Facebook Privacy: Don’t Hover Over My Name, Do This Instead

UPDATE (September 6, 2012): Unbelievably — and yet, very believable — this hoax has made a comeback. It’s been a year since the first time I wrote about it. Now, it’s returned in a somewhat altered form:

To all my contacts, friends, I request you that with the recent changes in FB, now one can see things from people who are not in your contacts list. Just because a contact of yours makes a comment or “likes” in some activity of that person. I do not want people to contact me, and would like that they donot read and see all my comments and stuff. But I can not change this myself because facebook has configured it this way. But you can do it for me.

PLEASE place your mouse over my name above (do not click), a window will appear and move the mouse on “Friends” (also without clicking), then down to “Settings”, click here and a list will appear. Click “Comments and Like” and it would thereby remove the CHECK. By doing this my activity amongst my friends and my family does not become public. A Thousand Thanks! Paste this on your wall for your contacts, if you care about your privacy!!!

Nothing has changed here. Read below…

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to kill a Facebook hoax. Maybe too much time. Approaching obsessive amount of time.

By now, you’re familiar with the copy and paste status update:

I would like to keep my FB private except to those I am friends with. So if you all would do the following, I’d appreciate it. With the new FB timeline on its way this week for EVERYONE. . . please do both of us a favor: Hover over my name above. In a few seconds you’ll see a box that says “Subscribed”. Hover over that, then go to “Comments and Likes” and games, unclick them. That will stop my posts and yours to me from showing up on the side bar for everyone to see, but most importantly it limits hackers from invading our profiles. If you repost this I will do the same for you. You’ll know I’ve acknowledged you because if you tell me that you’ve done it I’ll “like” it.

Thanks to readers like you, the hoax finally appears to be dying. It only took four months, but the volume of results when you search Facebook for public updates with the phrase Hover over my name is greatly diminishing [EDIT: ONE YEAR LATER, IT’S BACK!].

I’ve written posts like this one to do my part to help kill the hoax, but it does nothing to solve the source of the problem. People are worried about their Facebook privacy. Yes, this is incredibly ironic since many of the people who “would like to keep FB private” post publicly, but that’s besides the point.

The purpose of this post is to address the concerns that motivated so many people to copy and paste that hoax in the first place. While hovering over a friend’s name and unchecking comments and likes does nothing to preserve your privacy, let’s go through the steps that actually will.

I would like to keep my FB private except to those I am friends with…

Simple request. You want to keep your Facebook activities private, viewable only to your Friends. Let’s go over how you can keep all types of content viewable only to this group.

You can certainly adjust your settings to be more or less private, but the purpose of this post is to satisfy the motivation of the hoax: Keeping content viewable only to Friends.

Your Status Updates, Shared Links and Shared Videos

Whenever you’re about to share a piece of content, check the little privacy icon and select Friends. Just be conscious of it. Make checking that option a part of your Facebook posting routine.

Facebook Status Update Privacy

Selecting the intended audience for an update on Facebook is easy!

That icon won’t always appear when using third party apps to post content. So you’ll also want to go to your Privacy Settings and set your Default Privacy to Friends.

Facebook Privacy Settings

Remember how complicated the Facebook Privacy Settings page once was? Not anymore.

Your Photos

On your Timeline, click on Photos. For each album you have created, set the privacy to Friends. Your cover photo is always public, so just make sure that’s something that won’t embarrass you down the line. The photos in your Mobile Uploads and Wall Photos albums can all be edited individually. So you’ll need to go into those albums and check that each one is set to Friends.

Content Shared by Others that Tag You (photos and other updates)

People get confused by this one regularly. Let’s say that every photo you share goes into an album viewable only by Friends. So how is it that some photos are viewable by other people?

It’s because of Tags. When a friend of yours tags you in a photo, that photo will be viewable by two groups: 1) The group determined by the friend who shared the photo, and 2) The group determined by you for photos you’re tagged in.

But this doesn’t make sense! I only want my photos to be shared with my friends!

Let’s think about the problem with that when it comes to tags. It’s your friend’s photo. Let’s say they tag five different people. That’s five different groups of friends. By saying that photos of you can only be viewed by your friends, that would mean that that same photo would not be viewable by the friends of the person who shared it or the friends of the other people who were tagged. That’s silly.

But it is indeed complicated. Go to Privacy Settings and click Edit Settings for How Tags Work. You can control the following things:

Timeline Review of posts friends tag you in before they go on your Timeline (note: tags may still appear elsewhere on Facebook)
If you disable this, people can tag you in photos or status updates, and those items will automatically go to your Timeline. If you enable it, you will be allowed to review it first. Of course, those posts will still exist in the timeline of the friend who created the content. Just not yours until you approve it.

Tag Review of tags friends want to add to your posts
Maybe someone wants to tag a friend in a photo you shared. Before it’s official, you can choose to review it first. By default, it’s set to Disabled.

Maximum Timeline Visibility of posts you’re tagged in once they’re on your Timeline
If someone does tag you in a photo, who can see it? You’ll want to set this to Friends.

Tag Suggestions when friends upload photos that look like you
When someone shares a photo, there is recognition software that will make tagging suggestions. Do you want your name to be suggested if the software thinks a photo is of you? You can have this set to Friends only, or you can turn it off entirely.

Friends Can Check You Into Places using the mobile Places app
This one comes down to how much you trust your friends. Do you think they’ll check you in to embarrassing places? You may want to keep this disabled.

Even if you take care of all of this, it doesn’t hurt to go into all of the Photos of You below your albums. If there are any photos that worry you, you should just click “Remove” next to “On Your Timeline.” The photo will still exist on the Timeline of the friend who shared it, but it won’t be directly associated with you on yours.

Posts by Others on Your Wall/Timeline

After tags, this may be the second biggest source of Facebook privacy confusion. You will often see conversations between a friend and someone you don’t know in your Ticker. Why? Because the person you didn’t know posted on the wall of the friend you do know. So when your friend replied, you saw that response.

Now that’s out of the way, there are two things you can control.

First, you can limit who can actually post on your Timeline/wall (Facebook has phased out calling it a “wall,” so for now on I’ll just call it your Timeline). Go to Privacy Settings and then click Edit Settings for How You Connect. By “Who can post on your Timeline?” select Friends.

Second, you can limit who can see posts by others on your Timeline. Again under How You Connect, you can adjust the setting for “Who can see posts by others on your Timeline?” Set it to Friends.

Profile Info

If you click on Update Info from your Timeline, you can edit the audience for all of the following info.

  • Work and Education
  • Where You’ve Lived
  • Family
  • About You
  • Birthday, Interested In, Relationship Status, Languages, Religion and Political Views
  • Contact Info (Email addresses, Phone Numbers, IM Screen Names, Address and Website)
  • Favorite Quotation

Just select Friends for each one. You should see an icon next to each item. If not, there is an edit button that will lead you there.

As always, you can limit the audience even more with lists as necessary.

Application Activity

Within Privacy Settings, click Edit Settings by Apps and Websites. By Apps You Use, click the Edit Settings button. This is everything. It’s probably a lot. Feel free to delete anything you no longer use. But you can set the audience for anything you do (think Spotify). Just make sure to set that to Friends.

Once you set your default privacy settings to Friends, you won’t have to do that going forward. But you should double check any old apps.

Page Likes, Favorites and Interests

Want to control who sees the stuff you like? I’m not talking about the posts you like, but the pages and interests that appear on your Timeline.

Click on Update Info from your Timeline and then select Likes. Then click Edit on the right. Here, you’ll get a list of all of the stuff you like, broken down into the following categories:

  • Music
  • Books
  • Movies
  • Television
  • Games
  • Athletes
  • Sports Teams
  • Activities
  • Interests
  • Inspirational People
  • Other Pages You Like

You’ll be able to set privacy for each group to Friends. Don’t forget the last one, Other Pages You Like!

Your Friends List

After editing who can see your Likes, go select Friends in the drop-down. Then click the Edit button. From there, select Friends.

Past Posts

You’ve almost taken care of all of it. But there may be some old stuff still lingering. So go to Privacy Settings and then Manage Past Post Visibility for Limit the Audience for Past Posts. Facebook gives you a couple of warnings before you set this. And to be honest, I’ve never gotten through the final step because I don’t want to go that far. It puts a universal setting on all old posts.

I don’t personally want to do that. But you do. So set it to Friends.

Your Comments and Likes on Content

There is not a setting that controls who sees your comments and likes on other people’s content. Think about it. When you write a status update, maybe five different people with five different groups of friends comment on it. Would it make sense if a friend read your status update and could only read the comments of their own friends? There would be no context to the conversation.

So forget controlling this. It is outside of your control. The person who controls who sees the comments and likes on a piece of content is the person who shared that piece of content.

Oh, no! I can never comment on or like something again!

Not really. Just know that you can’t control that audience. If your friend shares something publicly, your associated comments and likes on that post will also be shared publicly. But even if your friend initially shares it only with their friends (which, of course, aren’t necessarily your friends), they can change it to public down the road.

In other words, comment or like content shared by others as if you are doing so publicly. Don’t say anything you’ll regret. Who sees that is completely outside of your own control.

Something else to remember is commenting or liking a post from a business page is always public. Let go of this. Understand that the page itself is public, so anyone can go to that page and see your comments and likes. If you aren’t embarrassed by this, you shouldn’t be embarrassed when it shows up in your friends’ tickers. If you are embarrassed by it, then you should probably assess whether it’s a comment worth making.

Be Even More Private

Of course, you can limit your audience in each case even more. I personally have a lot of Facebook friends I don’t know that well. In that case, you’ll need to use lists. Maybe you want only your closest friends to view your content. If you fill your Close Friends list, you could select it in any of the places you have otherwise chosen Friends.

For more info on creating and using lists, read this post.

You’ve Done It!

You’ve taken your Facebook privacy into your own hands. You didn’t have to hover over anyone’s name or copy and paste a bogus status update. You just followed my instructions and set everything to Friends. And you’re being careful about any comments you make on posts of others.

As a result, the only people who can see your content are Friends. So, let’s revisit…

I would like to keep my FB private except to those I am friends with…


Want to help keep Facebook a fun place? Share this post. Educate your friends. Prevent the spread of hoaxes!

Also Read:

Facebook Privacy Services

Would you like my help setting up your Facebook privacy?

For $95, I can provide you a one-hour session to make sure that you are sharing with the people you want to be sharing. I’ll conduct a screen share to step you through everything that you need to know.

Just fill out the form to the right and we can get started!

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