How to Create a Facebook Account with Maximum Privacy

facebook-logoA member asks…

My mom wants to finally get onto Facebook, but she wants to keep her account as private and anonymous as possible. What should she do?

Your mom wants to do something that many other people want to do — see other facebook accounts and use facebook in a very limited fashion – with maximum privacy and control over who can see anything of hers. Not an unreasonable request in these days of identity theft and casual over-sharing. Unfortunately, facebook’s settings are buried pretty well. It’s not easy for folks to figure out on their own how to set things up for maximum privacy. When anyone creates a facebook account, the standard defaults are to make darn near everything public – that’s really what social networking is geared towards. Read on for a way to setup your facebook account so you have as much privacy as Mark Zuckerberg will allow you. The key is to go through all the account settings, especially these sections:

  • facebookgeneralGeneral
  • Security
  • Privacy
  • Timeline & Tagging
  • Notifications
  • Followers
  • Apps
  • Ads

facebooksignupFirst, you’ll want to create your facebook account at www.facebook.com. You will have to give a valid email address, your name, and your birthdate. You can choose to make the 2nd and 3rd items fictitious if you want, nobody’s going to question you, unless you choose a birthdate that would make you under 13 years old (so don’t). You’ll need to create a password for your account and also tell facebook if you are female or male.

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Of course, none of this information is verified, except for your email address. Facebook will send you a verification email, and you’ll have to click on a link in that email in order to activate your facebook account. Then you can log in using your email address and password. From that point forward, facebook will work very hard to get you to give more information about yourself, but look for a little link or button to skip each query – you don’t need to fill out any of that, nor provide a picture of yourself.

From time to time, facebook will remind you, inviting you to complete your profile. If you value your privacy you should resist this every time you’re asked (and you’ll be asked a lot).

facebookgeariconOnce you get to the normal facebook screen, you’ll want to start setting up your account for maximum privacy. Start by looking at the top-right of your web browser window for a gear icon (see the red arrow in this picture). Click that and choose ‘Account Settings’ from the drop-down list. That will take you to a page where you can adjust various settings to maximize your privacy.

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On the left-side is a menu of various settings. You’ll want to click on each one in turn and go through the options and make some choices:

  1. In the general options, the two sections to look at are Username and Email.
    • Under Username, you’ll want to create a username that you can use to login with, and that will be visible to your friends (along with an email address that facebook assigns you – [example]@facebook.com). Once you set your username you can’t change it, so choose wisely. Be sure to type in your password and then click the blue Save Changes button before moving on.
    • Under Email, you’ll want to uncheck the checkbox (by clicking on it to remove the checkmark) to not allow your friends to include your email address if they choose to download your information.
  2. facebookgeneralIn the Security options, read through each description for every setting and choose the setting that will give you the most privacy and security. For instance:
    • turn on secure browsing and choose one or both login notifications (email and/or text message)
    • Pay attention to the Trusted Browsers section, you’ll want to revisit that on a regular basis and check to make sure you and the computer(s) you use are the only items on the list.
  3. In the Privacy options, also read through each description for every setting and make your choice. Here’s some good choices for maximum privacy:
    • Who can see my stuff? Choose Friends, Friends except acquaintances, or Close Friends, and limit your past posts
    • Who can contact me? Choose Friends of Friends (you can’t get less than that), and keep it on Basic Filtering
    • Who can look me up? Choose Friends and don’t let search engines link to your timeline (uncheck the checkbox)
  4. In the Timeline & Tagging options, maximize your privacy:
    •  Let your friends post on your timeline, but enable your ability to review and stop your friends from ‘tagging’ you in other posts
    • Limit what your friends can see on your timeline to Friends except acquaintances or Close Friends in both of the option areas
    • Manage tags and tagging suggestions by enabling your review of tagging suggestions, keep the audience for those tags to just yourself, and don’t let anyone see any tag suggestions
  5. You’ll want to revisit the Blocking section later on if anyone gets added to your friends list and you don’t want their friends to be included.
  6. For Notifications, you’ll want to be notified of most activity on facebook – this will be really useful to help you know if and how your privacy is being compromised.
  7. For Follower Settings, don’t let anyone follow you (leave the checkbox unchecked), only let friends comment on your posts, and don’t link your profile to Twitter.
  8. Make sure your Apps list is and remains empty
  9. Change settings for Ads so both options are set to ‘No one’

anonymousWhew! once that’s all set, you should have a generic facebook account that contains very little information about yourself, and you have maximum privacy and security – at least as much as facebook will allow. Now you can start to invite Friends, just type in someone’s name in the search box at the top of the window and find people you know in real life that you want to ‘facebook’ with. Be careful, with a billion facebook users, there are a lot of people with the same name as your real-life friend!

Lastly, you’ll want to revisit those account settings and re-check them periodically. Facebook likes to make new settings and setting categories, change the terms of privacy and sharing, and make other changes to your account that can open your facebook account up to the world without you even realizing it. You will be notified by email, but you might not recognize what a new setting means to your privacy. Feel free to add to the comments of this article with a question about a facebook setting and we’ll research it for you and give you advice – good for all members!

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