Help File: Facebook 'Places' privacy settings

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Q: What are the right privacy settings for Facebook's "Places" feature?

A: The social network's new option, which lets U.S. users register their real-world locations by tapping a button in its iPhone application or on its smartphone Web site, could help you meet up with friends. Or it could publicize your presence to strangers.

To reduce that risk, you should change some settings. Log in to the Facebook site, click the "Account" menu at the top right of the page, and select "Privacy Settings." Then click the privacy page's "Customize settings" link.

First, click the menu to the right of "Places I check into" and select "Custom" if you don't want every Facebook friend to see your check-ins. Instead, you can limit their visibility to particular pals and exclude others.

Second, click to clear the check box to the right of "Include me in 'People Here Now' after I check in" if it's not already blank. This will stop strangers checking in at the same place from seeing you listed there.

Third, set the menu to the right of "Friends can check me in to Places" to "Disabled" to make sure well-meaning friends can't announce your arrival for you.

Fourth, click back to the main privacy page, look under the "Applications and Websites" heading, and click the "Edit your settings" link under it. On that page, click the "Edit settings" link to the right of "Info accessible through your friends"; in that pop-up window, click to clear the check box next to "Places I check in to" to stop friends' Facebook applications from using your Places data.

You can watch a video clip demonstrating these changes on my blog.

(Note that Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham sits on Facebook's board of directors, and the newspaper and many Post staffers use Facebook for marketing purposes.)

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