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Facebook Privacy Settings for those who still want to use Facebook

Facebook Privacy Settings for those who still want to use Facebook

Only have five minutes? Read the highlights.

Facebook is an advertising platform that builds profiles about its users through their browsing history and sells them.

Google does the same with your search history and YouTube views. On the other hand, Facebook tracks you because a great number of web sites are littered with Facebook's tiny "Share / Like this" button. A user thinks the button is just there to make sharing easier, but it allows Facebook to keep a record every site the user has been on.

example of tracking button

Containerising Facebook

To limit this tracking, privacy-minded folk have purposely used separate incognito (private browsing) windows, or juggled multiple Mozilla Containers and Google Chrome Profiles to sandbox Facebook.

Recently, Mozilla has introduced a Facebook Container add-on for their Firefox browser. This does the same thing as the methods above, but is purpose-built for Facebook. It requires no effort on the user's behalf. So when a person goes to, Firefox will automatically containerise and limit Facebook's tracking abilities:

Not containerised:

Facebook not in a container

Containerised (note the blue underline and icon on the right):

Facebook tab in a Firefox Container

Use Mozilla Firefox and install the Facebook Container.

Facebook Settings

Hopefully you've changed these settings in the past, but now is a good time to review them again.

General & Legacy Contact

  # purposely not a link so you need to copy & paste. start using containers!

Our emphasis here is privacy, but since we're in the settings, take a moment to think what you want to happen to your Facebook data after your death. Do you want to put someone else in charge, or have your information deleted?

Facebook legacy contact settings

Security and login

Again, not completely privacy-oriented, but go over the "Setting up extra security" section. Get notified if your Facebook account is being accessed from unfamiliar devices, and choose some friends to vouch for you in case you are ever locked out.

Setting up extra security screenshot


Some of you will want to share more than others. Focus on "future posts" and the bottom three settings: email, phone number, search engines.

FB privacy settings

Do you want the person you bought a couch off Craigslist to be able to find your Facebook profile through your phone number? Then don't. And opt out of search engines linking to your profile unless you prefer to be stalkable.

Timeline (and Profile settings)

Review your timeline and profile. What will the public, or a work acquaintance, see?

Review your profile and timeline

Facebook now offers more control over who can see specific sections of your profile. Use this. And if you need to think about it, then set that information to "friends", or "only me".

Do you care that any one around the world (not your just your Facebook friends) can find out where you work?

Change who can see where you've worked

Or your birthday or political leanings?

Change who can see your basic info

Face Recognition

Facial recognition is without a doubt, convenient. But there are concerns when a single entity has access to over a billion faces. These faces are searchable, too. So take a photo of stranger's face and find out who they are, who they're in a relationship with, who their family is, and where they live.

That's the problem with face recognition these days. No one is anonymous anywhere anymore.

Opt out off Face Recognition and do your friends a favor and ask before you tag their faces.

Jim Halpert knew the horrors of face recognition and Bookface


There's been a lot of talk about Facebook's addictiveness. Help yourself and your inbox clutter by turning off unnecessary notifications. And keep Facebook off your phone. Whatever happens on Facebook can wait.

Only notify about account, security, and privacy

Third-party Apps

Lots of sites push you to sign in through Facebook or Google (aka "social sign-in"). It's easier because you don't need to create a new account, but this ties everything to one your one Facebook identity. Try to avoid it if you can, and review your apps to see what information you're sharing.

And if you're an app developer, please give users the option to sign up without Facebook.

Review your app settings

Facebook Ad Settings

Facebook recently rolled out a friendlier advertising settings page. There are multiple sections to check out, but the two you should focus on are "Your information" and "Ad settings".

FB advert preferences overview

Turn off everything under "Your info" and "Ad settings" by default.

If you prefer more targeted advertising, then experiment with leaving some settings on under "Your information". But again, I would advise you to say no to the three options under "Ad settings".

Switch off Facebook advertising settings

In this area, you can also tweak the advertising profile Facebook has accumulated for you. Your information > Your categories has the profile that was in the news a few years ago when people were being identified as African American and shown targeted advertising. Advertisers could also use this to exclude people.


Privacy is tiresome in the modern age. It requires us to find and tweak countless settings on Facebook / Google / Amazon services, and even that's not a guarantee our data won't being harvested.

There are more sophisticated ways of identifying ("fingerprinting") people by their IP address, computer configurations, and browsing habits. It is an arms race that requires us to vigilant with our data.

Whenever you sign up for a new service or install an app, ask if it needs your contacts, photos, or location. You get request spam from LinkedIn because someone decided to freely share their address book. So question how much you share. And will you be okay if it becomes public? Leaks happen.

Equifax exposed 143 million people last year. And in 2015, the US government lost 21.5 million employees' background check information. We simply cannot trust higher authorities to keep our information private and secure.

This is the price we all pay now in exchange for "free" conveniences in a highly connected world.

PS I highly recommend checking out the EFF's Surveillence Self-Defense guide. They also have more general post on protecting yourself on social networks.

tl;dr - what to do in 5 minutes

  1. Only visit Facebook using Mozilla Firefox with the Facebook Container add-on.

  2. Restrict your Facebook ad settings.

  3. Review third-party apps and what parts of your profile they receive (e.g. friend list, birthday).

  4. Turn off Face Recognition.

  5. Delete the Facebook app and Messenger from your phone. It's a distraction for most folks and FB was scraping your call and text data on Android phones.

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