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Following on from Dr Search's article- Facebook- how to delete or deactivate your account here I look at how you can protect your Facebook account's data privacy settings if you are staying with Facebook.how to protect your Facebook account's privacy settings

Facebook’s privacy policy is currently a massive 5,830 words long with 50 different settings and around 170 different options if you want to control every single aspect of your account.

Facebook says its extensive privacy settings allow users to have control over what information they share and who they share it with. So, which settings should you prioritise as soon as you set up your Facebook account, to ensure you're not sharing personal information, private comments and photos with the whole online world?

Here are your top five most important settings to check and set:

1) Configure your friend lists Apart from Facebook's data security- or lack of, Facebook's biggest problem is a lack of segmentation. Do you want your friends, family and work colleagues to all be able to see what you are up to? So one of the most important tasks is to break your "friends" into separate groups.

This is a time-consuming process, particularly if you have many "friends", but it will make every aspect of controlling your privacy that much easier. Friend lists allow you to group your contacts in to groups, so that you're only sharing certain information with certain people.

For example, you might create four lists: "Close friends", "Acquaintances", "Family", and "Work". "Close friends" is the group you will happily share your most personal information, photos and Wall posts with; you'd probably prefer the "Work" group of friends to see a somewhat sanitised and censored version of your Facebook profile.

By setting up these lists, you can ensure that no one gets to see something you'd rather keep private. You can add the same person to more than one list, but it's worth spending time on getting this aspect of your Facebook settings right.

* To create and edit friend lists, log on to Facebook and select "Friends" from the list under your profile picture on the left-hand side of the page;
* On the next page, click the "Create a List" button;
* Enter a title for your list, and hit Enter;
* Add friends to the list by typing their names (or copying and pasting) in the "Add to List" field, or selecting them from the list;
* Click "Create List" to save these changes, and generate your new group of friends.
* To control what information each group of friends can see, click on Account, choose "Privacy Settings", select "Profile Information", and then work your way through each option, selecting the group of people you're happy to share information with from the drop-down lists.

2) Opt out of searches If you don't want your Facebook profile to appear online, either when it's searched for on Google or through Facebook itself, you can turn this function off. Click on Account, select "Privacy Settings", and click on "Search".
If you only want your friends to be able to search for your Facebook profile, select "Only friends" from the drop-down list. Under the heading "Public Search Results", uncheck the box marked "Allow" to ensure your profile cannot be searched for on sites such as Google.

3) Protect your photos and videos With 80% of employers already checking Facebook before hiring staff, what you do, say or show is particularly important to your financial wellbeing. You can avoid this problem by restricting who can view photos stored on your profile, and even who can view photos in which you've been tagged – even if that picture appears on someone else's profile page.

To manage this, click on the Account tab, choose "Privacy Settings", then "Profile Information". Navigate to "Photos and videos of me" – select "Only Me" from the drop-down list if you don't want anybody, apart from yourself, to see pictures and videos you've been tagged in; even if you're less concerned about incriminating material, it's wise to restrict this content to certain groups, such as the "Close friends" group you created earlier.

You can also restrict access to every photo album associated with your profile: below "Photos and videos of me" is "Photo albums"; click on this to choose exactly which groups of contacts can view which sets of pictures.

4) Control what personal information you share with applications and partner websites Whilst some third party websites can be useful, others amy be less appreciated- however all of them may have access to certain elements of your personal information.

You can control what information these apps are able to access by adjusting your privacy settings. Choose "Privacy Settings" from the Account menu; click on the link labelled "Applications and websites", then "What you share", and adjust the permissions for each application accordingly.

The "Applications and websites" section is also the place to control what information your friends can share about you when they are using certain applications and programs (yes, that's right – your friends could be sharing your information with third-party websites without your explicit consent) – make sure you go in and uncheck every box if you want complete control over how your personal information is divulged.

You can also opt-out of the controversial "Instant Personalisation" scheme through the "Applications and websites" page – this scheme is designed to help you "connect more easily with your friends on select partner websites", such as Yelp and Pandora, and is switched on by default. You need to uncheck the box at the foot of that page to opt out of the service.

5) Make your contact information private Personal security experts warn that people's stupidity in publishing their full dates of birth, postal addresses and other contact details on Facebook – and then leave their profile's open to the public – makes it easier for cyber criminals to commit identity fraud.

You must ensure that only your trusted friends are able to see this information. To lock down your contact information, click the Account button and select "Privacy Settings" from the drop-down menu. Click on "Contact Information" and then adjust each category by selecting the group of people you are willing to share that information with from the drop-down lists.

For more information on how to delete or deactivate your account settings, please click here now.

This article first appeared on the Search Clinic Blog on 19 May 2010

Dr Search wishes you Good Luck with your account.