surprised to learn that it is often easy to learn, say, the mother’s maiden name of a user who has done everything possible to lock down his account. Since this is commonly, though unwisely, used as a security question, it makes a person think about how dangerous Facebook really is, in spite of what settings you choose.

    1. M.J. Kelly wrote on

      Vincent, I hope you’ll check out our Guide to Safer Logins, which does offer strategies for those security questions: https://blog.mozilla.org/internetcitizen/2017/01/25/better-password-security/

  37. Sugata Chattopadhyay wrote on

    Thanks for your highly informative article … great effort to awaken people, maintaining privacy online/on social media ….

  38. JoAnn Pochciol wrote on

    Hi, I play farmville thru facebook. Is there any was to delete farmville activity all at once instead of each one at a time? Thanks, JoAnn

  39. George Jennings wrote on

    This is really great and very pertinent information. It is greatly appreciated!

  40. Cedric wrote on

    Well done Mozilla !

  41. ajit singh wrote on

    i like it

  42. ajit singh wrote on

    sure why not every one has the right to know what is going on in the world .

  43. Glenda Jasper wrote on

    Absolutely very helpful thank you for addressing these issues Now I feel I have addressed my personal references on Facebook 100%

  44. Baba wrote on

    Nice!

  45. Robin H wrote on

    Thanks heaps MJ. It’s good to be prompted to do a privacy and security review occasionally. Much appreciated.

    1. M.J. Kelly wrote on

      You’re most welcome! Thanks for commenting.

  46. John wrote on

    When I logon to Facebook (via Foxfire) I don’t see any reference to “settings”. When I search the term “settings”, I can connect to lots of descriptions, but no layout as you suggested.
    I think I keep my use of Facebook to a very bare minimum, because I can’t figure out how the privacy features work; they are so complicated as to be worthless.
    Sincerely,

    1. M.J. Kelly wrote on

      Once you are logged into Facebook, click on the subheads in the post — Check your General Account Settings, Check your Privacy Settings, etc. above, — and you’ll jump straight to those sections within Facebook. Here’s the settings link to get you started: https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=account Hope that helps! ~mjk

  47. Maurice wrote on

    I understand that there are ways to get an Facebook account anonymously, by using a VPN and a paid E-mail address. However I suspect, that by now Facebook must have an index of VPN addresses and paid E-mail sites. Is there any way to get on Facebook anonymously?

  48. Orlando wrote on

    Sad every moment…This is the nature of business scamming…social media users are feeding the companies and…companies are nurturing their wealth as long as this vicious tactic endures forever.

  49. Dai wrote on

    Thanks for this. I always said that “F” book was needlessly difficult to understand, making it dangerous. This will help.

  50. Javad Nazeri wrote on

    عالی بود
    Very Nice…

  51. Gwendolyn Brown-White wrote on

    How can i cancel my face book account and protect my pics and info where it is not available to anyone? I’m done with social media. It was a great idea for easily connecting with people but too many sinister issues for example unknown people using friends name to ask to friend them again. just to find out its a scam. I’m going back to the old fashioned way of communicating with my friends and unfortunately i will have to loose the benefit of reconnecting with people I’ve lost contact with over the years. I have a fairly busy daily routine and don’t have time to read and follow up on all of these new things I have to do to keep my info safe. too much! so please advise. thank you!

  52. Norman Gallant wrote on

    Interesting

  53. Michele wrote on

    Thank you for this article. Very helpful, and something I wish we had had from the start of using FB and other social media. Social media seems it is here to stay, and I believe it is important to make informed choices about how each of us will interact. When the sports team or hobby group want to communicate quickly with parents and group members, there is some value for sure. Most of us just try to figure out the privacy settings on our own, with varying success. I have been invited to speak with a group of parents on raising teens in the age of social media and video games. I will be sharing this link. Thanks again.

  54. Libanos Desta wrote on

    that is great!

  55. Garth Wilson wrote on

    Thanks M.J.,
    I have been through all of it and your information was excellent.

  56. Janice Briggs wrote on

    Sorry, but I want most of my posts to be public. Why not share what you think might be important for others: political, economic, etc. posts? This is such narrow thinking. I am surprised that Mozilla proposes this.

  57. laxman wrote on

    good

  58. Sammy wrote on

    Now its time to change the password of Facebook for me 🙂
    Great information on privacy.Kudos!

  59. Fred wrote on

    This information should be required reading for any social media signup. shame it’s come to it, I’ve gotten to the point to never use my own name on anything that’s on the ‘net.

  60. Aman Raj wrote on

    Thanks you for giving information about privicy.

  61. madniteowl2 wrote on

    I call it SpyBook!! Going back to letter writing. IRC

  62. MyCity Social wrote on

    Thanks for this post, it is a very useful reference for keeping up to date with Facebook privacy tips.

  63. Interesting Animals wrote on

    Thank you very much for the useful tips.