Facebook is once again in hot water over privacy this week after a controversial psychological experiment which tinkered with users’ News Feeds - without ever telling the 700,000 “guinea pigs” it was happening.
After the experiment ignited uproar around the world, and several separate investigations began into the behaviour of the social network, Facebook’s privacy policies have been put under the spotlight.
The social media giant’s defence when the experiment came to light was that users had “agreed” to the experiment in the terms and conditions when they signed up.
It has highlighted the fact that nothing is ever truly private on Facebook. Thankfully, there are tools and tricks which can put you in charge of everything from posts from years ago, to posts added by other people.
[Outcry over Facebook 'experiment']
It’s also possible to delete an account entirely, making all the posts, tags and photos disappear forever. Below are some tips on how to wrestle back control of ANYTHING on Facebook.
Your friend’s embarrassing photo of you
If someone has posted a mortifying picture of you, there are steps you can take to limit who can see it. You can complain to Facebook (this guide explains how) if the photo is abusive - but even if it’s just a bad picture, you can ensure it doesn’t appear on your Timeline, or your friends’.
If the picture’s just been posted, mouse over it, then select the down arrow from the right of the image. Then select Report/Remove tags, then I Want to Untag myself. If it’s an older picture you’ve remembered, go to Activity Log (on your profile page, which you access by clicking your portrait in the top right of the main news feed), then go back through your posts to find it.
The thing you really wish you hadn’t said
If you’ve ever posted something you regretted, and wouldn’t want people to see in future, don’t assume it’s really gone - even if you previously hid it from your Timeline (the new-look profile).
Your Timeline isn’t a reliable indicator of what people can see if they search your name - and if you’ve hidden something, people can still find it via the search bar, for instance by searching your name, and an event or location. If you really want to backpedal, visit your Activity Log, and manually delete the post, or limit the people who can see it (described below).
The student pictures you shared
Contrary to popular belief, you CAN change the privacy settings of old Facebook pictures - and anyone who has a job and wants to keep it might be wise to have a look back.
Confusingly, Facebook’s new Graph Search function can find pictures that are hidden from your profile page, so if you hid posts in the past, they can still be visible. The ONLY way to take control of pictures and posts, is to visit Activity Log, and ensure they are shared with Friends Only or Only Me.
Anything that is shared with Friends of Friends is a privacy risk - you don’t know who your friends might be friends with. It’s well worth taking the time to ensure every picture and post is at a privacy level that suits you.
The crush you keep searching for
If there’s someone whose page you keep looking at, they won’t be alerted - but your profile will store information on who you’ve searched for. This is used to guess ikely searches as you type in Facebook’s search box - and can lead to a “predicted” search which might be embarrassing, for instance if you’ve looked up an old flame, and that name pops up every time you type the first letter of their name.
To delete this, go to your Profile Page, then select Activity Log (on the top left), then More, then Search. You’ll see a list of everything you’ve ever searched for on Facebook. To get rid of it, select the option to delete - and you can also block Facebook from remembering it in future.
The tag-happy friend
If you’ve got a friend who keeps tagging you in pictures, and you’re not comfortable with it, you have several options. You can easily block people, which means that any pictures they post won’t be visible to your friends. Choose the padlock symbol (top right of any Facebook page, then select How Do I Stop Someone Bothering Me, then choose Block). They will not be notified when you block them.
If you’re not comfortable doing that, you can take control by setitng your account so you get to approve pictures you have been tagged in. This is a less nuclear option - and also offers control over ANY posts you’ve been tagged in by anyone.
You’ll need to enable Tag Review - visit Settings, Timeline and Tagging, and pick the option saying Review Tags. Set it to Enabled.
How to delete yourself
Facebook’s main privacy menu offers an option to deactivate an account - but this isn’t the same as deleting it altogether. If you log in again, the account reactivates - and some interactions may still be visible. For a nuclear option, you CAN delete an account altogether.
To do so, sign in to Facebook, then visit this page on a PC. You’ll see a couple of warnings, then a deletion request is sent to Facebook.
You have two weeks to change your mind - if you log in again, the request will be cancelled. After that, your pictures, posts and profile will vanish from Facebook forever.