While covering Facebook's systematic elimination of privacy, we've been deluged with questions from readers asking how to restore certain Facebook privacy protections. Sadly, many such settings appear to be lost forever. Here are the most glaring examples.
1. Hide group and page memberships
All of a sudden my grandmother can see that I belong to the Queer Graduate Student Union and Open Relationships Networking Group. Please help. I can't bring myself to de-friend my grandmother!
UPDATE Dec. 17: We're not sure if this is new, but this can now be changed by going, confusingly, to "Application Settings." Go to the "Settings" menu at the top right of your profile page, then select "Application Settings," then scroll down to "Groups" and select "Edit settings." Set to "Only me" (click to enlarge):
Thanks to the tipster who walked us through this. Sadly, even as one privacy mystery was resolved, we were made aware of another. See below.
2. Block Facebook activity from appearing on your wall
There used to be a setting that allowed users to prevent Facebook activity from automatically showing up on their Facebook wall, thus blocking updates like "John commented on Jane's picture," "John is now friends with Bob," "John is attending Uber Gay Circuit Party 2010," etc. This setting is apparently gone, and you have to remove such notices one at a time.
Writes one tipster:
It is extremely annoying not to mention a complete tell of how often I use Facebook during work hours:)
3. Prevent strangers from friending you
It used to be you could keep non-friends from sending you a Facebook friend requests, although they could confirm. That's not the most, well, social way to use a social network, but judging from our email, it was a frequently used and valued feature. Wrote one Gawker regular:
Before the changes I wasn't searchable on FB and hence friended only those I wanted to friend, in essence, I would initiate the request. But... I am now getting friend requests from people I don't know, or worse, from people I know but I don't want to befriend on FB...
Facebook now makes you offer the "Add friend" option to all friends of friends — you can't restrict any tighter than that, so strangers can still send you friend requests. Screenshot (click to enlarge):
4. Completely hide friends list
Your friends list, too, is considered public information. Though you can remove it from your profile, you can't keep friends of friends from seeing it. They just have to pull up one of your friends' friend list, click you name, and view your friends list.
Writes one reader: "Many of us are concerned, seeing as how there are thousands of people faced with the threat of stalkers." Another, right on cue:
I have been dealing with a deranged, threatening stalker... There is no way of keeping your Friend list private... I have been obsessively reading about this topic [overall Facebook privacy]... To say I'm outraged is an understatement.
5. Block Wall announcements that you've been tagged in a photo
You can keep photos of yourself out of the "Photos" tab on your profile, even if they've been uploaded by other people. But it seems you can't block from your Wall announcements that you've been tagged in someone else's photo , which sort of defeats the purpose: It leaves your profile as a very convenient central location for any incriminating pictures of yourself.
You can remove each notification manually, but that becomes a game of whack-a-mole.
Wrote one Facebooker:
I've already blocked everyone from viewing photos that I'm tagged in, but I'd prefer that my friends not even see that I've been tagged in the small preview photo that gets posted to my wall every time someone tags me.
UPDATE: According to a helpful tipster, this can be disabled by going to the Settings menu at the top right of your Facebook home page, then to "Application Settings," then the "Photos" application, then click "Edit settings." Then click the "Additional Permissions tab," and there is an option to "Publish to streams." Uncheck this. Like so (click to enlarge):
UPDATE: 6. Profile photo
And more, we're sure
We'd love to be wrong about any of these privacy rollbacks, so if you know of settings or workarounds we've overlooked, do email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Conversely, if we've left out a lost privacy option you feel strongly about, let us know about that, too.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (pictured) originally said his social network's privacy changes were intended simplify and enhance the privacy experience on the site. Judging from our inbox, it would seem he's achieved neither.