Mastering Facebook Privacy Settings: 3 Easy Steps To Control Who Sees What

In a recent article in Wired Magazine, Steven Levy proposed that Facebook grant its users a “friend-list do-over” whereby “[o]n a designated day, everybody’s friend list is reset to zero.” The goal would be to start fresh and remove the gaggle of Friends (capitalized here to refer to Facebook Friends) that many of us have accumulated over the years and whom we would rather show the virtual door.

But there’s a solution that allows you to prevent Friends from seeing 99% of your info. These might be Friends to whom you want to stay connected for whatever reason—professional, social pressure, cyber snooping, they post interesting stuff—but whose visibility into your personal/social life you want to limit.

Of my 470 Friends, only 40 can see my full profile and, crucially, my Wall. The rest only see one profile pic, education and employer. I can say anything to these 40 closest friends and family, and they won’t be put off by crass remarks, political rants and random, often banal musings. When I want to communicate with people outside of my inner circle, I just post to a different list of Friends or individual Friends so they see it in their Newsfeed—and only their Newsfeed, i.e., they can’t access my Wall to see the post.

Indeed, Facebook’s privacy settings allow you to parse your network of Friends into as many sub-networks as you’d like so you can choose who sees what.  Here’s how.


  • Click Friends in the menu below your profile pic
  • Edit Friends button on top right
  • + Create a List button on top right
  • Add Friends to whom you want to give access to your wall and other personal info
  • Name and save it


  • Click Account in the upper right hand corner, then Privacy Settings in the drop-down menu
  • Then Customize settings toward the bottom center
  • Under Things I share > Posts by me, select Custom edit in the drop-down menu
  • In the These People drop-down, choose Specific People
  • Enter the name of the list you created in STEP 1


  • Under Things others share, check the box for Friends can post on my Wall
  • For Can see Wall posts by friends*, select Custom edit in the drop-down menu
  • In the These People drop-down, choose Specific People
  • Enter the name of the list you created in STEP 1

*The Friends can post on my Wall checkbox enables Wall posting, but it’s actually Can see Wall posts by friends that controls who can post to your Wall.

You can be as private as you’d like across virtually every item in your profile—relationships, interests, photos, etc.—using the Custom edit option.

If you want to use Facebook for professional networking and communication, you can create a separate list for colleagues and business associates and post items just to them. Your posts will show up in their Newsfeed, but they won’t be able to access your Wall. When you post, just click on the padlock icon next to the Share button, and then choose Custom edit to add or remove lists and individual Friends.

These privacy settings are complex, and there are multiple ways to achieve the same effect. Experiment with different settings, and use the Preview My Profile feature at the top of the Customize settings page to see how your profile will appear to specific Friends.

At the bottom right of the Privacy Settings page, there is a link to Controlling How You Share that outlines some of what I discuss here and other useful settings.


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