How to Make Facebook Private in 6 Steps

Table of Contents

  • Overview of Facebook Privacy
  • Access the Privacy Checkup Tool
  • Step 1: Limit Post Visibility
  • Step 2: Hide Friend List
  • Step 3: Hide Friend Requests
  • Step 4: Limit Contact Information Visibility
  • Step 5: Check Public Profile View
  • Step 6: Confirm Privacy Settings
  • Additional Privacy Considerations
  • Facebook Privacy FAQs

Facebook contains extensive personal information on over 2.9 billion active users. However, increasing data leaks and privacy violations have many questioning how secure their information is.

In a 2021 consumer survey, 93% of US Facebook users expressed concern around privacy of personal data. The stakes can be high – in 2018 a data breach exposed information on over 50 million accounts.

Fortunately, Facebook offers robust privacy configuration options. By leveraging settings like post audience selectors, friend list visibility, profile viewing, and more, you can dramatically limit visibility into your profile and activity.

In this guide, we will walk through how to lock down your Facebook privacy in 6 easy steps with the built-in Privacy Checkup tool.

Overview of Facebook Privacy Settings

Facebook‘s business model relies on collecting expansive personal data for ad targeting and analytics. Information Facebook may store includes:

  • Bio information like age, location, job role
  • All posts and photos you upload
  • Every comment or reaction you make
  • Relationship details, family connections
  • Facial recognition data from photos
  • Message and conversation history
  • Device, browser, and location tracking

With so much sensitive information stored, no wonder users grow concerned around potential misuse. Frequently cited worries include:

  • Embarrassing photos appearing publicly without consent
  • Online stalkers accessing private data like family details
  • Financial fraud via exposed bank account information
  • Reputational damage from controversial posts or comments
  • Real-world harassment with access to addresses and numbers

Fortunately, Facebook provides users control with expansive privacy settings configurations.

Facebook privacy settings options

Settings cover visibility over all types of profile data like posts, connections, contact info, activity status, and more. Adjusting these configurations limits visibility from suspicious or malicious users into your personal information and online activity.

In the following sections, we will cover step-by-step how to leverage Facebook‘s Privacy Checkup tool to apply recommended privacy best practices suitable for most users.

Access the Facebook Privacy Checkup Tool

The easiest way to manage key privacy configurations is via Facebook‘s built-in Privacy Checkup tool. This dedicated utility organizes all settings into five key categories:

Facebook privacy checkup categories

Here is what you can restrict under each section:

  • Who can see my posts? – Post visibility settings
  • How can people find/contact me? – Friend requests, contact info
  • How secure is my account? – Login notifications
  • Data settings? – App permissions
  • Ad preferences – Data used for ads

For optimal privacy, we will focus on the first two categories covering post visibility, connections, contact information and more.

To access the Privacy Checkup tool:

  1. Click your profile icon then Settings & Privacy:

    Settings Privacy Link

  2. Under Privacy Shortcuts, select Privacy Checkup:

    Privacy Checkup Link

Now we‘re ready to step through each section to restrict account visibility and access.

Step 1: Limit Post Visibility

One of the first things you likely want to restrict is who can view the posts you share. Without any restrictions, posts default to fully public visibility exposing personal photos, opinions, and more to anyone on the internet.

Instead, you can limit post visibility exclusively to vetted friends. This ensures only trusted connections can view regular post activity rather than random internet users you haven‘t approved.

To limit post visibility:

  1. Under Who can see my posts? select Continue.

  2. Next to Who can see your future posts? click Edit:

    Edit Future Posts Link

  3. Choose privacy of Friends to restrict to approved connections only:

    Friends Post Visibility

  4. Repeat to set Past posts visibility as needed.

With posts now limited, you‘ve eliminated public sharing of personal information to unknown parties.

For additional granularity, when making individual posts you can further customize visibility on a per-post basis from broader account-level defaults.

Step 2: Hide Friend List from Public View

While restricting post visibility limits what you actively share publicly, other account data like your list of friends may still have public visibility by default.

Viewing your connections can help attackers or suspicious users in a few ways:

  • Craft specialized phishing attacks by impersonating friends
  • Harvest additional targets by traversing friends of friends
  • Build credibility by claiming "mutual connections"

Cut off this avenue of exploitation by hiding your friend list completely from public view or search visibility.

To hide your friend list:

  1. Continuing under Who can see my posts? locate the Your Friends section.

  2. Next to Who can see your friends list? select Edit.

  3. Choose Only Me:

    Hide Friend List

Now your connections are completely invisible to all other Facebook users, eliminating an easy source of targeting data.

Step 3: Hide Friend Requests

Another opportunistic attack vector malicious users attempt is sending unsolicited Friend Requests directly. Even if you never confirm them, the pending requests themselves may indicate targets of potential interest.

You can cut off even this surface visibility by disabling friend requests entirely from people not already connected:

To hide friend requests:

  1. Choose How people can find/contact me then Continue.

  2. Under Who can send you friend requests? select Friends of Friends:

    Limit Friend Requests

Now only users shared connections can send requests for enhanced screening.

Step 4: Limit Contact Information Visibility

Beyond social connections and posts, other profile information like phone numbers, email addresses, and physical locations facilitate real-world harassment or doxing threats if publicly accessible.

Malicious parties frequently piece together available information to enable offline attacks via SWATting, pizza delivery harassment, sign-up spam, and worse. Eliminate these vectors by hiding contact details like:

  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Home/Work locations
  • Birthdates
  • Relationships

To hide contact information:

  1. From main options choose How people can find/contact me.

  2. Under Your Contact Info click Edit for entries like phone number and email.

  3. Select Only Me visibility:

    Limit Contact Info Visibility

With contact information locked down, users with ill intent lose key data points for targeted abuse.

Step 5: Check Public Profile Views

After tightening account privacy configurations, confirm what public visibility remains via Facebook‘s View As tool. This utility shows exactly what unconnected users see if they search for or encounter your profile.

Any personal details still visible to anonymous public viewers represent potential vulnerabilities for abuse. Our goal is to minimize public visibility completely across all facets of private data.

To validate public visibility:

  1. From your profile, select the More menu:

    More Profile Menu

  2. Choose View As to preview public visibility:

    View As public

  3. The public view will open – ideally this shows only public details with posts, friends, and contact info now hidden after previous privacy steps.

If any private data shows here still, return to Privacy Checkup and tighten restrictions further.

Here is an example showing drastically reduced visibility after privacy changes:

Public VisibilityBeforeAfterChange
Profile PictureVisibleVisibleUnchanged
Cover PhotoVisibleHiddenRestricted
PostsAll VisibleHiddenRestricted
Friends ListVisibleHiddenRestricted
Contact InformationAll VisibleHiddenRestricted

Step 6: Confirm Updated Privacy Settings

Finally, one last best practice check to confirm privacy settings stick is by logging completely out of Facebook and attempting to search for your profile anonymously.

If configured properly, searches on your name and identifiers should return limited to no public results now, indicating working elevated privacy controls.

With checks validating successful restrictions on post visibility, connections data, contact details, and public information, you‘ve effectively implemented all best practice advice from privacy experts!

Additional Privacy Considerations

Beyond changes in the Privacy Checkup flow covered above, a few additional privacy configurations to consider:

Profile Visibility: Facebook doesn‘t allow fully hiding your profile, but a common technique is using an anonymous profile picture and cover photo to avoid confirming identity. Simply upload a solid color background or landscape image.

Limit Past Posts: Any old posts still public? Follow steps above to restrict previous post visibility to only friends rather than global.

Ad Tracking: Opt-out of personalized ads serving to eliminate some ad profile data gathering under Ad Preferences.

Activity Status: Prevent friends from trackingtimes you are online/offline by toggling this under How people can find you.

Two-Factor Authentication: Add an extra account login step by enabling two-factor authentication with SMS or authenticator apps.

Logged In Notifications: Receive alerts when your account logs in from new devices to detect suspicious access.

Facebook Privacy Settings FAQs

Here are answers to frequently asked questions around securing Facebook profile privacy:

Can I completely hide my profile or cover images?

Unfortunately no. You cannot leave these images fully blank or remove them. A common technique is to upload generic images like landscapes to avoid confirming your identity with personal photos.

If I restrict old posts, do existing friends still see them?

Yes. Friend visibility of old posts persists regardless of any subsequent privacy level changes on previous content. Only limiting visibility moving forward impacts new connections seeing past posts.

Can someone react/comment on posts only visible to certain friend lists?

No. If you limit a post to a subset Custom Friend List, non-members cannot interact with that post at all. This allows siloing information safely across friend groups.

What‘s the difference between Search and Public Visibility?

Disabling public search indexing only impacts findability on Facebook search and Google. But your profile and content could still be visible if encountered directly. Full privacy requires disabling all public visibility under View As.

Is all my data truly private from Facebook themselves?

Unfortunately no. Facebook‘s business model inherently requires mining user data for advertising and analytics regardless of inter-user privacy configurations. Fully controlling all data sharing with Facebook itself requires deleting the account.

Final Thoughts

Maintaining privacy on a platform with over 2.9 billion users presents challenges. However, with Facebook‘s robust privacy tools like customizable post audiences, hidden friend lists, activity status toggles, and profile validation views you can lock down account visibility significantly.

Restricting access to personal information and activity using the steps outlined in this guide will help limit unvetted users and malicious actors exploiting or misusing your online presence.

While Facebook ultimately controls policy decisions and metadata around internal analytics, individual users still have agency to determine what the public internet can access. So be proactive in limiting available targeting information using these Facebook privacy best practices today.

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