How to Change Your Facebook Privacy Settings

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In recent years, the number of social media platforms has increased quite a bit. However, Facebook remains one of the most popular websites since its debut in 2006. It nearly has 3 billion users worldwide at the time of writing, and its already massive user base is still growing.

That said, Facebook has been under the radar for its privacy issues numerous times since the Cambridge Analytica data scandal in 2018, in which the data of over 87 million users was harvested without their consent. Given how much personal information Facebook collects, no one should give the social network free access to their data.

In fact, most other social media platforms also collect user information for pushing personalized advertisements, but it’s only Facebook that has suffered from several security breaches. Considering your data can be misused by others for phishing, hacking assaults, and even identity theft, it’s crucial for you to change your Facebook privacy settings immediately or delete your account completely.

In this guide, we will walk you through some of the essential Facebook privacy settings you should change to minimize your digital footprint.

Update your Facebook privacy settings

If you are a daily Facebook user, consider updating your current privacy settings on the platform. We recommend going through them yourself, but those who haven’t done it before should check out the crucial privacy settings below.

First things first: Check your off-Facebook activity

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Many apps, games, and websites allow users to log in with Facebook. However, they also collect and share user activity with the social media service, including location, health info, purchases, and more. Such information is then tied to your Facebook profile, which then ends up in the hands of third-party advertisers.

If you wish to learn more about your shared off-Facebook activity information, follow the below steps.

  1. First, click this direct link to go to your off-Facebook activity list (you must be logged in).
  2. Next, choose any app from the list and check out the interactions.
  3. Now scroll down and click the Download Activity Details option. It will lead you to the “Download your information” page.
  4. On the following page, select All of my data for “Date range” and HTML for “Format,” and click Create File.
  5. Depending on the “Media quality” you choose, the process might take several minutes to finish. Facebook will notify you once the file is ready to download.
  6. Once downloaded, unzip the file and open the ads_and_businesses folder.
  7. You can now open the “Your Off-Facebook Activity” document file to check which apps and websites have interacted with Facebook and what data it has shared.

If you think Facebook is harvesting too much of your personal information, go to this link and click Clear history. After that, go to Manage your off-Facebook activity > Manage Future Activity and disable the Future off-facebook activity option.

Unfortunately, all it does is disconnect future activity from your profile and make the information Facebook already has on you non-personally identifiable.

Turn off location history

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If you are uncomfortable with sharing your location with Facebook, perform the following steps:

  1. Open a new tab in your browser and visit facebook.com/settings.
  2. Click the Location tab on the left pane. The “Location settings” page will appear.
  3. Click the Edit link next to “Location history” and turn it Off from the drop-down box.

This is how you disable location history on Facebook. To delete your existing location history, select the View Location History option on the same page, click the three-dot icon on the top-right corner, and then click Delete All Location History.

If you are on your phone, go to the Facebook app’s Settings & Privacy > Privacy Shortcuts > Manage your location settings menu to wipe your location history and disable the feature.

Disable face recognition

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Face recognition on Facebook has been around for a while. When enabled, it goes through your uploaded photos and videos to create your facial template and improve tag suggestions. Luckily, you can opt-out of the service by following these steps:

  1. Head over to facebook.com/settings from your web browser.
  2. Select Face recognition in the sidebar, then click Edit next to the Face recognition option.
  3. Click the drop-down box that appears below the option, and select No.

If you use Facebook on your mobile device, go to Settings & Privacy > Privacy Shortcuts > Control face recognition and disable the option.

Disable contact uploads

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The Facebook mobile app can upload your contacts to suggest you new friends to add on the social media platform. Although the option isn’t turned on by default, many people unintentionally enable it when prompted.

To stop Facebook from seeing your contacts, go to Settings and Privacy > Settings > Media and contacts and toggle off the slider next to the Continuous contacts upload option.

Review ad preferences

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“Ad preferences” is one of the most important privacy settings sections on the platform, as it allows you to manage data that Facebook uses to serve you personalized ads. Simply visit this link and go to the Ad settings menu to review your ad preferences.

From the “Ad preferences” page, you can also manage ad topics and block certain advertisers. Plus, you will get the option to disable personalized advertisements on Facebook. Note that your changes will also apply to Facebook’s other services, including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.

Revoke permissions for apps and websites

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Facebook lets users sign in to supported apps, games, and websites with their accounts. Chances are you also have done it several times before. If you wish to manage the apps, games, and other services connected to Facebook, use these steps:

  1. First, go to facebook.com/settings, scroll down the left sidebar, and select Apps and websites.
  2. Under the “Active” tab, you will see a list of apps, games, and websites that you are signed in to via Facebook. Click on any of them to check and manage the data Facebook is sharing with it.
  3. If you don’t want a specific app, game, or website to access your personal information, check the box next to it and hit Remove.

For those on their phones, go to Settings & Privacy > Settings in the Facebook app, scroll down to the “Security” section, and select Apps and websites to manage permissions.

Remove your FB profile from search engine results

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If you use Facebook only to keep in touch with your family, friends, and colleagues, there’s no point for your FB profile to be searchable on the web. To stop it from appearing on Google, Bing, or other search engine results, do this:

  1. First, go to facebook.com/settings and click the Privacy tab.
  2. Next, scroll down to the “How people can find and contact you” section in the Privacy menu.
  3. Click Edit next to the “Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your Profile” question.
  4. Uncheck the box next to the “Allow search engines outside of Facebook to link to your Profile” option.

If you also don’t want someone to search you up on Facebook by your phone number or email address, click Edit next to the following options and choose Only me from the drop-down box.

Deactivate your Facebook account

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If you don’t want to use Facebook today, but you plan to get back to it later eventually, consider deactivating your account. It temporarily removes your FB profile and your uploaded media, but your data will remain stored on Facebook’s servers.

Once you deactivate, your information on Facebook won’t be publicly visible, and connected apps won’t further receive personalized data. You can restore everything after reactivating your account later down the road. Fortunately, the process is pretty straightforward.

  1. Open a new tab in your web browser and visit facebook.com/settings.
  2. Go to the Your Facebook Information tab, then select Deactivation and deletion.
  3. On the following page, select Deactivate account and click the “Continue to Account Deactivation” button.
  4. Finally, enter your account password and hit Deactivate.

It’s worth mentioning that you can choose to keep using Messenger even after deactivating your Facebook account.

When you wish to get back access to your profile, simply log in with your credentials and go through the on-screen prompts to reactivate your account. Your posts, uploaded media, status, and connected apps will be restored upon reactivation.

Permanently delete your Facebook account

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If you are fed up with Facebook and dead set on leaving the platform, you can delete your account in just a matter of a few steps. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Go to facebook.com/settings and select Your Facebook Information in the left pane.
  2. Next, select Deactivation and deletion on the following page.
  3. After that, choose the Delete account option and click Continue to account deletion.
  4. Confirm your Facebook account password and follow the on-screen prompts to finish the deletion process.

Unlike account deactivation, note that the account deletion on Facebook is irreversible, so you won’t be able to access your friends list, uploaded media, or chat messages on Messenger afterward. Should you change your mind, you can cancel the deletion process by signing back into your account within a month and clicking Cancel Deletion.

Before deleting your Facebook account, you can also go to facebook.com/dyi to download all of your data stored on the servers within a ZIP file, including the photos and videos you have posted over the years. Depending on how much media you have uploaded, it might take several minutes before you get a download link.

Wrapping up

The numerous data breaches and questionable behaviors have given Facebook its infamously poor privacy record. Despite the social media network making efforts to rectify its past mistakes and its supposed commitment to user privacy, its shady data harvesting and ad practices are yet to see an improvement.

This guide highlights some of Facebook’s privacy settings in detail, so privacy-concerned users like you should find it helpful. If you don’t want Facebook in your life anymore, you can also follow the step-by-step instructions above to deactivate and delete your Facebook account.

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