How to Update Your Facebook Privacy Settings

Protect Privacy for Searches and Apps

For each app to which you've granted access to your profile, you may be able to limit the information it can gather if that data isn't required by the app itself.
For each app to which you've granted access to your profile, you may be able to limit the information it can gather if that data isn't required by the app itself.
Stephanie Crawford for HowStuffWorks

Regardless of any other privacy settings, Facebook makes your name, profile picture, gender and Facebook networks available for searching by all users except those you've blocked. Facebook also makes some additional information searchable by everyone, such as your current city, hometown, education and work.

You can customize who can use this additional information to find you. To do this, click "view settings" under "connecting on Facebook" in your privacy settings. Then, use the drop-down lists by each item to change whether "friends only" or "friends of friends" can use this instead of the default group, "everyone." Facebook immediately saves and applies any changes you make here.

Note that these settings only affect the way your information is used for searches, and you can still hide all the same information from people just browsing your profile. For example, suppose you restrict your hometown information to Friends only, yet you still allow people to search for you by hometown. In that case, you could show up in search results for people who share your hometown. However, a user who clicks your name in those search results will still only see the parts of your profile you've shared to the public.

So far, we've looked at privacy between users in Facebook. Privacy extends beyond users, though, to Facebook apps, search engines and other Web sites. You can adjust your default settings for these from your privacy settings page by clicking the "edit your settings" link under "apps and Web sites."

For Facebook apps, you already know that you're responsible for anything that happens between you and the app. To control your privacy settings for apps, use the "edit settings" button next to the list of apps you use. On the "apps you use" page, you can manage the complete list of apps you've granted access to. There, you can remove apps altogether, or you can edit the settings for each individual app to remove any access the app doesn't require to function.

In addition to restricting apps themselves, you can also control app-related information. In the "apps and Web sites" privacy settings, you can select what information from your account is available to your Friends when you're both using an app. You can also limit who can see what apps you're using and when.

For Web sites, you can use the two options at the bottom of the "apps and Web sites" privacy settings page to toggle whether third party Web sites can interact with your Facebook profile. The first option is "instant personalization," a Facebook innovation that uses your profile to customize your experience when you access partner sites like Pandora and Yelp. This is enabled by default. As of this writing, you can enable or disable this option for all partner sites, but you cannot select from individual partners.

The other Web site privacy option lets you enable or disable whether search engines like Google or Bing can show a preview of your Facebook profile as part of their search results. This is also enabled by default. As indicated in the text for this option, a search engine may cache search results for some time, causing anything you initially shared publicly to be accessible while that cache is active, even if you restrict access to it in Facebook later.

In this article, we've toured the privacy settings in Facebook and looked at some often overlooked options that put you in control of your personal information. Sneak over to the next page for even more information on Facebook privacy.

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More Great Links


  • Facebook. "Controlling How You Share." (July 18, 2011)
  • Facebook. "Help Center, Friends: New Friends Page." (July 11, 2011)
  • Facebook. "Help Center, Privacy: Blocking people." (July 11, 2011)
  • Facebook. "Instant Personalization." (July 18, 2011)
  • Facebook. "Privacy Policy." Dec. 22, 2010. (July 18, 2011)
  • Hooper, Simon. "Expert: Social networkers risk 'losing control' of privacy." Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Feb. 18, 2009. (July 18, 2011)
  • Soghoian, Chris. "Exclusive: The next Facebook privacy scandal." CNET News. CBS Interactive. Jan. 23, 2008. (July 18, 2011)