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It’s pretty common for users of Facebook and other social media companies to keep their default settings. But, it’s worth exploring what you can do to change those settings, especially when it comes to privacy and security. Facebook offers extensive and highly customizable privacy controls which, among other things, allow to you to determine who can see your posts, but almost any information stored on the service about you and your Facebook friends.

Making your friends list private

One useful setting allows you to limit who can see your friends list, which can help prevent others from cloning your profile to create an imposter account that can be used to scam your friends.

Facebook reporting and blocking menu

As Facebook says on a help page, “By default, the Friends section of your profile is public, meaning everyone can see it.”  You might be comfortable with that setting but it does pose some risks, including the possibility of someone cloning your account and attempting to “friend” your actual friends. Some of your more savvy friends might be suspicious about being friended by someone they are already friends with, but others might accept the friend request and then assume that any posts or messages from that account are from you. From there, the scammer can send spam or encourage your friends to like something, click on external links or receive private messages that could lead them to provide personal information or money to the scammers and their accomplices.

So, to prevent this from happening, you can click settings and then Privacy to change the setting to “Friends.” Those who want even more privacy can select a more restricted audience, including “only me.”  The reason she was comfortable selecting friends is that she’s careful to only friend people she knows or has a good reason to trust.

Who can see your posts

Controlling who can see your friends list is only one of many optional privacy settings. Others include who can see your future posts, the ability to limit the audience for old posts, who can send you friend requests (everyone, friends of friends or no one), who can look you up by email address or phone number, and whether outside search engines link to your profile. You can also control who can follow or comment on your public posts.

You can change the audience of any post by pulling down the right arrow in the box just under your name

The “who can see your public posts” setting can be changed on a post-by-post basis by selecting the audience option as you’re about to post. Because I use Facebook to promote my work, I often post publicly. But I do limit some posts to only friends or, in some cases, an even smaller audience.

Facebook lets you select the audience for each post either as you post or later if you change your mind. One word of warning, though. If you change your audience selection as you post, that selection will remain in effect until you change it again. So, if you normally post to only friends and then change to public for a post you want to share with the world, your subsequent posts will be public until you change it back again.


Also pay attention to the Account Security tab which covers how to change your password, get alerts about unrecognized logins and use two-factor authentication. Setting up two-factor authentication is especially important because it makes it much more difficult for hackers to break into your account. The most common way to do this is to be sent a text message with a one-time log-in code. It won’t bother you each time you log on, just if it’s a new device or browser. You can also download a free authentication app like Authy or Google Authenticator, which adds an extra layer of security by allowing you to use your smartphone or, in some cases, computer, to validate a log-in. Although no security tools are 100% hacker-proof, these methods greatly reduce the chances of someone breaking into your account. And don’t just do this for Facebook. Many services and sites, including Gmail and Twitter, support two-factor authentication.

It’s worth exploring Facebook’s Privacy and Safety portions of Facebook’s Help Center ( for additional advice including how to unfriend or block someone. There is also advice on how to “take a break from someone” who might not be abusive but is nonetheless annoying. You can also temporarily stop seeing someone’s posts for 30 days by clicking the 3 dot menu to the right of any of their posts and selecting “Snooze.”

Reporting and blocking

And, if you think a person has violated Facebook’s community standards, you can report any of their posts from that same menu. If you block, unfriend or snooze someone, they won’t be notified, and if you report them, they won’t be told who submitted the report. However, in some cases, the person might be able to figure it out.

Many of Facebook’s safety and privacy features are available in perhaps a different form on other social networks, so it’s a good idea to check the help sections of any service you use. has Guides and Quick-Guides ( to several services, especially those that are popular with youth.

Disclosure: Larry Magid is CEO of, which receives financial support from Facebook and other technology companies. He is also a member of Face{“type”:”block”,”srcClientIds”:[“04cff91e-f50a-453d-a756-6eef2b044bba”],”srcRootClientId”:””}book’s Safety Advisory Board.

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