Dear Facebook User: Find Out What a Stranger Can See About You and Your Family

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ICYMI The "View as Public" feature is back on Facebook. It allows you to find out what a total stranger (AKA non-Friend) can see about you and your family on your Facebook profile. Check it out. It takes seconds, and you might be surprised at what others can see. Below is how to do so, as well as how to make changes, if necessary. But first, let’s talk briefly about what happened September 2018.

Background on Facebook’s “View As” feature (failure)

On September 28, 2018, Facebook posted a security update which noted that three days prior, their engineering team discovered a security issue affecting almost 50 million accounts. Yes, you read that right. 50 million. They went on to say:

Our investigation is still in its early stages. But it’s clear that attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted “View As” a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts. Access tokens are the equivalent of digital keys that keep people logged in to Facebook so they don’t need to re-enter their password every time they use the app.

Rant coming.

Let that phrase sink in: “… they could then use to take over people’s accounts.” This isn’t the first time social media giants have failed users, and it won’t be the last. This is an example of why my heart sinks a little when I hear others say, “I only share things with Friends.” The best way I’ve seen privacy settings described is as a “courtesy” and not a “guarantee.” Unfortunately, even the best privacy settings can fail us. As a result, we must be safe and thoughtful about what we put online.

Back to the Facebook statement.

Feel free to read Facebook’s security update in its entirety to find out how people’s privacy and security is incredibly important to them [insert sarcastically raised eyebrow], and get your well-deserved apology from Guy Rosen, VP of Product Management. In the end, Facebook ended up temporarily turning off the “View As” feature for several months. Nowadays, the handy feature is back. The Verge has more on that in the article, “Facebook reenables ‘View as Public’ feature following 2018 security issue:”

How to “View As” public

Okay. Let’s talk about how to find out what total strangers (AKA non-Friends) can see about you and your family on your Facebook profile. It’s really simple to see what your profile looks like to people on Facebook you’re not friends with (click through for more from Facebook on this topic):

  1. Go to your Facebook Profile

  2. Click the three dots on the bottom right of your cover photo

  3. Click "View As" 

  4. To exit, click the “x”

How to change what the public sees

How to change image privacy settings

If there are images you do not want visible on your public Facebook profile, make sure to edit the privacy settings for your photos on Facebook (again, click through for more from Facebook on this topic):

  1. Go to your Facebook Profile

  2. Click the Photos tab

  3. Click Your Photos

  4. Click on the photo(s) for which you want to change the privacy settings

  5. By your name and the image’s date, you can change the privacy to whatever you want (ex. Public, Friends, etc.)

Side note: Outside of Facebook profile pictures and cover photos, which you have to edit privacy settings for individually, you can usually edit the privacy settings for photo albums on Facebook (again, click through for more from Facebook on this topic).

How to change past, present and future post privacy settings

Last October, I shared the scary things our pics may share with others. Today, and while we’re on the topic of sharing family moments with strangers, I suggest everyone double-check that future posts are not publicly shared by doing the following:

  1. Go to "Settings"

  2. Click "Privacy"

  3. Make sure, “Who can see your future posts?” says “Friends” and not “Public.”

Want to take it a step further? You can also limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with “friends-of-friends” or “public” in this same area. Before doing so, learn more about changing old posts.

How to change basic profile info privacy settings

To edit basic info on your profile and choose who can see things like contact info, relationships, work, and more (yep, you guessed it — click through for more from Facebook on this topic):

  1. Go to your profile

  2. Click the “About” tab

  3. On the left, click the section/category you'd like to change

  4. For the info you’d like to change, click “Options,” then “Edit”

  5. Use the audience selector to choose who can see this information, then click “Save Changes”

Final Trepid Tech Mom thoughts

Why talk about the “View As” feature in this space? Two reasons.

First, Facebook’s Help Center seems to have multiple articles on how to edit public profile info. The links in this blog seem most beneficial, so they are packaged up nicely in one little “blog bow” so to speak.

Second, questions continually circulate online about what others can see on their Facebook profile. For instance, some users wonder if non-Friends can see their cover photo. Yes, the public can see your profile picture and cover photo. Anyone can see them. Inquiries like these lead to countless users asking others to share what they can see on personal Facebook profiles. Plenty of times, people are surprised to find out what a total stranger can know about themselves and their family.

So, now that the “View As” feature is back, let’s all use that rather than ask non-Friends and random strangers to view our profile and tell us what they see.

Stay safe and thoughtful out there fellow, parents and caregivers. And let's help our kids do the same. We’re in this together. You are not alone.