How Do I Make My Timeline Private? Facebook Privacy (Again)

Step by Step Guide to Facebook Security Settings

» Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Facebook, Marketing | 2 comments

How Do I Make My Timeline Private?  Facebook Privacy (Again)

Here we go again.  It’s always the most popular post, and it always generates the most questions: “How do I make my Facebook Timeline private?”  Here is a step by step guide to increasing your Facebook privacy – and some caveats about what you cannot hide.  (For some background on seamless sharing, see our earlier post on Facebook Privacy Changes .

What is Facebook’s new Timeline?

Let’s start with what the new Facebook Timeline is, and is not.   If you’ve been notified that your Facebook account has switched over, but nothing looks different when you check your newsfeed on your mobile, you just aren’t looking in the right place – log on to Facebook using your computer and switch to your profile view.  That’s where you’ll find your new Timeline – and where anyone looking for you on Facebook will find it, too.

The new Facebook Timeline exposes your life in ways that you may or may not like.  Its design point is to tell a complete story about you.  (More cynical people may believe that its design point is to organize your personal data in a way more accessible to marketers, but that’s a topic for a different post.)  Instead of having to look at elements of your profile information individually, your profile now displays as a linear progression of major events – marriage, followed by kids, followed by job change, for example.  In addition, it’s filled in with the minutiae of your status updates and comments on other people’s status updates as you posted them.  Finally, and this is a major change – it adds your activity from all of the apps that are integrated with Facebook.

How to Edit Your Timeline

To edit your Timeline, you simply click on your name at the top of your newsfeed to be taken to your profile page.  There you can view your Timeline.  At the top of the page, you will see your profile picture and your name, and on the right hand side, a menu bar offering three choices: Update Info, Activity Log, and a small gear symbol.

Keeping your Personal Data Private

First click on the Update Info button, which will take you to your personal data.  This is all of the information that you entered when you filled out your profile, and some that Facebook has extrapolated.  Each section offers the opportunity to edit.  When you click on Edit, you will see the small icon indicating who has access to the information (a world icon, or heads and shoulders.)  Hovering on this icon will expose a drop down list, and the opportunity to choose which group of people sees the information (Only Me, Friends, Friends of Friends, Friends except Acquaintances, or Public.)  You can also customize the viewing group by selecting Custom.

The “Work and Education” section can be hidden or made visible as a whole; other sections must be edited and made visible piece by piece.  For example, in the “Basic Info” section I may allow anyone to see my relationship status but keep my birthday private to all but my friends.  Go through each option one by one and set the visibility as desired.

Editing your Activity

When you have finished editing your basic profile information, click your name at the top of the screen to return to the previous menu and click on Activity Log.

The Activity Log lists all of your status updates, comments, and likes.  On the right hand side of the screen, you will see the visibility icons again, along with a small circle which is the “Allow on Timeline” icon.   Hovering over these icons will allow you to adjust the visibility settings and, optionally, hide certain activity from your Timeline.  Please note, however, that there is no way to keep comments private.   Your comment on someone else’s status is visible to the viewers of that status, and you hide them by deleting the comment.  Comments are tricky like that – it’s like the rules of email at work; if you wouldn’t want it forwarded, don’t say it in the first place.

Keeping Application Activity Private

In editing your Timeline you may notice that a number of new applications now post activity to your Timeline; including Pinterest (see our article on Pinterest) Washington Post Social Reader, and games.  This is where it becomes very difficult to hide your activity.  While you can edit each item after it is posted, preventing it from posting in the first place is more or less difficult depending upon the application.  For example, the Washington Post Social Reader application does not allow you to refuse to share your Facebook info.  (You can refuse, but that aborts the app.)  You can prevent articles you read from showing up by clicking “Unread” at the bottom of the article on a piece by piece basis.  Alternatively, you can edit settings for the apps under Privacy Settings (you will find this under the small drop down menu, next to home in the upper right hand corner of the screen) and then Apps and Games.  Edit this screen to see the list of apps and games you are using, and to edit the privacy settings on each one appropriately.  This will also give you the opportunity to remove any apps that do not allow you enough privacy, or that you were not aware were accessing your personal data.

As with many things, on application privacy the devil is in the details.  Choices for privacy settings will vary.  The detail of activity differs and the information shared on your Timeline differs depending upon the app.  Applications may be sharing with Facebook even when you are not accessing them through Facebook – for example, the common login with Pinterest means that when you are on the Pinterest site, it may share a thumbnail of each item that you pin with your Facebook Timeline.

Check Your Settings

Facebook has provided a great feature to make sure you are comfortable with your settings.  Next to the Activity Log button is a small gear button, providing a dropdown menu.  Select “View As” and type in a friend’s name.  This allows you to see what your Timeline looks like to that friend, so you can check your work and make sure that you’ve displayed only what you want on your Timeline.

We’ll be back with more information on the implications of Facebook’s changes.  Whether you want to express yourself more fully or keep your online presence private, reviewing all of the settings carefully before the Timeline is published will ensure that you have confidence in the online persona you show to the world.

Spalding Barker Strategies is a on-line and social media consulting organization that helps companies meet their business goals using strategy and on-line tools.  To learn how Spalding Barker can help your organization contact us at or add your email to our list to learn more.

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  1. How can I make my life and comment activity private so when I like something or comment on a post it doesn’t show up in friends new feeds?

  2. I have figured out how to hide all of my past posts so that people who aren’t friends with me can’t see them, but what about new posts and pictures?? Do I have to go into my settings and click on the ‘hide past posts’ button after every time I post something!? Isn’t there an easier way to just leave everything private for all time?

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