Your New Year's Eve debauchery may be a blur right now, but your friends' Facebook posts and photos will probably refresh your memory. The social networking site overhauled its privacy settings a few weeks ago, and many users unwittingly opened their profiles to the public. But you can keep compromising details under wraps.
1. Control what is public
When Facebook updated its privacy settings, users were prompted to review their new defaults and approve them. Many breezed past the prompt, releasing things that were once protected - such as their photos and the About Me section on their profiles - to the masses.
"A lot of people may not realize their status updates may be public and they may not want them to be," says Ben Parr, co-editor of the social media site Mashable.
To review your current defaults, go to Settings> Privacy Settings. From there you can build up a digital fortress where you can restrict access to various parts of your profile.
Your Friends list is now public by default, but if you want to hide it from the wider world, go to your profile page and click on the pencil icon in the corner of the Friends box, then uncheck the option to "Show Friend List to everyone."
Your Facebook questions answered
Still unsure how to keep the office gossip from creeping your Facebook profile? Nick O'Neill, creator of allfacebook.com, knows all the ins and outs of the social network and takes your questions Tuesday live at 2 p.m. ET
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2. Maintain friends lists
"The smartest thing you can do about managing Facebook, and still use it the way you want to use it, is to set up Friends lists," says Sarah Browne, who runs the social media blog Guru of New.
Go to Friends>All Friends>Create New List and set up one for family, one for colleagues and one for friends as a start, Ms. Browne suggests. From there, you can set which content can be viewed by members of each list. That way, you can put a professional face forward for your boss, but still share less-professional wall posts with friends.
3. Protect your photos
If you're nervous that a snapshot of your droopy eyes and wine-stained lips may surface on a friend's album with a photo tag identifying you, be pro-active and stop the embarrassment before it happens. Go to Settings> Privacy Settings> Profile Information and change the settings for "Photos and Videos of Me" to "Customize" and then "Only Me."
If you want to put the lockdown on your own albums (no need for your ex to see that album of you and your new partner on vacation in Monaco) go to Photos> My Photos> Album Privacy to select who can see each of your albums. You can always allow access to certain Friends lists and then restrict others, and even block individuals.
Publication is a self-invasion of privacy. -Marshall McLuhan
4. Read the fine print on apps
Facebook tells you that "Uncle Tim could really use some help fertilizing crops in Farmville." You toss him a bone. You've been sucked in by Farmville (and dozens of other applications) - but are you aware that you're farming out some of your information?
"The third-party apps ... know that they can go in and take away anything," Ms. Browne warns.
Instead of blindly clicking "Accept" to add applications that tell you which Sex and the City character you are, or give you the ammo to win at Mafia Wars , read the fine print on what information you'll be releasing to developers and weigh whether it's worth the tradeoff, she says.
5. Say bye for good
You've installed Alcatraz-level security settings to your Facebook page. Still leery about using the service? You can always delete your account.
While Facebook's help section doesn't give you a straight answer on how to commit Facebook suicide, you can do the deed by visiting this URL.
After you choose to delete your account, Facebook will hold on to your information for 30 days in case you reconsider, and then purge it.
But, as Mr. Parr warns, don't think anything can actually be gone forever in the digital age.
"The first thing you have to remember is that [your information]can in one way or another become public," he says. "My golden rule with the Web is don't post anything you wouldn't want your mother to see."
*And don't do this: Rant about your job in a status update - it will somehow get back to your boss.Report Typo/Error