Facebook Timeline Privacy: How To Take Control

Facebook Timeline Privacy can be a nightmare by exposing previously private information and making it public. Facebook’s new Timeline has the potential to expose status updates and wall posts from years ago. Below will be information on how to update your account to have better control of Facebook Timeline privacy. I’ve covered other ways to completely remove your data, giving you the ultimate Facebook Timeline privacy, but below we’ll cover the ways you can take some control over the existing content while increasing your Facebook Timeline privacy.

Facebook Timeline Privacy Faux Pas

One of the first things you need to understand is WHY people who understand Timelines implications are upset, so let’s take a look at what Facebook Timeline privacy faux pas they’ve introduced. There is a minimum of three things the new timeline automatically makes public to not just your friends but everyone on the Internet.

UPDATE: Check out my new article on how Facebook tracking will deepen with the release of Facebook Messenger !

  • Every public event listed on Facebook that you’ve ever RSVP’d to

 What we’re talking about here aren’t even public events like you might think of them. For instance, going to a concert is what I would consider a “public” event. A party with close friends, that just happened to be created as a public event does not. Facebook doesn’t make any distinction, so listed on your page will be EVERY event you’ve ever RSVP’d to, right under your name.

  • When you opened your Facebook account

Perhaps not as big a deal, in fact the earlier you were on board the more you might see it as a badge of honor. Still, Facebook Timeline privacy has changed in this regard making your signup time public.

  • Every time you started using an app within Facebook
Most every application, regardless of it being an on-site Facebook application like Cityville or Words with Friends, but also third party applications you might have authorized to access your Facebook account. In other words, if you’ve ever gone to a site and selected the easy “Login with Facebook”… ya, those can now just magically display on your Timeline.
Facebook Timeline Privacy

Facebook Timeline Privacy – delete Facebook content

The most complete solution is to simply remove all your old Facebook content. If you’ve been on the site for a long time, or are an active user this can be a mindbogglingly daunting task. However, with the use of Exfoliate you can automate the task to delete Facebook content. Exfolitate runs on Android and can take a LONG time to run, so if you’re interested doing a reboot and want to delete Facebook content then check out how to Remove Facebook content with an Android app running on your desktop.

Facebook Timeline Privacy – locking it down and regaining some control

 Control Application Permissions

With the new redesign comes an interesting policy called “frictionless sharing,” which says that apps only have to ask for your permission once before accessing your info or posting as you whenever they want. You can’t change the policy, but you can control which friends get to see the app activity, change certain app permissions, or hide the activity entirely (without deleting the app). I suggest checking out CNet’s guide to modify these settings if you’d like to keep them in place, or my guide on how to remove Facebook app permissions.

UPDATE: Check out my new article on how Facebook tracking will deepen with the release of Facebook Messenger here!

Restrict Visibility of Past Posts

One of the major reasons you should consider your Facebook Timeline privacy is that the new Timeline layout many of your posts, photo galleries, and comments that were previously only visible to your friends, are now publicly visible to anyone in the world. So one of the very first things you should do to control your Facebook Timeline privacy is restrict the visibility of past posts. To do this click the drop down arrow next to home (or click the following link) and go the privacy settings page. On that page you’ll see an item to Limit the Audience for Past Posts, click the link in that section to Manage Past Post Visibility.

Facebook Timeline Privacy - limit old posts

Go ahead and select “Limit Old Posts” and it will set every old post to “friends only” ensuring that past content is visible only to your friends and not to the Internet at large.

Ensure your mobile number remains private

Facebook Timeline Privacy - mobile phoneIf you don’t mind your friends having your mobile number then you can skip this step. I have many “Facebook Friends” who aren’t real life friends that I see often. There’s no reason for them to have my cell phone number. Remember when everyone freaked out about Facebook exposing their phone numbers? Let’s prevent that from happening again. To do this you need to click on your profile icon to get to your Timeline. Below your name is the About section, click that and you’ll see several sections for which you can control the Facebook Timeline privacy settings. I’d suggest reviewing them all, but specifically review your phone number section. Hover over the lock icon and if it doesn’t say “Only Me” then click edit and change your settings.

Limit who can post and who can see posts by others your Timeline

Something else to consider regarding your Facebook Timeline privacy is the implications of what someone ELSE might have posted to your wall. Again, click the dropdown by your name and select the Privacy Settings item. From there click on the link for How You Connect.

Facebook Timeline Privacy - How You Connect

The last two items on the dialog box that displays are the one’s you’re concerned with when you want to control Facebook Timeline privacy. You can elect to allow friends to post on your Timeline, as well as who can see posts by others on your Timeline. For maximum Facebook Timeline privacy you would set those to “Only Me” as in the image above, or use the Facebook controls to determine what level of privacy you’d like for each of those.

UPDATE: Check out my new article on how Facebook tracking will deepen with the release of Facebook Messenger here!

Facebook Timeline privacy and tagging

Once again, click the dropdown by your name and select the Privacy Settings item. From there click on the link for How Tags Work and you’ll see the following dialog box:

Facebook Timeline Privacy - How Tags Work

Review EVERY item on this list, as they all pertain to privacy and security. Specific to Facebook Timeline privacy are the top three items. So ensure that you look at the Timeline Review, Tag Review, and Maximum Timeline Visibility and adjust the settings to best suit you.

Get to know your activity log to maintain Facebook Timeline privacy

Activity Log is something Facebook has actually implemented properly. It’s very handy as only you can see it and it provides a lot of control for recent activity. To access your Activity Log view your Timeline (click your profile picture) and then on the Timeline page on the right hand side look for Activity Log and click it. Now you can review and choose who sees everything you’ve shared – from today back to when you first started using Facebook.

Facebook Timeline Privacy - Activity Log

As I said earlier, I used Exfoliate to automate the tasks to delete Facebook content. Exfolitate runs on Android and can take a LONG time to run, so if you’re interested doing a reboot and want to delete Facebook content then check out how to Remove Facebook content with an Android app running on your desktop. After you’ve done that, or if you want to do it manually, the Activity Log is the place to do it. Take special note of the two icons next to each item. The first displays what friends can see the content, the second controls if the item is visible on your Timeline or not. Adjust each item to control Facebook Timeline privacy for individual items as you go.

Review your Facebook Timeline privacy by viewing as someone else

Facebook Timeline Privacy - view as someone elseThe last step is to review how your Facebook Timeline privacy changes will look when being viewed by someone else. To do this view your Timeline, and click the cog on the right hand side, then select View As… Once you’ve done this the page will refresh and you’ll see an input box at the top of the page allowing you to enter in someone else’s name. You can now review your Facebook Timeline privacy as viewed by one of your friends. Additionally, you can type in ‘public’ and see how your public Timeline appears to someone who isn’t a friend.

UPDATE: Check out my new article on how Facebook tracking will deepen with the release of Facebook Messenger here!

Check out the latest development site at: http://berkeley-therapist.com/


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  1. says

    Is anyone even asking for these new features on facebook? With the exception of chat, every single update i’ve seen on facebook since I joined the site (about 5 years ago) has been for the worse.

  2. glynes says

    OMG … I’m going to have to spend more time tweaking privacy settings than I do reading Facebook! This is going far beyond ridiculous.

  3. says

    This is really starting to annoy me. It seems Facebook tries to make non active users visit the site by changing the privacy rules every month…

  4. says

    While I’m not a fan of the recent changes I think they need room to innovate. Having said that, they do a REALLY (and I believe intentionally) poor job of consolidating and making privacy settings clear.

  5. annie says

    help. me.
    i have done all the proper choices, i think, but when i click to view my timeline as public, i can still see all my photos and status updates. some of these come from my phone, so i’m wondering if i need to change that setting. but, really, i don’t want the public to see anything. how do i fix it? do i have to delete everything? if so, i will just get rid of my account…

  6. Vince says


    Thanks, like really thanks for your clear article – I wasn’t being paranoid, and I was right about the changes.

    Exfoliate is running right now :-)

  7. says

    Unfortunately, I’ve heard Exfoliate no longer works. I hope it runs for you though Vince. It worked like a charm for me when I did it (though that was quite some time ago).

  8. Barbara says

    Hi, thank you so much for this post. I have one question: I can’t seem to find “how tags work” and “maximum timeline visibility” in the privacy settings! Was it changed? My problem is that even though i have everything set to private/friends only, when I click on my profile as public or do a search, i can still see my full timeline, minus the posts my friends wrote on my wall. I’ve noticed some other people have their timelines setup so that you can’t see anything on their timeline without being friends. Please help! Thank you so so so much.

  9. says

    Barbara, on each individual post, there should be a option to mark it as friends only. Are you sure yours are marked as this? That should hide it from any lurkers.

  10. pat skinner says

    I have set everything on timeline as “public”. However, in “public view ” only the odd item in my timeline “before joining facebook” is visible. Why doesn’t everything show?

  11. Derek says

    hey, I just got timeline and I hate it. My main issue is how do I unhide added friends and my likes/comments to show on timeline ? Timeline right now only shows my most recently added friends

  12. chiauling siow says

    Why facebook keeps asking me to take a tour to new privacy control when i want to upload a photo?? i am being forced to click take a tour but everytime it doesnt find the page…then i hav to go back to the previous place so i cannot upload my photos!!!

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