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Using Friend Lists for Facebook Privacy

To achieve a more granular level of privacy on Facebook, you can create Custom Friend Lists and use them in your privacy settings

Facebook Security Logo - Source: allfacebook.comIn my previous post, I walked you through setting up your Facebook application security settings to prevent apps from taking your personal information, using it how ever they wanted, and even impersonating you on Facebook. Properly configured application setting will help prevent leaking your personal information behind the scenes, and properly configured Facebook profile security settings helps prevent it from being leaked to the public at large. But sometimes, there are certain things that certain people should not be allowed to see. Maybe you have some co-workers on your friend list, and you like to complain about work in your status updates; maybe you have a creepy ex and don’t want him/her or any of their friends to see any pictures of your new love interest; maybe you have an estranged family member you don’t wish to talk to any more, but not adding them as a friend would bring nothing but turmoil to family gatherings. There’s a way to segregate out those people and limit which services they have access to. It’s called Friend Lists.

Setting up a Friend Lists

Account > Edit Friends

First thing you need to do is get on the Edit Friends page by clicking on the Account menu in the top-right corner of the Facebook site, and then on Edit Friends.

Once there, on the left-hand side you may notice a list of menu items: Friends, Phonebook, Find Friends, Invite Friends. Right in the middle of that list is where your Friends Lists will appear…like the one for the-spot.net in this image.

When we’re all done setting them up, you could have a list similar to my actual Friends Lists in the image below. I’ve segregated all of my friends into various lists describing where I first met them or my relationship to me. I have avoided putting people in more than 1 list. If they are in more than one list, and you restrict one of those lists, the results of the restrictions could behave unexpectedly.

Creating a Friend List

In the middle of the page, you’ll find a list of all your friends (probably defaulted to “Recently Interacted”). Just above it you’ll find a drop-down menu to filter the friends based on certain criteria (all, by city, recently interacted, and lists). There’s also a dynamic filter search box – as you start typing a name in it, your friends list is automatically reduced to the names that fit what you’ve typed. Above those is the Create List button.

  1. Click the “+ Create a List” button.
  2. Type a name in the Enter a name box.
  3. Start selecting friends. Each one you click will turn blue. You can also type a name in the box to do a quick filter to find a particular friend.
  4. Click Create List.

In my example, I’ve created a list called “Fans of tsn.”

Do this for as many different types of segregation you want amongst your groups of friends. If you’ve forgotten someone while searching through your lengthy friends list, you can hover over them and click the Edit Lists button, and then add them right there (as in the image below). You will also be able to add people to your lists when you’re responding to or requesting Friend Invitations.

Using Friend Lists as Privacy Settings

Once you’re done and you’ve got your lists, let’s put them to work on your privacy. Go to your Account > Privacy Settings page, and then click on the Customize Settings link below the Sharing on Facebook section.

On the Customize Settings page you’re presented with drop-down menus for the features list that we set to Friends Only when we configured your Facebook Profile Privacy Settings, as well as some things that others share related to you, and your contact information.

To make use of your new Lists, click the drop-down menu for the feature, and choose Customize. We’ll do Status Updates and Posts, for example.

This will give you a popup window with two options:

  1. Who, in the world, should this be visible to…
  2. Within that group of people, who should not be able to see it.

You might also see something like the image below, asking you about your Networks as well…

That goes back to the original intention of privacy. We only want our friends, not people who live in the same town, or go to the same school…leave them unchecked.

In the blocking area, you can use the Lists you’ve made, or individual friends from your global friends list…just start typing the name of the list or friend, and choose from the dynamic drop-down.

One example for this type of setup would be “Friends Only” can see my status updates, unless they are also on my CoWorkers List. Another would be “Friends Only”, except for your ex, Blake Smith.

Do this for all the ones you wish to hide from certain people. If you find yourself blocking the same group in every single feature, you might as well unfriend everyone in that group, and if they ask about it, and let the chips fall where they may. Most people won’t bring it back up, or even notice, unless they are constantly checking your profile – which is creepy anyway.

When you’re done, your feature menu will look something like this:

You can also use these lists to edit your Photo Albums’ Privacy as well, by clicking the Edit Album Privacy for existing photos link at the bottom of the page…

Once there, you’ll see a list of all your photo albums, and a similar drop-down menu as the features. Just click on it, choose Customize, and change the visibility settings.

Completed Configuration Example

Below is my entire configuration on my personal account. I have a Work list with all my coworkers on it, and I have blocked them from seeing anything that I post on Facebook as a status update. They have access to things like these blog posts through Facebook Pages I’ve created for my instructional websites. But my personal updates and thoughts are only broadcast to my friends. If the time comes that I change jobs, I’ll swap all of my coworkers out to my DFW (new skool) list and put my new coworkers into the list. If I start having problems with some people not currently blocked, I just create a new list and block them…but that hasn’t happened to me personally.

 

Conclusion of Facebook Friend Lists

Now that you’ve learned how to segment your friend lists into groups, and assign those groups permissions or restrictions, there shouldn’t be a time when you think to yourself “man I wish I could block that person from seeing stuff about me, without unfriending them.” Keep in mind, though, the reality of the internet: nothing is private. There’s nothing to stop the one person who is blocked from going over to a mutual friends’ house and still seeing what was previously blocked from them. If you find yourself posting something that would beĀ devastatingĀ for them to see, you probably shouldn’t post it online. If you think you have mutual friends or connections to any of the blocked person’s friends/family members, then you should either block them all, unfriend them, or just not post the material online.

In my case, I have blocked my coworkers and non-friends from easily seeing my updates on Facebook, but those same updates are available elsewhere online. The reason the coworkers are blocked is less about the content and more about the frequency and that I don’t sit on Facebook all day, but rather I syndicate my updates from Twitter. If they found the updates, it wouldn’t be that big a deal for them to read; it’s more of an image thing.

If you’re posting things online that could hurt your image (photos with red SOLO cups, alcoholic beverages, profanity, obscene language, bitching & moaning about individuals), and want to hide that, you probably shouldn’t post it online, due to the content. But if you’re posting photos of your family or things, and are trying to block people to avoid harassment, that is an acceptable use.

The next post I’ll cover how to tell if some Facebook application or link or post is a scam or phishing attack, what those phrases mean, and how to protect yourself.

By [[Neo]]

I am a web programmer, system integrator, and photographer. I have been writing code since high school, when I had only a TI-83 calculator. I enjoy getting different systems to talk to each other, coming up with ways to mimic human processes using technology, and explaining how complicated things work.

Of my many blogs, this one is purely about the technology projects, ideas, and solutions that I have come across in my internet travels. It's also the place for technical updates related to my other sites that are part of The-Spot.Network.

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