Go Invisible: How to protect your privacy on Facebook

There have been a lot of news reports and discussions surrounding Facebook’s privacy policies. Of course, if you are worried about web privacy, canceling your Facebook account is an option, but since many other sites have joined the Facebook Connect network and are utilizing the site’s tools, you will need a Facebook account to be able to use these sites in the future. Plus, not everyone wants to give up their ability to connect with long lost high school buddies or share their latest baby pics with family and friends.

So what to do?

Fortunately, those that have pushed back at Facebook in the past on privacy issues have forced Facebook to provide tools to make you as stealthy as you’d like to be on the site without being completely invisible to those on your ‘friends’ list.

Here’s a guide for making yourself very close to invisible:

While logged into Facebook:

  1. Select the ‘Account’ tab at the top right corner of the screen
  2. Select ‘Privacy Settings’
  3. In the ‘Connecting on Facebook’ section, select ‘View Settings’ – amend these settings to whatever your comfort level is. If you are not interested in letting new people find you on Facebook, then you should change all these settings to ‘Friends Only’. Know that you will not show up in Facebook searches and no one new can add you as a friend.
  4. Be sure that you have chosen the ‘Friends Only’ settings in the ‘Sharing on Facebook’ section – click ‘Apply’
  5. Select ‘Customize Settings’
  6. Be sure that all the drop-downs are ‘Friends Only’
  7. Disable the option for ‘Include me in “People Here Now” after I check in
  8. Select ‘Edit album privacy’ and change all the settings to your meet your comfort level. You can customize them to even be invisible or visible to certain people by selecting the ‘customize’ option
  9. Back on the main privacy settings page, ‘Choose Your Privacy Settings’, select ‘edit your settings’ in the ‘Apps and Websites’ section in the bottom left corner of the screen
  10. Edit the settings for each of the options (on the ‘Instant Personalization’ page, disable the option to see information)

Many of the options listed above are explained in detail by Facebook. However, their goal is to make their site very accessible for both their users and the advertisers that pay to get your information through applications and widgets so they encourage you to share all information by making the defaults very liberal. By limiting the information that Facebook is eager to provide to other users, the search engines and advertisers, you are gaining greater control over who sees your private data. For a regular everyday user that just wants to connect with family and friends, taking these steps returns Facebook much closer to its original purpose.